Sam Merrill is an American college basketball shooting guard for Utah State University. He is scheduled to graduate in May 2020 and hopes to play professionally. His bachelor’s degree will be in business administration. Sports Illustrated named him one of the best college basketball players.
The 6-foot 5-inch Merrill was born on May 16, 1996, and was raised in Bountiful, Utah. During his sophomore year, he became a starter midpoint during the season and continued to play through his senior year. He was recruited by Stanford University and Princeton but committed to Utah State. During his career, he was twice Mountain West Tournament MVP (2019, 2020), Mountain West Player of the Year (2019), Third-team All-Mountain West (2018), and AP Honorable Mention All-American (2019).
Before he played college ball, he served as a full-time missionary to Nicaragua for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many missionaries, he focused on teaching people the gospel and serving them instead of keeping in shape. Soccer was the sport of choice in Nicaragua, so he rarely had an opportunity to touch a basketball. When he returned home after completing his mission, it took time to transition to Division 1 college basketball player.
As a freshman at Utah State, he led the Aggies in assists and scored in double figures 14 times. As a sophomore, he became Utah State’s leading scorer. Utah State coach Craig Smith commented about Merrill in a KSL story: “He [Sam Merrill] does it all. He’s an incredible person, unbelievable character, and the All-American type of kid. He’s the most unselfish star that I’ve ever coached in 23 years. He gives our guys so much confidence. Everyone talks about how good he is on offense, but he’s just as good of a defensive player. He does it all, he’s so intelligent, and our guys love him to death.”
- In the season opener of his senior year, Merrill had 28 points to help the Aggies defeat Montana State 81-73. On February 11, versus Colorado State, Merrill eclipsed the 2,000 point mark for his career and passed Wayne Estes for third on the school’s all-time scoring list. He finished with 32 points and five assists in a 75-72 win. At the conclusion of the regular season, Merrill was named to the First Team All-Mountain West. Merrill led Utah State to another Mountain West Tournament championship, securing the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and was named Mountain West Tournament MVP. He scored 27 points in a 59-56 upset of San Diego State in the tournament final and hit the game-winning three-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining.
In 2018, Merrill married Kanyan Ward, a Utah State soccer player.