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From The Herald Journal News (7 March 2011)

Wesley named WAC Player of Year

By Shawn Harrison

Tai Wesley
Utah State forward Tai Wesley was named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year Sunday. Eli Lucero/Herald Journal

For the third time in four years, an Aggie is the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Utah State senior Tai Wesley was named the top player in the league early Sunday afternoon, as voted on by the league's nine coaches. The Provo native was also the coaches' pick in the preseason.

"I'm just excited," Wesley said. "This is something special. That's something you work for all year. I couldn't do it without my teammates."

And many of his teammates received accolades as well. Joining Wesley on the WAC first-team was teammate Brockeith Pane. The junior point guard was also on the WAC All-Newcomer Team.

USU senior guard Brian Green made the WAC second team, while senior guard Tyler Newbold was on the All-Defensive Team.

"Those guys deserve it," Wesley said. "We've put in work this year, had a great season, so it's nice to see a lot of our guys get recognized."

Another Aggie being recognized was head coach Stew Morrill. For the third straight year he was named the Don Haskins Coach of the Year.

"When you get recognized by your peers, that is always special," Morrill said. "This award is not about me, it is about a lot of people doing a good job and receiving this is more of an indication that our program is healthy. It recognizes your whole program, but you do appreciate that your peers saw it that way."

Morrill has been named coach of the year six times during his career as he was named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year in 1991 while at Montana, the Big West Conference Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2002 while at USU, along with earning WAC Coach of the Year honors in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The Aggies finished the 2010-11 regular season last Saturday with a 72-30 win at Louisiana Tech. They have a 28-3 record, including a 15-1 WAC mark. Those 28 wins are a regular season school record and tied for the third-most in school history.

USU is also just the seventh team in the 49-year history of the WAC to lose one or fewer league games and the first since Utah went 14-0 during the 1998-99 campaign.

"You've heard me say for a long time, team success gives you a chance for individual recognition," Morrill said.

This is the third time in the last four years an Aggie has been named the WAC's Player of the Year as Jaycee Carroll won the award in 2008, followed by Gary Wilkinson in 2009.

"I've had such great role models before me like Jaycee (Carroll), Gary (Wilkinson), Spencer (Nelson) and Nate (Harris)," Wesley said. "I've just tried to follow their lead and be a leader the whole year. That includes every day in practice, not just in games. I've just tried to emulate what they've done before me."
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward became the sixth player in school history to earn conference player of the year honors, joining Dean Hunger (1980), Greg Grant (1986), Eric Franson (1995), Carroll (2008) and Wilkinson (2009).

"I certainly felt that Tai was Player of the Year, where we won the league and went 15-1," Morrill said. "I was a little nervous about that, but usually the coaches are the first to recognize which team finished higher.

Tai being named Player of the Year is very well deserving. He has had a great season and a great career. I'm just tickled that he was Player of the Year."

Wesley earned first-team all-WAC honors for the second-straight year. He is averaging 14.5 points and 7.9 rebounds, while shooting 59.4 percent from the field and 72.0 percent at the free throw line. He currently ranks second in the WAC and ninth in the nation in shooting and also ranks fourth in the WAC in rebounding, sixth in blocked shots (1.06) and seventh in scoring.