For a good 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon, Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill had a heart-to-heart conversation with his All-American Jaycee Carroll as they traveled to Salt Lake City for the Western Athletic Conference meetings.
The topics were many, but one, of course, was Carroll's scoring, and what kind of team the Aggies could be if he didn't have to score as much.
Last year, that would have been an easier question to answer: Not very good.
Fifteen times last year, Carroll, who was named the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year Wednesday, was held below 21 points and the Aggies were 7-8 in those games.
By comparison, the Aggies were at one point 14-0 (16-4 overall) in games in which Carroll scored 21 points or more. But they were just 2-4 in the last six games in which he accomplished that scoring mark.
"Could we be a better team if Jaycee Carroll averaged 18? I don't know that for sure," Morrill said. "If we have more balance that might be something that happens. I know he could live with that if we are a better basketball team overall."
Carroll (21.3), Chaz Spicer (11.3) and Stephen DuCharme (10.2) were the only Aggies to average in double figures last year, and the two other returning players from the Aggies' 23-12 team Nick Hammer and Kris Clark averaged 3.7 and 3.5 points, respectively.
This year, DuCharme (6-foot-7) won't be playing center and the Aggies added junior college All-American Gary Wilkinson (6-foot-9), who averaged 18.5 points and 8.1 rebounds and Salt Lake Community College and Brayden Bell, a transfer from Ohio State University, who averaged just 1.4 points with the Buckeyes two seasons ago but averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds as a senior at Brighton High School.
"The proof is in the pudding for Brayden Bell," Morrill said. "He hasn't made a basket yet at Utah State. Last year in practices he showed glimpses of being able to be a good player. He's just a sophomore, and we're excited about his height and his bulk ... We sure think he can be a factor. Maturity is a key thing for Brayden."
Tai Wesley, 2004's Deseret Morning News Mr. Basketball, is returning from an LDS Church mission as well as Tyler Newbold, who was a prolific scorer at Payson High School.
With those players, along with junior college transfers DeUndrae Spraggins (11.3 points) and Desmond Stephens (17.3) and freshman Earnest "Pooh" Williams (27 ppg in high school in 206), the Aggies appear to have more offensive threats.
Knowing that, Carroll who led the team in rebounding and third in assists worked to improve his game in areas in which he can get more players involved in the offense.
"I've tried to work a little bit more on being more of a playmaker (by) getting into the lane and rather than taking the tough shot passing it out to someone that has an easier shot," he said. "Offensively, we (he and Morrill) talked about how there might be some other things I need to do. I might not need to score as much and still have a great year, and that's a credit to the guys on my team."
Carroll attempted 486 shots last year, almost 200 more than Spicer (293) and over 200 more than DuCharme (278) and Durrall Peterson (271)."It might be a relief to him if we can have more weapons and more size," Morrill said. "If he can have an average game and we might win that didn't happen last year. If he had a poor game we had a hard time winning."
College basketball previewsThe Deseret Morning News will preview local college basketball teams, which begin practice this weekend for the 2007-08 season:
Today: Utah State
Monday: Weber State