COLUMBUS, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – When Sam Merrill was at Bountiful High School, he won a state championship. Having just won a Mountain West Tournament title with Utah State, Merrill, along with former Davis High star Abel Porter and Brighton’s Brock Miller, have shown the country what high school basketball in Utah is all about.
They represent three-fifths of the Utah State basketball team, which earned an 8-seed and will take on Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
“As a high school player from Utah, it definitely means a lot,“ said Merrill, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.. “Me, Abel and Brock, three starters. It’s important for us as a team to have a good showing and hopefully represent the state well.“
“It’s really big time, especially being from the state of Utah and being here in this tournament,“ said Miller. “March Madness is what it’s all about. It’s awesome, and we’re really excited about it, and we’ve got a lot of people supporting us.“
All three players grew up playing against each other, and while Merrill and Miller were heralded recruits, Porter wasn’t. In fact, he was a walk-on until the day before he hit a buzzer-beater against New Mexico this past January.
“It just goes to show that hard work pays off,“ Porter said. “Just a lot of pride representing Utah high school basketball with Utah on your chest. I think that just shows Utah high school basketball is legit. We have some players, and not even in Utah, but all across the country and in the NBA. I just feel pride in showing that Utah has some good basketball.“
With Utah State being the only local college team to make the Big Dance in three years, they’ve taken the mantle of representing the entire state.
“Obviously it’s been a couple years since Utah has been in the NCAA Tournament, so we’re due,“ Merrill said. “All three of us have made great strides this year. From the end of last year through this year, we’re definitely going to wear that Utah and State across our chests with some pride and hopefully show out well.“