MILWAUKEE (ABC4 Sports) – From a state championship at Bountiful High, to a Mountain West Tournament championship at Utah State, and now, NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.
It has been quite a journey for Sam Merrill, and he is enjoying the ride.
“It was so fun,” Merrill said. “To be a part of those games in Phoenix and in Milwaukee where it was just unbelievably loud was definitely something that I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of.”
Some players go their entire careers without ever getting to the NBA Finals, let alone with a title. So even though he didn’t play much, Merrill isn’t taking this experience for granted.
“Veterans and coaches have told us to enjoy this,” said Merrill, the 2019 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. “It’s hard to win at a high level in this league.”
Merrill played in 30 regular season games and eight playoff games for the Bucks, and he can’t wait to get that NBA championship ring.
“I’m excited to get it,” he said. “It’ll probably be a little nicer than my high school ring or my college ring, that’s for sure.”
Merrill wasn’t the only local player on the Bucks team. Former BYU star Elijah Bryant was signed late in the season, and also gets a ring.
“It’s good to have Elijah,” Merrill said. “We’ve obviously gotten very close having both played college basketball in Utah. It’s a lot of fun. He’s a great guy, a great player, and I’m excited to keep working with him.”
After going 44 years without an NBA draft pick, Utah State now has had players drafted in back-to-back years, with Merrill being selected with the 60th pick to Milwaukee in 2020, and Neemias Queta getting drafted by Sacramento last week with the 39th overall pick.
“I’m super happy for him,” Merrill said. “I talked to him before the draft, a few hours before, and asked him if he was nervous. He said he wasn’t, but I think he was lying a little bit. But I grew up a Utah State fan, that was just never even a thing, having Utah State guys in the NBA. So I’m super happy for Neemi. I think he’s in a spot where he can really succeed.”
Merrill’s advice to Queta as he enters his rookie season? Stay patient.
“That’s definitely what I’ve learned,” Merrill said. “It’s a different world. I thought I was going to be ready for that, but I had to learn that it is about staying patient and focus on getting better.”
Merrill is now getting ready for Summer League in Las Vegas next week where he hopes to show the Bucks he deserves more playing time next season.
“I’m just excited to play, and play heavy minutes hopefully,” Merrill said. “I feel like I have gotten a lot better as a player throughout the last year, even if I didn’t have a ton of opportunity to show it.”