Faisal Aden was supposed to be the understudy.
He was transferring in to a Washington State team returning eventual lottery pick Klay Thompson, Pac-10 Freshman of the Year runner up, Reggie Moore, and more than capable big man, DeAngelo Casto. Needless to say, not much was expected of the slight, 6’4” 185 lbs guard.
He was supposed to learn.
But when Moore had to sit out the season’s first five games with a wrist injury, Aden threw himself a coming out party and never really stopped; averaging 21 points while the sophomore recovered. He would finish the season averaging 13.1 points and 3.4 rebounds – his scoring cooling with Moore’s return – but make no mistake, Aden can light it up. And he’ll need to if Ken Bone is going to expedite this rebuilding process, not aided by early departure.
But Klay’s gone now and Aden will be asked to be a major scoring threat. Fortunately, he is just that: a scorer. Similar to Thompson, Aden isn’t going to wow you with athleticism. He isn’t huge and doesn’t have remarkable quickness or spring. He’s also not going to blow up Ken Pomeroy’s number machine – he was 55th amongst all Pac-10 players last year in offensive rankings. He’s ultimately going to have to become more efficient.
But why can’t he? He’ll have a potentially elite point guard in Moore to bear much of the ball handling load and plenty of touches (not news as he took more shots than Thompson last year) with Thompson and Casto off to the NBA.
Look, Aden’s breakout season may be the loftiest of all the breakout players profiled on this site, but given Ken Bone’s active system, and their need to find scoring, I like Aden’s chances of putting up All-Conference numbers. And if you look at the shooting percentages, his dropped as the season progressed. At the half way point Aden was shooting a very solid 48% (he’d cool to 42%) a key indicator of fatigue and perhaps injury (he did miss a late season game with a sore knee). Keep in mind, last year was Aden’s first season of D-I hoops (he was a junior college transfer) and – as a motivated senior- Aden should arrive in shape and ready to contribute; in big ways.
While the Cougars’ success rides heavily on the shoulders of both Moore and Aden, Faisal is the key to a not-so-rebuilding year.
He’ll have to win over Pomeroy first, but the understudy may be ready for a second act.