Jarred Shaw is back with the Utah State basketball team after a five-game suspension. We have a story on his guilty plea to a marijuana possession charge that could get knocked down to a misdemeanor for those readers who want to know more about the legal aspects to this story.
On the basketball side, this is a huge coup for Utah State.
The Aggies wanted Shaw back, but the last game showed how much they really needed him. In a 73-72 loss to Air Force, having the 6-foot-10 senior center probably would've made a big difference. Now he's back, and Utah State's arms couldn't be more wide open.
"We're glad to have him back," freshman Jalen Moore said. "It's going to help our post game, our scoring, our rebounding, just all around. We're grateful."
It's simple enough, I suppose, to say that things will go back to the way they were. But with conference play up, more players making an impact and a change to the status quo, let's just analyze the impact Shaw's return could have anyway:
Scoring in the paint • This should be the biggest factor Shaw will add. His 16.1 points per game were missed, but it's also how he scores that opens up the floor for the Aggies. Having him inside takes pressure off Utah State's shooters Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield. It forces defenses to collapse and adjust to his threat in the paint, and it opens up chances for kickouts as defenders double-team him. He also shoots high percentage shots at a 54.3 percent clip. If you're wondering how USU did without him, the Aggies only outscored San Diego Christian in the paint in the last five games.
Rebounding • Shaw was the leading rebounder at the time of his suspension, but Kyle Davis was able to pick up a lot of that slack in his absence. Expect the boards to get divided more evenly between the two of them. Jordan Stone's numbers were solid but he never quite bumped up to starter-level rebounds. He'll go back to being a gritty glass guy off the bench.
Defense • This isn't Shaw's strength. Stone is still the premier post defender on the team. But having Shaw is a better defensive alternative than playing Davis and Ben Clifford out of position. Both short and light for the 5-spot, the two fill-in centers got pushed around by big guys. Nowhere was this more evident than against UC Santa Barbara, when Alan Williams was bullish around the rim with Clifford and Davis in the game. With his length and sheer mass - even though he does go by "Slim" - he'll be a better stopper inside, and he'll get opportunities to block shots.
Mental well-being • The Aggies no longer have an off-court distraction to worry about. Fans were wondering when or if Shaw would be back, and now it's answered. The coaching staff can relax a bit because they have a star back, and they don't have to worry as much if one of their centers gets in foul trouble. It's also worth wondering how Shaw will come back mentally: Is he going to be motivated to make the most of his second chance? Only a week ago, he was facing a distribution charge that could've ended his college career. Has that refocused him? It'll be something to watch.
Just for those wondering, in five starts Jordan Stone averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 16.2 minutes per game.
The Aggies tip off against San Jose State tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Spectrum. Stay tuned for more coverage.
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