USU basketball: men's team begins preparation for the 2013-14 season Friday

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25 2013 6:08 p.m. MDT

Utah State guard TeNale Roland goes up for a layup during the first half of the NCAA basketball game between UVU and Utah State in the UCCU Center in Orem, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

LOGAN — Utah State men's basketball will hold its first official practice of the 2013-14 season on Friday, Sept. 27 at 12:30 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum as head coach Stew Morrill enters his 16th season at USU and 28th overall by welcoming 16 players to the court. Practices are closed to the public.

The Aggies are entering their first season in the Mountain West Conference with four returning starters as part of eight returning lettermen from last year’s squad. That squad started out 14-1 but lost all three of its returning starters to season-ending injuries by mid-season, as USU finished 21-10 overall and 11-7 in Western Athletic Conference play. Last year was USU's eighth and final season in the WAC before joining the Mountain West this summer.

"As always, as long as I've been doing this, I'm always excited to start practice," Morrill said. "This year is unique in that we're starting practice earlier with the new rule change where we get 42 days to get in 30 practices. It feels early, seems like we're just getting into a groove with back to school and workouts, and bang, here's practice. I'm excited about it because it gives you more time to teach, [and] you can go a little slower. It's like it used to be years ago, where you had time to do things and everything wasn't so rushed."

During the Division I Board of Directors meeting in May, it was determined that teams can begin practice 42 days before the first game of the regular season. During that 42-day period, teams will be allowed up to 30 practices. Under the previous rules, teams were allotted a 30-day period for 24 practices.

"The thing that concerns me is that we have a two-semester sport anyway. Our season is extremely long anyway, so you worry about burnout by the time you get to February and March. We've always tried to make sure our guys are still having fun playing basketball when you get to that time of the year and shorten our workouts a little bit," Morrill said. "We're going to take advantage of the 30 days of practice, but we're also going to make sure we take advantage of the days off. Like I told the players, the good thing is that they'll get some days off and some weekends off and two or even three days in a row off."

In previous seasons, practices did not start until the middle of October, allotting only two weeks of practices before the first exhibition games.

"It's kind of a work in progress. We'll see how it goes," Morrill said. "We're going to shorten practices a little bit compared to when we're trying to cram it all in when we've started around the 15th of October. We've got more time to put in our system. It should help us."

In 15 years at Utah State, Morrill has taken the Aggie basketball program to unprecedented heights leading USU to a 366-129 (.739) record, including a 186-62 (.750) mark in the Big West and Western Athletic Conferences. The Aggies are entering their third different conference under Morrill in 2013-14, joining the Mountain West.

While at Utah State, he has guided the Aggies to 14 straight 21-win seasons, as USU’s 13 straight postseason appearances (NCAA-8, NIT-4, CIT-1), was snapped last season, but both are school records. Prior to Morrill’s current run, USU had never posted more than three straight 20-win seasons and participated in more than three straight postseason tournaments.

With an overall record of 584-267 (.686), Morrill ranks 14th in the nation among active coaches and 47th all-time with his 584 career wins, while his career winning percentage of 68.6 percent ranks 19th among active coaches and 80th all-time. He is also one of 22 active coaches with 500 career wins at the Division I level and one of just nine active coaches to notch at least 18 20-win seasons. His current streak of 14 straight 20-win seasons ranks tied for fifth among active coaches and is tied for the sixth-longest streak at the Division I level.

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