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Today's word on journalism

Monday, September 3, 2007

"I've always been all over the lot in my writing. Except for poetry -- even though they say all the old-time sportswriters use plenty of it. Maybe it's just part of what we do."

--Frank DeFord, 2006

Aggie basketball season disappointing success

By Dave Archer

April 13,2007 | A disappointing success.

It's hard to imagine something that could be so aptly described by two words that have such completely different meanings. The word "success" usually describes something that is good, the mark of a goal or an achievement reached. Trying to use the word "disappointment" to describe the same thing is about as easy as trying to mix oil and water.

Yet the Utah State Aggies 2006-2007 mens' basketball season can be described as just that.

The Aggies took the court in November amidst a number of moderate projections from many college hoops experts. The team was picked to finish fourth in conference play, behind nationally ranked Nevada, New Mexico State and Fresno State. Most projections saw the team winning 15-18 games with little chance of postseason play.

Just four months later, the Aggies once again had their fans questioning how these "experts" get their jobs, as they reeled off a 23-12 record and a berth to the postseason NIT. It was the eighth straight 20-win season and postseason appearance for the team. It was a season that saw a number of emotional wins, including two upsets over top-10 Nevada and last-second victories over Utah and Boise State.

Junior guard Jaycee Carroll was "Mr. Everything" for the Aggies, as his averages of 21.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game led the team. In fact, his points per game mark led the conference and put him at 10th in the nation in scoring. Senior forward Chaz Spicer also provided a solid presence at the forward position, averaging 13.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. His cool demeanor proved to be vital for the Aggies, as he would make what proved to be the game winning shot or free-throws on four separate occasions (against Utah, Boise State and twice against Nevada).

Despite the bright spots, however, many fans would view the outcome of this season as a disappointment. The Aggies fell just two points shy of reaching the NCAA Tournament after a heartbreaking 79-77 loss to New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament final. Carroll's last second three pointer that would have won the game fell short, sending the Aggies of New Mexico State to the "Big Dance" rather than Utah State. The team also suffered a number of tough losses that hurt any chance at an at-large bid to the tournament, including late season setbacks to 10-20 Louisiana Tech and a tough home loss to Fresno State on Senior Night, a loss that ruined the team's chances at a perfect home record. The Aggies finished 13-1 in the Spectrum on the year.

While it is true that the team exceeded many expectations put on them heading into the year, they ultimately fell short of reaching their potential. With the departure of seniors Durrall Peterson, Chaz Spicer and Chris Session, next year's squad will have some key holes to fill.

The team will be led once again by Jaycee Carroll. Coming off a season in which he earned a number of awards, including being named to the All-WAC first team, the United States Basketball Writers Association All-District VIII team and also receiving Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors, Carroll will be counted on even more as a senior to take the team back to the NCAA Tournament.

He won't be without help, though. Kris Clark and Mikel Watson, who missed the last 20 games of the season with a knee injury, will provide experience and depth at the guard position. Stephen DuCharme, who showed flashes of greatness throughout the season, will be counted on to provide more consistency at the forward/center spot. Swingman Nick Hammer will also be looked upon to produce more games like he had against Idaho, where he scored a career-high 15 points.

New recruits should also help bolster the squad, as the Aggies have signed guard Brandon Brown and forward/centers Gary Wilkinson and Modou Niang. Brown, who is originally from Philadelphia, spent last season with West Hills Community College, where he averaged 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for the Falcons. He also shot 50 percent from the field, including 38 percent from behind the three point line.

Wilkinson comes to the program after a monster season at Salt Lake Community College. The South Jordan native earned National Junior College Athletic Association Honorable Mention All-American honors after he put up 18.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. In-state rival BYU and fellow WAC members Boise State, San Jose State and Fresno State also recruited Wilkinson. Niang may not be counted on as heavily to contribute right away for the team, but is a big part of the team's future. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center is originally from Senegal, but played his high school ball in Japan.

Utah State has also received verbal commitments from guards Jaxon Myaer and Desmond Stephens. Myaer comes from Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City, where he helped lead the 3A Bulldogs to a third place finish at the state tournament in February. Stephens comes from Southeastern Illinois College, where he averaged 17.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He also shot a blistering 51.6 percent from the 3-point line.

So although the 2006-2007 Utah State Aggies fell short of reaching their ultimate goal -- a berth in the NCAA tournament - they still were able to win 23 games and earn a spot in the postseason NIT. With the talented pool of incoming recruits, combined with what should be a very special season from Carroll, it appears that Aggie fans will have plenty to look forward to when the new season tips off in November.


Copyright 1997-2007 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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