Logan • Going by the nickname “Slim” doesn’t intimidate opponents too much.
As Jarred Shaw’s game has developed, it’s been more finesse than fight. More touch than toughness. It’s been a gift for Utah State, but also a frustration when the Aggies need him to muscle in for rebounds and points.
He’s been told many times over the years he needs to play stronger.
“It’s something I’ve been told I have to do all my life,” Shaw said. “Now my time’s coming up.”
Against Seattle last week, Shaw quickly racked up two fouls early in the game. He sat for a while, then came back in with a few minutes before the half.
Stew Morrill got Shaw’s attention as he rubbed the soles of shoes, ready to retake the court.
“Hey, be smart,” Morrill said, leaning toward him. “Don’t be soft.”
Shaw’s been getting the message recently, playing like the Aggies need him to play. Over the past three contests — during which Utah State has gone 2-1 — Shaw has averaged 21.3 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. He’s shooting better than 69 percent in those games.
After injuries to Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed, he’s been called upon to carry the load for the Aggies. It’s taken him some time to adjust to that role, but he’s getting it.
“I’ve never been on a team where I’ve had to play a key role, where I had to be the man to step up and make it physical,” Shaw said. “When I was at Oklahoma State, there were guys ahead of me. When I was in high school, there were guys around me who were the ‘tough’ guy. Being around them and seeing how being physical helped them out has helped me do what I need to do.”
Shaw has been an enigma — a mercurial force who can either dominate or defer. In December, he had a 19-point, 12-rebound night against Nicholls State. The next evening, he struggled for six points and four boards against UC Davis.
The biggest adjustment Shaw has made the last few weeks has been attacking the rim. His spin-around moves are well-known to Aggies fans at this point, but he’s been driving inside on those plays rather than settling for a 10-foot jumper.
“He’s being more of a power player,” Morrill said. “We’ve worked really hard with him on going toward the basket and not shooting fadeaways, not getting off-balance. He’s been making much better low-post moves and being more aggressive, more physical to the basket.”
When Shaw has been able to rebound and score inside, it’s helped Utah State’s shooters get more breathing room outside. And Shaw hasn’t been too shabby on defense either: He held Idaho’s Kyle Barone in check, and frustrated Seattle’s Jack Crook and Louis Green.
Utah State won two in a row last week, and is going for its third straight on Friday. But if the Aggies want to hit with the Western Athletic Conference heavyweights, they’ll need their big man to keep playing his size.
Shaw knows it, too.
“Basketball is something if you want it, you have to go out and take it,” he said. “If I take a day off against Denver, New Mexico State or La. Tech, they’re not going to take a day off. If you’re not doing it, somebody else is going to do it.”
Utah State at San Jose State
P Event Center (San Jose, Calif.)
Tipoff • 8 p.m. MT
Radio • 960 AM
Records • Utah St. 16-5, 7-4; San Jose St. 9-13, 3-8
Series history • Utah State leads 50-21
Last meeting • USU 66, SJSU 60 (Jan. 11)
About the Aggies • Jarred Shaw is averaging 21.3 points and 10 rebounds. ... Spencer Butterfield will look for his fifth straight double-double.
About the Spartans • San Jose State is on a seven-game losing streak. ... Leading scorer James Kinney has been suspended for the last seven contests.