As USC Trojans basketball gears up for a new and exciting campaign, we look back on each individual player’s season and what to look for in 2017-18.
After sitting out the 2015-16 season as a transfer from Louisville, last season was Shaqquan Aaron’s chance to crack the rotation. While De’Anthony Melton and Jonah Mathews figured to play, Elijah Stewart was the only true wing on the team. Playing time was there if he could earn his coaches’ trust.
Aaron would end up struggling for consistent minutes, but appeared in 36 games. Though streaky, similar to Katin Reinhardt the year before, Aaron had some truly impressive, game-changing performances. When engaged, his length and mobility allows him to be a disruptive defender and a force in transition. And when his jump shot was falling on top of that, just forget it.
The problem for Aaron and USC was consistency rarely came. For as many games as Aaron saved for USC, there were even more where he completely disappeared. In the Trojans opening nine games, Aaron scored in double figures six times, averaging 15.3 points over those six contests. However, Aaron scored less than five points 12 times, including six games where he went scoreless. Aaron’s hot streaks were critical for USC, who lacked depth, but he was far from dependable. At year’s end, he played just 25 minutes in the Trojans three NCAA tournament games.
11/11/16 - W vs Montana: 17 points, seven rebounds and two steals in the team’s first game and win of the season.
12/3/16 - W vs BYU: 19 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal in a crucial neutral-court game against the Cougars. Aaron was huge in a game where the Trojans struggled offensively.
1/25/17 - W vs UCLA: 23 points, four rebounds and four three-pointers in an upset of UCLA at the Galen Center.
02/09/17 - W vs. Oregon State: 21 points on five three-pointers and six rebounds to cap off a 5-game winning streak.
What to look for in 2017-18:
The theme for the Trojans heading into the season is depth. Depth means more competition and it means someone, at least one player, is going to get the short end of the stick. Minutes have to be earned, especially in the backcourt and on the wing. Aaron saw his minutes dip when his only competition were two freshmen. That doesn’t bode well for the 2017-18 season.
With his length and when he plays under control, Aaron is an absolute asset. He’s an underrated passer and athlete, who could be a rotational wing for a top-25 team. Consistency, decision making, and work rate will determine how much he plays this year. Like Elijah Stewart, Aaron’s seniority might not be enough to earn a starting spot or even heavy minutes.
Aaron is competing with Melton, Mathews, Stewart, Charles O’Bannon Jr. and Derryck Thornton for minutes. McLaughlin is likely the only sure-thing as a starter so if he averages at least 30 minutes per game, that leaves just 90 minutes between backup point guard minutes and the two wing spots. Based on his inconsistencies, Aaron will likely get his chances, but if he doesn’t take them, Enfield will have no problem unleashing the youngsters more.