Stew Morrill

Utah State announces plans for new practice facility

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With their move to the Mountain West, Utah State understood that improvements needed to be made to their facilities in order to compete consistently with the likes of New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State.

On Thursday the school took an important step in that direction, as it announced plans for the building of a $9.5 million facility for its basketball and volleyball programs. The facility will be named after late USU basketball great Wayne Estes, and it’s an important carrot to have on the recruiting trail in the current era of college basketball.

Financing for the project received a major boost from USU boosters Jim and Carol Laub, who pledged a school-record $5.25 million for the project.

“Jim and Carol have played a critical role in the growth of our athletic enterprise in numerous ways over the years,” said USU athletic director Scott Barnes in a statement released by the school. “Their most recent lead gift to the Wayne Estes Center is a profoundly generous statement that speaks volumes about their devotion to Utah State University Athletics and our student-athletes.

“This comes at a pivotal time as we continue to make the climb in preparation for Mountain West competition.”

During Stew Morrill’s tenure at Utah State the Aggies have enjoyed a great deal of success, winning 20 game or more in every season that he’s been in charge with the exception of his first year (15-13 in 1998-99). With or without the new facility Utah State was a safe bet to be competitive in the Mountain West.

The hope for Utah State is that the presence of the new facility puts them in position to not just compete but flourish in their new conference.

“This facility is very important for multiple sports at Utah State. For men’s basketball, it is a much-needed facility to accommodate our program going forward in the Mountain West Conference,” said Morrill.

“It gives us greater flexibility in developing our players thru both regular practice as well as individual workouts. In addition, we will be adding office space that we have desperately needed.

“Both from a playing a recruiting standpoint, this is a great upgrade for Utah State Basketball.”

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.


PHOTO: South Carolina gets new uniforms

Frank Martin
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South Carolina debuted some new uniforms early this week as the school is going with a fresh look and three color ways.

They’re also going to with the “Carolina” branding this season, but I think these new uniforms look pretty cool.