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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Nate Bendall (CQ) of Utah State passes the ball to an open teammate as Utah State and Louisiana Tech play Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 in Logan. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)__Utah State's Nate Bendall (right) has overcome injuries to be a key member of the Aggies' rotation in 2011.

LOGAN — Rebounding is a word that has multiple meanings for Utah State big man Nate Bendall.

It's not just something he does on the court, but something he's had to do off it as well.

The 6-foot-9 senior from Skyline High has taken an odd route to becoming a key player for the Aggies. Bendall signed with Utah State immediately out of high school and spent his freshman year learning mostly from the bench, appearing in just 13 games.

Following that season, Bendall served an LDS Church service mission in Nauvoo, Ill., for a year and enrolled at Salt Lake City Community College starting in the 2008-09 season in order to get more playing time and improve his game.

Bendall shined for the Bruins that season, as SLCC went on to pile up a 31-6 record and won the NJCAA National Championship. Bendall scored 21 points and had eight rebounds in the championship game against Midland College and averaged 17.8 points and 6.5 rebounds for the season.

Coming back to Utah State for the 2009-10 season, Bendall immediately became an effective starter for the Aggies. He averaged just over 10 points and five rebounds a game and was named to the All-WAC Newcomer Team.

Bendall proved to be just what the doctor ordered for the Aggies, a good spot-up shooter and an effective passer in the post. Because of his versatility, Bendall made teams think twice about doubling him or Tai Wesley in the post.

With a year of experience under his belt, this year promised to be even better for Bendall — until chronic foot problems acted up during training camp and forced him to miss the first three games of the season.

When he did return, Bendall often struggled with his conditioning as a result of being unable to run for several weeks.

Bendall says he feels good now physically, even as the team makes its way to the dreaded dog days of February.

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"He has made a lot of strides in terms of his conditioning," USU coach Stew Morrill said. "It is tough when you miss such an important part of the year, and he missed a really important part of the season."

As Bendall rebounded from his foot injury, the Aggies have done the same, having not lost a contest since early December. In conference play, Bendall has averaged six rebounds per game and 5.9 points, including a 12-point, 16-rebound performance against Fresno State. It was the most rebounds by an Aggie player since Shawn Daniels had 17 against Cal Poly in 2000.

Bendall also played a career-high 36 minutes in that game, proving that his conditioning issues are a thing of the past.