A look at Utah State athletes shaped and molded in Cache Valley
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 14:02
Sometimes the greatest talents are right under your nose.
Although Utah State student-athletes range from far and wide, quite a few hail from Cache Valley and close proximity to the school.
“I was around growing up here and I liked Utah State a whole lot,” said Jordan Stone, a center for the men’s basketball team. “I went to a lot of games and just loved it.”
Stone, a sophomore from Smithfield, junior gymnast Christina Nye from Logan and sophomore tennis player Tanner Dance from Providence are three examples of local athletes who grew up around the university and couldn’t say no to what it offered.
“I got offers to walk-on other places, but there was always kind of a special place in my heart for Utah State,” said Nye, who competes in bars and floor for women’s gymnastics. “They were like my idols, so I always wanted to be one of them because I watched them my whole life.”
All three student-athletes named their relationships with coaches as an important factor in their decision to attend USU.
“My family’s from here, but also because Lukas Bouton was the assistant coach,” Dance said. “He was another factor in me staying here. I liked his playing style and he was my coach during high school so I kind of wanted to continue with him.”
Nye said she grew up as almost a younger member of the team.
“I practiced at the same place as the Aggies practiced, and so while I was growing up I got to watch them practice and watch them compete,” she said. “My coach was their coach, so I got used to him coaching. I just grew up watching them and going to all the meets and supporting them.”
Stone said the coaches and atmosphere were big selling points.
“Just growing up around here, the Spectrum’s a fun place to play,” he said. “I definitely wanted to do that. The coaches, altogether it was just a good option.”
Although Utah State was his only offer, Stone said he didn’t even consider playing anywhere else.
“I enjoyed playing in high school and had never actually thought about college until Utah State came around,” he said. “It was a cool thing, so I just went for it and Utah State was just an awesome choice.”
Stone said he began playing basketball in high school and was then surprised when the offer from his favorite school came.
“At the time I didn’t really think there was really the option to play in college. I hadn’t really thought about it at all,” he said. “My junior year came around and it was offered to me.”
Stone didn’t need much time to mull the offer over.
“It seemed like a pretty awesome thing and so I took it,” he said. “We talked one week and a week later I told them that I wanted to and that was about it. It was pretty fast.”
Nye said her decision was a little more difficult, but in the end she just wanted to be in Aggie blue.
“It was kind of a debate for me my senior year of high school between here and Southern Utah, because I had gone down there a lot and had gone to their camps, but I just decided to stay here,” Nye said. “I knew some of the girls on the team. I knew pretty much everything about Utah State, and so I just stayed here.”
Nye said injuries in high school slightly derailed her career, but the Aggies remained steady on their offer.
“I came on to Utah State as a walk-on,” she said. “I was injured my junior and senior years, so they allowed me to walk-on here.”
Dance said top results at region and state tournaments caused Weber State to extend an offer to him, but already knowing Bouton and former head coach Christian Wright made his choice an easier one.
“Chris came and talked to me about being on the team,” Dance said. “It was fairly straightforward just kind of talking to me about it and so I just signed on with him. I didn’t have a scholarship or anything, so I kind of just walked on because he wanted me to play.”
The reasons for being an Aggie are ever increasing, he said.
“I like being here. I like the atmosphere. It’s been a good time playing on the team this year,” Dance said. “I just liked it here too, the valley, proximity to campus, my family being here. My parents and grandparents went to school here.”
All three are beginning to find their respective niches this year. Stone has seen leaps in playing time while becoming a force under the basket coming off the bench. Nye, though coming back from injury, has battled hard for the Aggies, and Dance has been a consistent performer at the No. 6 singles position.