A year ago, St. Joe's forward C.J. Aiken turned aside 3.5 shots per contest, good enough to rank him fourth nationally in the category. His shot-blocking prowess also earned him Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year honors. This year, as a junior, Aiken will look to expand his game, improve his shooting from the perimeter, and continue swatting aside shots.
Last year, Aiken averaged 10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in just over 31 minutes per contest. The key for Aiken this year, as an upperclassman, is consistency.
"We need him to come out of himself and demand the ball more," Hawk assistant coach Dave Duda told Hawk Hill Hardwood. Duda, continued, saying that it "had to equal more production."
As a sophomore, Aiken had a handful of games with eye-popping stat-lines. At Duquesne, he had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 blocks. He tallied 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks at Iona. On the flip side, there were a number of games where Aiken's productivity was lacking. He had 4 points and 5 rebounds in a home loss to Charlotte. In the Atlantic 10 tournament, he was held to 5 points and 4 rebounds by Saint Bonaventure.
In order for this year's Hawk team to truly reach their potential, a lot will ride on Aiken's ability to consistently produce, on both the offensive and defensive ends. Coach Duda explained, saying that "he has always been our X factor."
This year, Aiken will be one of three bigs in the starting lineup for the Hawks. With the insertion of Ronald Roberts into the starting lineup, Aiken is likely to spend some time at the 3 offensively. CJ has the ability to shoot from deep, canning 29 three-pointers a year ago. They came on 31% shooting.
Hawk head coach Phil Martelli spoke on Aiken's shooting ability at St. Joe's Media Day. "Statistically, he's a big guy who makes long-distance shots on occasion. Those percentages need to go up, because I know he has that skill. He's been very receptive to the fact that we've picked up a little bit of a flaw in his shot. We want him to work on that."
With Anthony Davis now playing for a paycheck in New Orleans, CJ Aiken is one of the top returning shot-blockers in America this year. His unique ability to completely alter a game from the defensive end makes him a special player. If he is able to improve offensively, and play with improved consistency, he and the Hawks could be flying high this year.
Player Profile: CJ Aiken
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