Friday Column: Please Familiarize Yourself With Utah State’s Neemias Queta
The Utah State big man has been a breakout in his freshman season
Let’s give Neemias Queta some recognition
It’s time to give Neemias Queta some props.
Let me explain.
Utah State, for quite some time, figured it was going to enter the season pretty sparse in the frontcourt category. The season before, the Aggies didn’t have any rotational guys bigger than the 6-8, 240-pound Quinn Taylor.
Though Taylor was a solid role player in Utah State’s 17-win campaign – the final year of the Tim Duryea era – quite a few question marks lingered about who would step up down low for USU.
In late August, less than a month away from the first official practice of the season, Craig Smith secured a major pickup by landing Neemias Queta. The signing of the Portuguese big man was announced on August 29.
At 6-11, 240, Queta is hard to miss, but he flew under the radar of a number of programs during his recruiting process. Reportedly picking Utah State over Texas Tech, Creighton, and others, the U-20 Portugal star averaged 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in the European Championships.
With a lot of unknowns heading into the 2018-19 Utah State men’s basketball season, Queta provided a gift of sorts for Aggie fans. It was just a matter of time until we witnessed what was underneath the wrapping.
With USU already dealing with a preseason frontcourt injury bug, Queta was thrown into the fire on day one. He opened up his collegiate career with 18 productive minutes in a 101-71 blowout road win over Montana State.
It hasn’t taken long for Queta to leave his mark. Less than two weeks later, in Utah State’s biggest game of the season to that point, Queta popped Saint Mary’s for 24 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two assists, including a 9-13 mark from the field and a perfect 6-6 from the line. The 80-63 neutral-site victory over Saint Mary’s is Utah State’s signature win to date, in large part due to Queta’s efforts.
Since that night, Queta has been a force. The freshman big man has been in double figures in ten of his 14 appearances (all starts), including four double-doubles. Only five times this season has Queta logged fewer than seven rebounds.
The table below features Queta’s national individual stat rankings pegged against some of the nation’s elite forwards, including Duke’s Zion Williamson and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. (Here’s some help on the statistical categories, if needed.)
If you’re more into standard, per-game stats, try this: Queta is the only player in Mountain West history to average at least 11 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 65 percent or better from the field. Even Andrew Bogut – who won Mountain West POY honors and also the Naismith and Wooden awards in ’05 – didn’t meet this benchmark. Bogut averaged 1.9 blocks per game and shot 62 percent from the field that season.
This guy is 19 years old.
He hasn’t even played 20 games at the D-I level yet.
He’s really, really good already and demands your attention immediately. It’s like discovering a lesser-known band before they get big and start selling out arenas and charging $100 a ticket.
If you’re still not convinced, maybe KenPom can help. The site has a player comparison tool which finds the five most similar players based on stats, class, measurables, and playing time.
Here are the five players which are, statistically, the most similar to Neemias Queta, according to KenPom:
- Derrick Favors (’10, Georgia Tech) – 3rd overall NBA Draft pick
- Willie Cauley-Stein (’13, Kentucky) – 6th overall NBA Draft pick
- Tyrus Thomas (’06, LSU) – 4th overall NBA Draft pick
- Mike Watkins (’17, Penn State)
- Joel Embiid (’14, ) – 3rd overall NBA Draft pick
If you’ve followed basketball on any level for a few years, you know that this is good company. My word. You have four guys who were selected in the top six of the NBA Draft and a three-year Big Ten starter in Penn State’s Mike Watkins (he’s averaging 8.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this season).
The Stepein’s Jackson Hoy had an excellent breakdown of Queta’s pro potential in this in-depth article last month. Hoy labels Queta’s projected NBA role as a mobile, rim-protecting big, highlighting his length, blocking ability, and motor.
“All things considered, (Queta) is a serious prospect thanks to his outlier measurables and high-end defensive upside,” Hoy says.
Now I’m not an NBA Draft expert and I’m not going to pretend to be one. What I do know is that Neemias Queta has been the single most impactful freshman in the Mountain West this season and his name has gone almost entirely unnoticed. Queta is already performing like a high-major senior starter. He is one of the main reasons why Utah State has greatly surpassed expectations and is one of the top teams out west in college basketball this year.
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.