Louisville freshman Shaqquan Aaron has received his verdict from the NCAA on his impermissible benefits case: A nine-game suspension, seven of which have already been served, meaning that he will be eligible to play starting on December 20 against UNC-Wilmington. The Cardinal freshman’s case stemmed from an NCAA inquiry about a tuition payment made during Aaron’s freshman year of high school, but the case dragged on because of disagreements between the NCAA and Aaron’s family. The suspension is punishment for extra benefits pertaining to housing; in addition to this, Aaron’s family will have to repay a fee, and Aaron will serve community service. ESPN ranked Aaron as the 33rd best freshman in the country, the highest ranked newcomer on Rick Pitino’s squad this season. He has been described as an excellent shooting small forward in scouting reports, with agility and athleticism to boot. One pundit compared him to North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, who cracked the Tar Heels’ starting rotation at the beginning of the season and is producing (116.0 ORtg). One facet of Aaron’s game that has been highly touted is his ability to create opportunities off the dribble, which should provide relief to a Louisville offense that, while putting up a strong but not elite adjusted offensive efficiency of 108.9, has struggled to put together consistent offensive success (see wins against Cleveland and Ohio State).
This situation draws some parallels to the one that plagued North Carolina’s Leslie McDonald last year. McDonald sat out the Tar Heels’ first nine games due to an eligibility issue stemming from the use of his likeness on a mouthpiece website. The NCAA declared that McDonald had received “numerous impermissible extra benefits,” including use of luxury cars, sleeping on a friend’s couch during the North Carolina Pro-Am, and payment of parking tickets. The investigation cleared McDonald in time for a key December 18 game against Texas, when he made his season debut. His absence from the lineup yielded mixed results for North Carolina, including wins over Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky, but perplexing losses to Belmont at home and UAB on the road. The Cardinals have fared much better without Aaron on the floor, posting an 8-0 record to start the season.