It’s been six years since Todd Simon took the reins as head coach of Southern Utah University men’s basketball. In those six years, SUU’s record has improved each season, they have appeared in post-season tournaments twice, and they’ve won a regular season Big Sky Conference championship. SUU now faces a new challenge as they enter the Western Athletic Conference.
The WAC preseason polls have SUU ranked ninth and have some adjusting to do. While the WAC bears better defensive teams than the Big Sky, Simon has his team ready for this new challenge. He and his assistants have added impactful players to play alongside household names over the summer.
John Knight III, 6-3, G, 14.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.1 APG, 32.5 MPG
Knight was SUU’s second-leading scorer last season and will be hard to replace. He now plays professionally for Froya Basket Laksevag in Norway. It will take multiple players to step in and fill his void at guard.
Dre Marin, 6-0, G, 11 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 32.3 MPG
Marin was a rare five-year starter for the Thunderbirds due to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to student-athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Marin finished with 1,432 points in his career and is currently playing for s.Oliver Wurzburg of the German Bundesliga.
Aanen Moody, 6-3, G, 6.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 19.1 MPG
Moody was an important role player for coach Simon and played important minutes off the bench as a sharp-shooter. After last season, he transferred to the University of Montana and will be competing in the Big Sky for another season.
Marquis Moore, 6-6, F, 3.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 9.5 MPG
Moore finished his senior for SUU as a bruiser, coming off the bench to guard some of the best scorers in the Big Sky. Unfortunately, his time as a Thunderbird has come to an end, as he transferred to Hawai’i Pacific University for his final season.
Nick Fleming, 6-1, G, 2.8 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 11.1 MPG
Lovingly dubbed “Clamps” because of his perimeter defense, Flemming always seemed to find a way to see the court even with SUU’s great depth at point guard. He had a standout performance during SUU’s post-season tournament, scoring 18 points while shooting four-of-seven from three against The University of Texas at El Paso. He transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.
Amound Anderson, 6-3, G
Anderson spent last season getting healthy after transferring from California State University Northridge, where he spent his COVID-19 season as a member of their rotation. The redshirt freshman started four games for the Matadors and averaged 5.4 points while shooting 41% from beyond the arc. He is a crafty offensive threat that can come off the bench and initiate the offense.
Maizen Fausett, 6-6, F, 11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1 APG, 30 MPG
Fausett is a senior entering his fifth year in the program and his fourth as a full-time starter. He is the top rebounder in program history and reached the 1000-point scoring mark last year. He made multiple BSC all-conference teams and was named to the WAC preseason All-Conference Second Team. After spending the off-season improving on his 33% from three the year before, he is primed to stretch the floor as a forward and small-ball center this year.
Dee Barnes, 6-4, G/F, 3 PPG, 1 RPG, 0.25 APG, 7.8 MPG
After spending the past two years running the scout team in practice, Barnes enters his third year at SUU with a great opportunity to be a rotational player. With great athleticism and good shooting from beyond the arc, he is expected to be a 3-and-D type of player for Simon this season.
Jason Spurgin, 6-11, C, 8.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1 APG, 0.9 BPG, 23.4 MPG
Spurgin has the opportunity to be the best player on the roster. With a very high upside and great offense, the Aussie needs to continue to develop as a defensive threat to reach the next level.
Harrison Butler, 6-5, F, 7.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 21.5 MPG
As a fifth-year senior, Butler has already surpassed the 1000-point scoring mark and is the second-leading rebounder in program history to Fausett. He has slimmed down and has regained a lot of his quickness and athleticism, so expect him to be more involved on offense this year and play just as many minutes as any of the starters.
Parsa Fallah, 6-9, C
Fallah redshirted last year after a late arrival from Iran and spent the summer filling the holes in his game. He is a crafty post on the blocks but needs work as a defender and rebounder to see significant minutes.
Martel Williams, 6-3, G/F
Williams is technically a freshman thanks to COVID-19 and a redshirt year. He is an elite athlete who is already a high-major defender that can legitimately guard anyone on the floor due to his physical gifts and defensive IQ. As one of the hardest workers on the team, he will be in the rotation early as a defensive stopper, but his offensive game has been developing nicely.
Tevian Jones, 6-7, G/F, 14.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 23.9 MPG
As a former top-100 recruit and transfer from the University of Illinois, Jones is expected to have the keys this season. He was voted “scariest player to face” by WAC coaches and could be on NBA radar if he commits to defense and shoots more efficiently. Entering his senior season, he earned a spot on the WAC preseason All-Conference First Team and continues to solidify himself as one of the best players in program history.
Josh Valentine, 6-0, G
Valentine is in his second year at SUU as a redshirt freshman walk-on. Always smiling and bringing positive energy to practice, the guard out of Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, probably won’t see much playing time because of the guard depth SUU holds.
Andrew Marshall, 6-4, G
Marshall is a redshirt freshman walk-on in his second season at SUU. He played prep basketball for Coronado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, but is in a similar situation as Valentine.
Pete Dadson Jr., 6-4, G/F
Dadson is a sophomore walk-on who earned a spot on the roster after initially joining the program as a practice player. From Sydney, Australia, Dadson’s presence will be most noticeable during practice and game prep.
Felix Lemetti, 6-1, G, 10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 31.9 MPG
Lemetti is a well-traveled point guard who always brings intensity as a floor general. SUU is his fourth college in as many years; he has played for Fairfield University, Salt Lake Community College and the University of Nebraska Omaha. At Omaha, he was a full-time starter that shot 36% from beyond the arc.
Deng Dut, 6-4, G, 14.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG
Dut helped the University of Wyoming Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament last season and appeared in 12 games. One of five Aussies on the team, the junior was a JUCO All-American in his sophomore season at the College of Southern Idaho. Dut’s length and athleticism will be versatile for Simon on the wing.
Drake Allen, 6-4, G, So., 12.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 2.2 SPG, 30.4 MPG
A transfer from Snow College, Allen enters his sophomore season as the likely starting point guard for SUU. As a JUCO All-American, he became the highest-rated SUU recruit since Harrison Butler in 2017 and chose SUU over offers from dozens of schools. He is a physical, athletic guard that will help fans forget about the loss of Dre Marin in no time.
Cameron Healy, 6-3, G, 11.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.4 RPG, 30 MPG
Yet another Aussie for SUU, Healy is a great perimeter threat that transferred from Central Michigan University. SUU is the graduate student’s third college, as he initially attended the University of Albany out of high school. Healy is a high IQ player and brings a calming presence on offense. He is the best shooter on the team but could be a liability on defense at times.
Zion Young, 6-3, G/F
In his last year of eligibility, Young transferred from Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He is a big, physical wing that started over 50 career games between Western Illinois University and Oakland University. If he’s healthy, he will get a chance at the rotation and replace Moore’s minutes.
Braden Housley, 6-4, G
Housely is returning from his LDS mission as a true freshman for SUU. He is a solid defender and plays an important role on the scout team in practice, but he’s still getting his legs under him and may be a redshirt candidate.
Marshal Destremau, 6-9, F/C
Destremau is a true freshman that only recently made it to campus from Australia. He is a stretch-big that will contribute in the future but is a likely redshirt candidate.
The path to success
Retaining great players has been a large part of SUU’s rebuild on the court over the past eight seasons. Before Simon was hired, the Thunderbirds only beat one DI opponent in the 2014-2015 season. In the last two seasons alone, he has led the team to a 43-16 record.
“It’s been rewarding,” Simon said. “The last two years, we’re 43-16 and towards the top of the nation in win percentage. It’s the gratification of doing it piece by piece and now having the stability of four straight years of pretty successful basketball here.”
The Thunderbird starters will likely consist of Allen, Healy, Jones, Fausett and Spurgin. Jones, Fausett and Spurgin all have an opportunity to take a leap and become some of the best players in the WAC. The key to success in Simon’s pro-style offense will be consistent shooting from beyond the arc.
“The guys like each other here, and it’s a fairly modern, NBA-style of player development and analytical mindset,” Simon stated. “We’re really trying to do things that make sense and play the game in a modern way with paint-3s, transition and playing fast, not fouling, and creating shots.”
Defensive is where some questions have arisen. The team is full of offensive threats, but rotation players like Williams and Barnes will be expected to come in and be disruptors on defense. X-factors for SUU will be Butler and Young, as both have the size and athleticism to make an impact on both sides of the ball.
“I think the WAC is a little more athletic, and we’ll be more pressured and defensive-oriented,” Simon said.
The SUU men’s basketball team will start their 2022-2023 season in a challenging road environment known as “the Pit” on Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. against the University of New Mexico. Their home opener will be Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. versus the University of La Verne.
Article by: Chevy Blackburn
Photos by: SUU Athletics