Sam Merrill

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Sam Merrill is an American professional basketball player and last played for the Memphis Grizzlies. As of January 2022, he was waived and likely out for future play for three to four months for ankle surgery. He played for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA during the team's win of the 2021 NBA Championship in July 2021. In August 2021 he was traded to the Grizzlies. After spending time on the rosters of the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings, Merrill was the first pick of the NBA G League draft by the Cleveland Charge. He is currently a shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On November 18, 2020, he was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans as the final pick of the 2020 NBA draft. On November 24, he was traded to the Bucks as part of a four-team trade and assigned to the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League. He debuted on February 10, 2021. In March, he had a career-high 15-point game against the Boston Celtics. He played 20 minutes, including just over 14 minutes in the second half of the game. He also had a slam dunk, something he hadn't done in years.

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). He was named first-team all-state by both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune.

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 University, 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.”[1]

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.[2]

His bachelor’s degree was in business administration. Sports Illustrated named him one of the best college basketball players.[3]

In 2018, Merrill married Kanyan Ward, a Utah State soccer player.