Bad Bean a Risin'Nov 24, 2020
UTAH STATE PHOTOS COURTESY OF UTAH STATE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
Southmoore alum Justin Bean remembers the moment well. It was the first time he had a chance at significant minutes at Utah State University when he heard an odd sound coming from the Aggie home crowd.
"There was this really low echo, so at first I thought they were booing me, to be honest," said Bean. "I HAD turned the ball over, but they kept chanting it as the game went on, and I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong."
Turns out, he'd done nothing wrong. It quickly dawned on him that the fans were chanting his last name.
"I guess it's a name that you don't really hear a lot," said Bean. "So, I think the name is kinda catchy, and it's easy to grab onto."
Bean is being humble, of course. It takes a lot more than having a unique name to become a fan favorite. When you pair up that uncommon name (apologies to Ronald Atkinson of "Mr. Bean" fame in England) with Justin Bean's signature level of intensity on the basketball court, it's easy to understand why Utah State basketball fans would embrace him.
"I always took pride in those things," said Bean. "Hustle, grit, rebounding. I might not be the most naturally talented player on the floor, but I was always determined to outwork my opponent. Even back in high school."
That's how those who watched Bean during his Southmoore days remember the 6'7" athlete. Always scratching and clawing on the boards, diving onto the floor for loose balls, and sticking his nose into the scrum on defense. Make no mistake about it, Bean is a talented basketball player. But it has been his dogged determination to always improve that has led to some pretty impressive accolades as he enters his junior year of NCAA hoops play.
All-Mountain West Conference Third Team
All-Mountain West Defensive Team
MVP of the Jamaica Classic
17th in the nation with 16 double-doubles during the 2019-2020 season
Mountain West Scholar-Athlete
Mountain West All-Academic
"It's taken a lot of hard work," says Bean. "Even when I'm home in the summer for a month during the off-season, my parents and my brothers have all been super-supportive of me. They help me stay disciplined with my training."
Bean says it helps to have a coaching staff that really understands what it takes for players to improve in every aspect of the game.
"No doubt our coaches here are huge into player development," said Bean. "Each summer is really an opportunity to, to make that stride and to really separate yourself from the, um, the other levels of competition. We're usually in the weight room four-to-five days a week with our strength coaches, making sure we do everything we can to improve."
The difference is pretty striking when you look at some of Bean's Southmoore game photos next to current pics from Utah State competition. The skinny kid who skidded all over the place in the gym on Santa Fe Avenue has beefed up noticeably. His improvement has kept pace with the Utah State program's overall progress, which has become one of the best in the Mountain West Conference. Coach Craig Smith is in his second year with the Aggies. His tenure includes back-to-back Mountain West Tournament Championships and NCAA tournament berths. Smith's two-year record at Utah State is 54-15 overall with a 27-9 conference mark.
"He really brought a change to the culture of Utah State basketball," said Bean. "His mentality is that no matter who we play, we're going to be the toughest team on both ends of the floor. I think the credit for the kind of success we've had goes to him. He has helped create this expectation of winning for us, where we know it's not necessarily going to be easy. It's going to hard and tough. But we'll never regret a single moment of working hard to achieve it."
That run of success was cut short by the arrival of COVID-19 on the national scene last March. Bean says it was disappointing to not get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. He and his teammates have taken that disappointment and turned it into fuel for the upcoming season.
"We really want to get that third one and have a three-peat," said Bean. "That's the mentality of this team, hoping that we can finish this season, get another Mountain West championship, and then make a run in the tournament."
For Bean, the understanding that nothing comes easy is something he's embraced since he first started playing the game. He and his teammates share this hard-nosed attitude, which elevates their confidence as they prepare for the 2020-2021 slate.
"We're really deep this year," said Bean. "We have a lot of younger guys who are coming in and have a lot to prove. We're hungry. We just have to stay focused and take advantage of the opportunities when they come."
And while Bean's focus is understandably locked in on Utah State basketball and his college classes, he does pay attention to what's going on back home in Moore. Especially as it pertains to Southmoore High School.
"Southmoore is a truly incredible place," said Bean. "I'll never forget my time there. It's where I learned to love the game at a new level and to face challenges with a full head of steam. Even things like the May 2013 tornado taught me so much about living life and friendships."
He still keeps in touch with his teammates from those Sabercat days. And he says he was paying attention recently when the Sabercat softball team won a state fastpitch championship. He hopes that all those who follow in his footsteps learn the same great lessons he did while he was there.
"The only thing I'd say to those current students is, 'Never take any moment for granted. Continue to believe in yourself and face the challenges that come your way, and you'll experience something special in life'," said Bean.