Who’s Got Next? Shaqquan Aaron: From California to Seattle to LouisvillePosted by Sean Moran on February 18th, 2014
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shaqquan Aaron’s Long Journey
Take a current look at the MaxPreps Top 25 High School basketball rankings. The top two teams in the country are separated by over 1,000 miles, but Mater Dei (CA) and Rainier Beach (WA) share a common link. That link is four-star small forward Shaqquan Aaron, a player who stands 6’7” and is currently ranked No. 34 in the class of 2014 (No. 11 SF). Next year he will put on the red and white for Rick Pitino, but before heading to Louisville the sinewy wing is trying to close out his tumultuous high school career with one more state title.
Before Aaron even played a game in high school, the word was out about his talent. After a summer day in Las Vegas, well-respected talent evaluator Dave Telep wrote the following: “This isn’t going to be a very difficult evaluation. The word out of the West was that he’s the best freshman prospect in a long time. OK, we’ll buy that. He turned 15 on July 21 and celebrates the occasion by coming off the bench for SCA and looking like a major prospect. He’s 6-foot-5, drills threes and oozes potential. Catch him if you can!”
Aaron started his freshmen year at Mater Dei, a southern California powerhouse, with another star freshman in Stanley Johnson. At the time, Aaron was the more hyped prospect, and just a few months into his freshman year, he scored 24 points against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The two freshmen played an integral part in leading Mater Dei to the 2011 state championship, but it also served as a fork in the road for the two players. Johnson stayed at Mater Dei and now sits as a five-star player ranked No. 7 in the nation and looking to win his fourth consecutive state title. Aaron, meanwhile, transferred out and bounced around for a while before finding solace in Seattle. After transferring to a Los Angeles public school, Aaron was forced to sit out his entire sophomore year due to California state regulations. He then spent the summer of 2012 playing for Team Superstar, an L.A.-based AAU organization, but was no longer considered a premier player in his class after missing a full season of development. Before his junior year, Aaron ended up in the Pacific Northwest at Rainier Beach, a basketball powerhouse notable for producing the likes of NBA players Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, and Terrence Williams. He helped lead Rainier Beach to its second consecutive state title last year and is now the alpha dog on a 20-0 team in search of one more state championship.
Aaron is currently averaging 20.0 points per game and led his team to victory over Jahlil Okafor’s (#1 – 2014) Whitney Young (IL) squad and Romelo Trimble’s (#34 – 2014) Bishop O’ Connell (VA) team in recent tournaments. He also picked up MVP honors in the prestigious Les Schwab Invitational. Four years ago it was supposed to be Aaron and Johnson, the two precocious McDonald’s All-Americans, leading Mater Dei to another state title. While things didn’t exactly work out that way, Aaron is looking to end his high school career just as he began it; with a state championship. It also wouldn’t hurt to overtake his former school as the top high school team in the country. Aaron might not be a five-star player at this juncture, but he will enter Louisville next season as an under-the-radar freshman with a vast amount of potential.
The lanky wing is a tantalizing prospect. He has NBA range on his jump shot and is capable of getting hot in a hurry as shown when he hit six threes against Kidd-Gilchrist several years ago. For a tall wing, Aaron is also a strong ball-handler who loves to isolate slower wings on the perimeter and blow by them for easy scores. While his skills can dazzle you at times, he is sometimes viewed as an all-or-nothing player. In AAU play, Aaron could score in bunches but he also had a tendency to disappear for long stretches. Harnessing that potential and turning it into consistent production will be Pitino’s main chore with him next year. In their first year of ACC play, the Cardinals will lose seniors Russ Smith and Luke Hancock to graduation. Both of these guards average double-figure points, and Smith is the team leader, contributing 18.3 points per game. The Cardinals will have plenty of playing time next year for someone to play on the wing alongside small forward Wayne Blackshear. They will also return shooting guard Anton Gill, who is currently averaging 5.3 PPG, but the shooting guard spot will most likely be Aaron’s to lose. Rick Pitino has had great success with Seattle kids before in Williams and Peyton Siva, and with the proper amount of nurturing, Aaron could be the next Emerald City standout to find success in the River City.