The primary few years of Sam Merrill’s skilled basketball profession have been filled with emotional highs and lows, good instances and dangerous, set in a shifting panorama.
“It has been fairly a roller-coaster trip, for certain,” he mentioned.
This is a fast recap.
- Just a few months later, Merrill was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. The state of affairs appeared promising till he suffered an ankle harm, wanted surgical procedure and was waived, he mentioned.
- In 2022, the previous Utah State College Aggie signed with the Sacramento Kings in hopes of incomes a roster spot, however was waived previous to the beginning of the season. “I did numerous great things, I felt like I put myself in a very good place,” he mentioned. “It did not work out.”
- A short while later Merrill was the primary decide of the NBA G League draft by the Cleveland Cost, the Cavalier’s G League affiliate.
“Now right here we’re in Cleveland. It has been a loopy expertise, numerous ups and downs,” Merrill mentioned in a Church Information telephone interview. “However I really feel like I’ve actually grown as an individual. I feel it has been good for me general.”
President Nelson’s fishing recommendation
Given his seesaw expertise, Merrill has particularly appreciated President Russell M. Nelson’s 2023 New 12 months’s social media message about striving to be affected person, persistent and prayerful. The Latter-day Saint Prophet’s counsel, realized whereas deep-sea fishing, applies on to Merrill’s state of affairs.
“I feel these three issues have been, truthfully, three of the issues that I’ve tried to stay with probably the most all through these ups and downs,” Merrill mentioned. “Being persistent, working onerous, persevering with to work and get after it; being affected person with myself and with these round me, understanding there’s solely a lot you’ll be able to management at this stage. I can not management what selections groups need to make, so I simply need to be one of the best I could be and let the chips fall so far as that goes.”
Prayer has been a very powerful of the three P’s, the guard mentioned.
“I am not begging for one thing nice to occur. I am not particularly asking to stay within the NBA or signal a long-term contract,” Merrill mentioned. “I am simply asking that no matter is finest for me. I’ve religion that so long as I do my half — it could not work out in the best way you anticipate — however it’ll at all times work out as a result of that is what He needs for us.”
Life within the G League
The NBA’s G League reminds Merrill of faculty basketball in some methods.
Not like the NBA, G League groups fly industrial flights, typically on small planes, to distant areas, normally adopted by a bus trip. They do not keep in five-star motels, and the meals finances is smaller.
Though not as flashy or luxurious, for Merrill, it has been a “blessing.” He did not see the court docket a lot as an NBA rookie and missed a number of months of motion following ankle surgical procedure throughout his second yr.
“It has been such a blessing to simply have the ability to exit and play once more,” he mentioned. “Being in a state of affairs the place I get to exit and play … heavy minutes and have the ball in my palms. …It has been nice for me. I’ve grown a bunch within the final couple of months. … I am loving it, taking part in.”
Merrill additionally has the benefit of getting served a full-time mission in Nicaragua for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I at all times inform individuals nothing I do on a basketball court docket will ever be as onerous because the expertise that I went by there. I can run and run and do conditioning, all these things, however the mission was very, very onerous from a bodily and emotional standpoint,” he mentioned. “The ups and downs of that definitely apply to what I am making an attempt to do right here.”
Merrill expressed gratitude for his spouse, Kanyan, their 8-month-old daughter and their households for supporting him and permitting him to pursue his basketball profession.
Latter-day Saints in NBA’s G League
Merrill is one among 4 Latter-day Saints taking part in within the NBA’s G League, a minor league basketball group. The opposite three are Justin Bean, Frank Jackson and Eric Mika.
justin bean: Merrill’s former teammate at Utah State, Bean is averaging 10 factors, 6.6 rebounds and one help per recreation this season for the Memphis Hustle, an affiliate of the Memphis Grizzlies. Bean, a descendant of the Willard Bean, “The Preventing Preacher,” served his mission in Reno, Nevada.
frank jackson: After taking part in for New Orleans and Detroit within the NBA, the previous Duke College and Lone Peak Excessive College participant is averaging 20.5 factors a recreation for the Salt Lake Metropolis Stars.
Eric Mika: Since serving a mission in Rome, Italy, and leaving Brigham Younger College, the 6-foot-10 middle/ahead has performed professionally in Italy, Germany, China, Serbia and France. In 2019-20, he suited up for the Stockton Kings, the G League affiliate of the Sacramento Kings. This yr, Mika is averaging 12.8 factors, 8.4 rebounds and three assists a recreation in Henderson, Nevada, for the G League’s Ignite.
Latter-day Saints taking part in in international nations
- Elijah Bryant, a former BYU Cougar, is averaging 16 factors a recreation for Turkey’s Anadolu Efes. He and Merrill have been on the roster when Milwaukee defeated Phoenix within the NBA finals in 2021. Bryant additionally helped Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Israeli League title in 2020 and was a key contributor for Anadolu Efes when it gained the EuroLeague crown.
- Brandon Davies, former BYU large man, is taking part in for Italy’s Olimpia Milano following years in Spain, Lithuania, Monaco and brief stints within the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. He has pinned a scripture from the E-book of Mormon, Alma 26:12, on his Twitter account.
Yea, I do know that I’m nothing; as 2 my energy I’m weak; subsequently I cannot boast of myself, however I’ll boast of my God, 4 in his energy I can do all issues; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we’ve wrought on this land, for which we’ll reward his title without end. Alma 26;12
—Brandon Davies (@Brandon_Davies0) July 28, 2019
Not on a roster
Two Latter-day Saints not presently discovered on rosters embody former Duke star Jabari Parker and BYU legend Jimmer Fredette.
Parker, chosen No. 2 general within the 2014 NBA draft, has performed for a number of NBA groups over time, most just lately in Boston in the course of the 2021-2022 season. He’s presently a free agent.
Fredette bounced round with a number of NBA groups earlier than taking part in in Greece and China in recent times. He advised the Deseret Information he plans to compete and qualify for the USA within the 3×3 basketball competitors within the 2024 Paris Olympics after having gained the FIBA 3×3 AmeriCup in Nov. 2022.
Jaycee Carroll’s USU jersey
One other professional not taking part in is former Utah State sharpshooter Jaycee Carroll.
The Wyoming native performed professionally in Europe for 13 seasons earlier than stepping away from skilled basketball in 2021. Throughout that point, Carroll was a part of two EuroLeague titles, 5 Spanish League championships, six Kings Cups, six Tremendous Cups and a FIBA Intercontinental Cup Championship.
Carroll, who served a mission in Chile, may have his No. 20 jersey retired in a halftime ceremony in the course of the USU-Nevada recreation on Feb. 18.