Former Bountiful, Utah State Sharpshooter Turning Heads In NBA

Jan 23, 2024, 4:55 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nearly three years ago, Utah State senior guard Sam Merrill pulled up from 30 feet away and buried a three that ticketed his Aggies for the NCAA Tournament. That would end up being the final shot of his collegiate career.

The casual fan could be forgiven for not realizing Merrill’s basketball dreams continued well beyond that ill-fated season. Not only is the Aggies’ second-leading all-time scorer still playing basketball, but he’s earning rotation minutes alongside Donovan Mitchell with one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

RELATED: Hard Work Paying Off For Former Utah State Standout Sam Merrill

Forced into the lineup as injuries ravaged the Cleveland Cavaliers in December, Merrill put the league on notice. The righthanded sniper ripped off back-to-back career-high scoring nights against the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz.

Since December 18, Merrill’s 13.8 points in 24 minutes per night are fourth on the team. He makes 3.8 threes a night at a 43 percent clip and has made five or more threes in a game five times.

The Cavs are 10-3 since Merrill entered the rotation.

Merrill is posting career-highs of 8.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists this season.

About Sam Merrill

Before his professional career, the Bountiful High product was a star for the Aggies. During his time at USU, Merrill was honored as AP Honorable Mention All-American (2019), Mountain West Conference Player of the Year (2019), first-team All-Mountain West (2019 & 2020), and Mountain West tournament MVP (2019 & 2020).

After a standout career at USU, Merrill was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans as the No. 60 overall pick during the 2020 NBA Draft. He was then sent to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a draft-day trade.

His rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks resulted in an NBA championship, but Merrill played sparingly, averaging less than eight minutes a night in 30 appearances. Despite making threes at a 44.7 percent rate, he couldn’t crack the title-bound Bucks rotation.

RELATED: Former USU Star Signs Multi-Year Contract With Cavaliers

Merrill signed with Memphis for the 2021-22 season, playing six games with the Grizzlies before being released in January 2022.

Merrill signed with the G-League’s Canton Charge for the 2022-23 season.

The 6’4 guard averaged 18.4 points and nearly four threes per game on 44.1 percent shooting in 22 games for the Charge before signing a 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers in March 2023.

Merrill has career averages of 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. In 67 games, he has shot 42 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep.

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Brian Preece is a insider covering the Utah State Aggies and Salt Lake Bees. Follow Brian’s coverage of the Bees, Big League Utah, and Aggie athletics here.

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Former Bountiful, Utah State Sharpshooter Turning Heads In NBA