SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State took home four of the six individual Mountain West Conference awards handed out Tuesday, led by junior guard Sam Merrill being named the MW Player of the Year.
First-year coach Craig Smith was named MW Coach of the Year, while center Neemias Queta earned Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year citations.
Merrill, who was also named first-team All-Mountain West, has averaged a league-leading 21 points, 4.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game this season. He is the first USU player to average more than 20 points per game since Jaycee Carroll in 2007-08, when he averaged 22.4 ppg.
Merrill also leads the Mountain West in conference games in free-throw percentage (89.2 percent) and free throws made (99) while coming in second in minutes played (667), third in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3), fourth in 3-pointers made (49) and assists (79).
Merrill is the first USU player to earn all-MW first-team honors since the Aggies joined the conference.
Smith has guided the Aggies to a 25-6 mark heading into the conference tournament in Las Vegas this weekend, as well as a 15-3 mark in league play to earn a share of the regular-season championship.
The 25 wins is the most for a first-year USU coach. Smith also became just the second first-year coach to win the MW Coach of the Year award, joining Utah’s Ray Giacoletti in 2004-05.
Queta has already set the Aggie single-season record for blocks with 73, surpassing the old record of 59. He also anchors a USU defense that is 10th nationally in field-goal percentage defense (39.2 percent) and third in two-point field-goal percentage defense (41.7).1 comment on this story
Queta, who is the second Aggie to earn MW Freshman of the Year honors in the past three seasons after Koby McEwen did it in 2016-17, was also named to the all-Mountain West second team and league’s all-defensive team. He is averaging 11.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game this season.
Other accolades handed out included Fresno State’s Braxton Huggins being named the MW Newcomer of the Year, while Nevada’s Jazz Johnson was tabbed Sixth Man of the Year.
Joining Merrill on the all-MW first-team were Colorado State forward/center Nico Carvacho, Fresno State guard Deshon Taylor, Nevada guard/forward Jordan Caroline and Nevada guard Caleb Martin.