SACRAMENTO (ABC4 Sports) – One of the biggest reasons why the Utah State basketball team is back in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years has been the play of St. Joseph’s transfer Taylor Funk.

Funk is averaging 13.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Aggies, and came up huge in the Mountain West Tournament, scoring 32 points against New Mexico in the quarterfinals.

As a sixth-year senior, Funk has brought experience, leadership and a lot of nicknames with him to Logan.

“Daddy Funk,” said forward Dan Akin.

“Father Funk,” added guard RJ Eytle-Rock.

“Taylor Dunks,” is my favorite said guard Sean Bairstow.

“I’ve heard them all,” Funk said. “Funky Town, I hear that one a lot. That may be my favorite.”

Whatever you call him, Funk has been a big reason why this Aggies team has clicked so well this season.

“He’s a lot more than just his hair,” joked center Trevin Dorius. “Since day one when he came in on his visit, you could tell he was going to fit in and make a difference. He’s going to help us to where we are now.”

“He brings a positive energy every single day,” said guard Steven Ashworth. “He’s got an attitude of gratitude is a great way to describe Taylor Funk.”

Having grown up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and played his first five years of college basketball at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, it was a surprisingly seamless transition to Logan, Utah. And he can’t wait to finally play in his first NCAA Tournament game.

“Once I went on my visit, I couldn’t say no,” Funk said. “You see where we got, and that was kind of the dream from day one, and we made that dream a reality.”

Utah State and Missouri will tip off at 11:40 a.m. Thursday in Sacramento as the Aggies hope to end a 22-year winless streak in the NCAA Tournament.