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Shaqquan Aaron ready to show his skills at USC

After sitting a year following a transfer from Louisville, former five-star prospect Shaqquan Aaron says he has matured and expects to have a big impact on both ends of the court now for USC.

Shaqquan Aaron elevated off the ground and slammed home an easy dunk during the Trojan Tip-Off event at the Galen Center. A small grin crept across his normally taciturn face.

"It was fun,” Aaron said of the event. “Got to show the fans what's coming this upcoming season and just having fun with my guys.”

What’s coming is a Shaqquan storm that has been brewing for nearly two years since Aaron chose to leave Louisville. He transferred to USC after a tumultuous freshman season under Rick Pitino that featured an NCAA investigation, a nine-game suspension due to extra benefits (related to housing for his family, not the other Louisville extra benefits), little playing time and Pitino publicly calling out his work ethic.

Aaron played in 23 games, making two starts, but averaged just 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds in 7.2 minutes per game. He is eager to prove to Trojan fans and the nation he isn’t that player.

“They are going to see a hard-working team player that wants to win,” Aaron said. "Can deal with all kind of aspects of the game. Score, dribble, get my teammates involved, defend.”

“Man, I'm just ready to show Shaqquan Aaron. I haven't played a game of basketball in two years just about. I'm just excited to get out there. Everybody forgot about who I was, so I'm just ready to go out there and have fun and win.”

The 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing has the opportunity to have a big role on a USC team that has a lot of pieces, but has to rebuild the cohesion that helped last year’s team reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years.

“He’ll bring energy and competitiveness,” team captain Jordan McLaughlin assured.

His investment and commitment to USC hoops shouldn’t be questioned. Just ask his family or the repairman. When the Trojans played Providence in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Aaron was tuning in with his family at home in Seattle, Wash. during USC's spring break.

“I was the biggest fan out there rooting for them. We were all watching it and just rooting. I was like, 'We're really about to win, advance to the next round.’” 

The Trojans led by a point when the Friars inbounded a bounce pass to Rodney Bullock under the basket, who banked in a shot to beat the Trojans, 70-69.

“I broke my remote when they hit that game winner. I was so mad. I'm still trying to figure out how to buy a remote for the TV.”

“Heartbroken. I was sad, like I wanted to cry for my teammates. I wanted to win as much as they wanted to win.”

This year, remotes should be safe since Aaron will be on the court where he’ll able to use his Inspector Gadget arms to help defend the hoop on any last second shot attempts.

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It is on the defensive end where Aaron has drawn the ire of his coaches during his basketball career. They have seen his tantalizing defensive potential with unique athleticism and arms so long he might be able to tie his shoes without bending over, but defense wasn’t always a priority for Aaron. Now, he’s working to be an impact player on both ends of the floor.

“Coach is on me every day defensively,” he said. “Make sure my hands up, being active, not taking any plays off, so that's what I've been working on a lot. Just every play giving it my all.”

"He has to use length, his long arms to affect the game defensively and rebound the ball,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “Shaqquan will have every opportunity to show that he's improved by sitting out a year.”

Instead of transferring to a junior college or a non-Division I school where he could play immediately, Aaron chose to come to USC where he knew he would be forced to sit out a season. 

“It was very tough,” Aaron said. “It would be very tough for anybody. People say it was going to go quick. It was pretty long just watching.”

Having to sit out a season was gut wrenching, but fueled Aaron’s passion. He learned to focus on the small intricacies of the game and took an introspectice look into his own game.

“Being more mature, just loving the game of basketball. Not taking it for granted. Just seeing now, it felt like a part of me was missing not being able to play.”

That’s why he thinks he can have a “big impact” for the Trojans this season — something they desperately need after the early departures of six players, including Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, who both went unselected after entering the NBA draft early.

“Those two guys are just a big blow, so I've just got to come in and soften the blow.”

He should definitely do that on the offensive end where USC lost 42.7 points per game, including 23.7 from Jacobs and Jovanovic.

"He's extremely talented offensively,” Enfield said. “He can put the ball on the floor and he's a very good passer.”

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Aaron’s ability to put the ball in the basket is the reason why he was a five-star, top-30 recruit coming out of Seattle (Wash.) Rainier Beach HS after beginning his high school career in Southern California at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. His senior year, he was a constant triple-double threat, averaging 19.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. His unique combination of size, length, athleticism and ball-handling skills makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents. 

The Trojans can use him in the post against smaller guards in a similar fashion as they used Katin Reinhardt at times last year or Aaron can put the ball on the floor against bigger players like Chimezie Metu does, but his length enables Aaron the ability to shoot over almost every defender he’ll encounter ala Bennie Boatwright.

Growing up, Aaron always played up an age group or two, so he was always the small guy until he caught up to his original age group as an upperclassman in high school. Now he’s one of the taller guys. He still has the guard mentality, but can play several different spots.

“We’re integrating over half our team. Our players are learning to play with each other in different lineups, different situations,” Enfield said. “We can slide many of our players between two or three positions and Shaqquan is one of those players. He can play three positions for us.

“We like him on the floor, but whatever position he plays, he has to rebound and defend. I think if he does that, he could be a huge addition to our team.”

Aaron says he doesn’t have a preference. He feels comfortable anywhere on the floor.

"I'm a basketball player. As long as I'm out there playing, just having fun, it doesn’t matter. I just try to bring any aspect I can into the game and make my team win.”

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