Key storylines for Utah State men’s basketball as it begins summer workouts | Sports

LOGAN — Utah State men’s basketball began its summer workouts on Monday, bringing together (almost) all 14 players on the roster for the first time to begin preparing for its defense of the 2023-24 Mountain West regular season championship.

Day one saw the position groups divided up into guards, wings and forwards. The guards consisted of Drake Allen, Braden Housley, Jordy Barnes and Jaxon Smith — Deyton Albury noted as absent from this group because he’s competing for a spot on The Bahamas men’s national team which will be competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The wings group, arguably the most talented on the team, had Mason Falslev, Dexter Akanno, Tucker Anderson and Ian Martinez. The forwards, or bigs, practiced third and featured Isaac Johnson, Aubin Gateretse, Karson Templin, Isaac Davis and Pavle Stosic.

As practices go along, the groups will obviously come together for larger practices. It’s a process. But for all the work that needs to be done, it’s still the start of a brand new season, and that’s an exciting prospect for many.

“Couldn’t wait to get out here with these guys, especially the new guys,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be a whole new process. But I’ve got the experience, some of these guys do as well. Been though it multiple times and I know what we’ve got to do to move in the right direction.”

Martinez is one of five returners for the Aggies and arguably the best having been the second-leading scorer on last year’s team at 13.3 points per game to go with 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks on average. Having a new coach will be a challenge, but Martinez himself noted his experience and other’s experience in adjusting to new coaches. He’s done is six times now and returning teammates Johnson and Falslev are each on their third.

First-year head coach Jerrod Calhoun said the five returners, Martinez, Falslev, Johnson, Templin and Smith are “really, really critical.”

“Those five kids that have come back, this is their program. And they’ve got to take some ownership, which they have,” Calhoun said.

USU’s roster currently has just 14 players, 12 of whom are on scholarship. NCAA rules allow for one more scholarship player, and while finding someone to fill that final spot is an option for Calhoun, it’s not something he’ll rush into.

“In today’s landscape, if something comes along that makes sense for our roster we’ll do it,” Calhoun said. “It’s kind of a wait and see. If we don’t get anybody we’ll probably keep it for a mid-semester transfer.”

So as things stand right now, and potentially for the upcoming season, this is Utah State’s 2024-25 men’s basketball roster

# Name Yr. Pos. Ht Wt
0 Braden Housley So. G 6-4 180
1 Pavle Stosic So. F 6-9 215
2 Tucker Anderson So. F 6-9 190
3 Jaxon Smith R-Fr. G 6-2 188
4 Ian Martinez Sr. G 6-3 185
5 Jordy Barnes Fr. G 6-3 160
7 Dexter Akanno Sr. G 6-5 210
8 Drake Allen Sr. G 6-4 190
12 Mason Falslev So. G 6-3 203
13 Deyton Albury Sr. G 6-2 190
20 Isaac Johnson Jr. C 7-0 227
21 Aubin Gateretse Sr. C 6-11 225
22 Karson Templin So. F 6-8 217
23 Isaac Davis Fr. F 6-8 240

The biggest questions on the roster to be solved involve two specific positions: point guard and power forward. Last year those were the positions of strength, being occupied by Darius Brown and Great Osobor. Now the Aggies must replace both.

Point guard seems to be a position where Utah State has added the most talent this offseason. Four new PGs have been signed, three through the transfer portal (Albury, Allen, Housley) and one out of high school (Barnes). Adding that much depth at one position wasn’t something Calhoun did on accident.

“It’s an important position,” Calhoun said. “Last year we only had two at Youngstown State. One of our main guys got hurt so I said I’ll never do that again. I think you have to have a first, a second, a third string. We play guys at the same time so we may play two ball-handling guards together.”

Who winds up being the starter, for all that title may be worth, is one of the many things this offseason will determine. The two favorites are likely Albury (averaged 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists at Queens last year) and Allen (11.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists at Utah Valley) though Housley, a sophomore (10.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists at Southern Utah), could get some minutes as a reserve and may very well be a dark horse candidate to start.

The other position of note, power forward, is less clear. Three of USU’s players could be designated PFs as their primary position — Davis, Templin and Stosic — though none of that trio have significant experience at the college level. Davis has none, being a freshman while Templin and Stosic combined to play 220 total minutes as freshmen last year (for reference, Max Agbonkpolo played in just 10 games last year but still logged 236 minutes).

With such youth at power forward, it made sense that when asked about the position, Calhoun ended up lumping in other players on his roster like Anderson, Johnson and Gateretse into the conversation. It’s tricky to classify any of those guys as true power forwards as Anderson is more of a small forward in both physique and style while both Johnson and Gateretse are clearly centers.

But while it may be a challenge getting those players used to playing unfamiliar positions, Calhoun noted the potential versatility and skillsets these guys can bring to the floor.

“I think we can play a variety of ways with that front line,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got to attack the weight room. Those four, five guys have got to get bigger and stronger and faster. But their skillsets are elite. Those guys can pass, catch, shoot with the best of them and I feel really good about that group.”

The note on needing to “attack the weight room” is a very part of the offseason to-do list and Calhoun brought it up multiple times in the eight-minute press interview. He cited the addition of new strength coach Brandon Buskey from Middle Tennessee State who will be in charge of making sure this task gets done.

To put the concern over size in perspective, most centers or bulky power forwards at the D1 college level weigh somewhere between 235 to 250 pounds, but none of Johnson (listed at 227 lbs), Gateretse (225), Templin (217) and Stosic (215) reach that threshold. Isaac Davis (240 lbs) is the lone player whose bulk matches his archetype. Anderson, who will likely have to play a good deal of his time at power forward, will also have to add bulk as he tips the scales at 190, the same weight Martinez who stands six inches shorter.

Calhoun said it best that the skill and overall ability of Utah State’s forwards and centers isn’t really in question. Johnson is a rare 7-foot stretch five, Gateretse put up a fantastic season at Stetson last year and Anderson is arguably the best incoming transfer to the team as a 6-foot-9 high-level shooter. The concern comes from opponents being able to neutralize some of the skill by playing extra physical, and without the bulk to play through that physicality it could be a struggle for the Aggies’ skilled players.

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