Shaqquan Aaron looks familiar.
He’s thin, handles the ball well, can shoot and attends Rainier Beach High School.
Sounds like 1998 Jamal Crawford, right?
But at a lanky 6-foot-8, Aaron is slimmer and three inches taller than Crawford. You almost can’t help but make another comparison.
“I don’t want to say Kevin Durant,” said Louisville assistant men’s basketball coach Wyking Jones when asked who Aaron compares to. Jones will help coach him when Aaron attends Louisville next year. “But he’s so long and skinny that he just brings to mind Kevin Durant.”
But Aaron, The News Tribune’s All-State boys Player of the Year, hopes to one day compare to the kind of abilities they have as much as their looks.
Combine Aaron’s frame with a low-post game, handles and a jump shot and you have a player who can do anything he wants on a basketball court. He is averaging 21.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists this year.
“I’m trying to be the next LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant-type player. The new version of Magic Johnson – one who can shoot,” Aaron said. “Those guys are big influences on me.”
Aaron has a ways to go before the NBA. Even so, he has already matched up against look-a-like Durant.
Aaron scored 25 points against his team when Durant appeared in Crawford’s Pro-Am league in Seattle this past summer. Aaron said Durant went hard at him a few times.
Durant scored 63 points.
Still, it got Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea thinking.
“It was like the present (Durant) and the future (Aaron),” he said.
Even if there was a time Aaron’s future was uncertain.
After helping Mater Dei win the California Division I state title as a freshman, he transferred to Taft (Woodland Hills) the next year. The day before his first practice with the new school, he said he was told he could not play that season because of California transfer rules.
“I was so excited to play, it felt like it was the end of the world for me,” Aaron said. “That whole year I had to watch all the other teams. It sucked. There were times I felt I just didn’t want to play anymore.”
He then learned that even if he wanted to gain eligibility his junior season, he would have to endure an appeals process.
Instead, his family moved to Washington and Aaron found a home at Rainier Beach.
For the most part.
Aaron absorbed his share of negativity – people upset Beach had managed to obtain one of the nation’s top recruits.
Then they see him on the court. Those close to him admit he looks like he scowls and his at times poor shot selection is misconstrued as selfish play.
“When I first moved up here, guys were just hating and I was like, ‘Why?’” Aaron said. “I didn’t realize there were those kinds of people.
“I guess people just don’t know that I’m chill. I’m a funny guy. And when I don’t play basketball, I play video games – Call of Duty and NBA 2K. I’m a technology guy. They just think I’m a mean guy.”
He hopes to turn the haters into lovers, and garner the admiration Rainier Beach grads Crawford, Nate Robinson, Doug Christie and Terrence Williams have earned.
Aaron will join Williams and Franklin-grad Peyton Siva – currently with the Detroit Pistons – as prep players from Seattle to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville.
“Coach Pitino made a comment to me. He said, ‘This might be the best wing I’ve ever recruited,” Bethea said. “This kid can be as good as he wants to be.”
Jones wouldn’t confirm that.
“But I think he has only scratched the surface on how good he can ultimately be,” Jones said. “You can’t coach or teach his size and length. And when you add his skill level to that, the rest is going to depend on how hard he works. He will need to gain weight and add muscle to his frame, but I don’t think that will be a problem.
“The sky is the limit on how great he can be.”
He will try to lead Beach to its third consecutive 3A state title this weekend – something no school 1A or higher has ever accomplished in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association history.
If he does, Rainier Beach would advance to the Dick Sporting Goods National High School Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. Beach was granted permission by the WIAA to participate, though it must win the state title to be eligible.
It’s a stage built for players with Aaron’s aspirations.
“I want to leave a legacy at this school and in this state where my name will carry on,” Aaron said. “I want to leave this school as a champion. There is a Crawford Court, maybe there is going to be an Aaron something out there some day.”
F Shaqquan Aaron
Rainier Beach, 6-8, senior
No player in the state has Aaron’s versatility and athleticism.
21.7 points, 7.2 rebound, 7.5 assists
C Josh Martin
Bothell, 6-9, senior
Had Wilt Chamberlain-esque game against Woodinville (42 points, 22 rebounds, 10 blocks).
26.4 points, 17.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks
F Jason Todd
Jackson, 6-6, senior
Reigning Gatorade player of the year did most his damage playing in three quarters.
17.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists
G Tramaine Isabell
Garfield , 6-0, senior
Bulldogs were more than happy to welcome the Lakeside transfer.
23.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists
College: Washington State
F Dejounte Murray
Rainier Beach, 6-5, junior
6-foot-9 wingspan helped him record 33 points, 30 rebounds against West Seattle.
18.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists.
Offers: Oregon, UW, Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona, Cal, Gonzaga
F Bogdan Bliznyuk
Beamer, 6-5, senior
19.9 points, 6.0 rebound, 4.2 assists
F Nathan Streufert
Richland, 6-7 senior
18.5 points, 13.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists
G Jawan Stepney
Kentridge, 6-3, senior
19.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists
G David Crisp
Rainier Beach, 6-1, junior
21.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists
G Mandrell Worthy
Eastside Catholic, 6-3, junior
17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists
F Brittany McPhee
Mount Rainier, 6-0, senior
Hopes to add first 4A state title to haul of accolades.
27.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks
G Chandler Smith
Brewster, 6-0, senior
For all her scoring and rebounding, best attribute might be court vision.
25.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists
F Mikayla Pivec
Lynnwood, 5-10, sophomore
Inch-for-inch the best rebounder in the state.
14.9 points, 15.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists
G Myzhanique (MyMy) Ladd
Cleveland, 5-8, senior
Has helped Eagles win 50 consecutive games against in-state opponents.
14.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 steals
College: San Jose State
F Otiona Gildon
Gonzaga Prep, 6-1, junior
After best finish in Bullpup history in 2013, she hopes for even better one this year.
14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.95 blocks.
Offers: Gonzaga, Michigan State, Purdue
F Nike McClure
W.F. West, 6-3, senior
12.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks
G Kourtney Eaton
Mark Morris, 5-10 junior
15.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists
C Deja Strother
Inglemoor, 6-4, junior
16.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks
G Makala Roper
Cleveland, 5-8, senior
16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists
F Aubrey Ward-El
Skyview, 5-9, senior
17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists