St. Joseph's shot-blocker C.J. Aiken one of the best in nation

St. Joseph's C.J. Aiken goes up against a Boston University player. "The beauty about C.J. is there is no disrespect. He doesn't show up an opponent," Hawks coach Phil Martelli says.
St. Joseph's C.J. Aiken goes up against a Boston University player. "The beauty about C.J. is there is no disrespect. He doesn't show up an opponent," Hawks coach Phil Martelli says. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 13, 2011

His persona doesn't match his game, but it has continued to work out remarkably well for C.J. Aiken, St. Joseph's 6-foot-9, 200-pound, high-flying, rim-rattling sophomore center.

Aiken has already made his share of bring-the-house-down dunks and has become the nation's leading sultan of swat.

Yet for somebody with such a flamboyant game, Aiken's personality is the polar opposite. Despite making one spectacular play after another for a 7-3 St. Joseph's team already closing in on last season's 11-win total, Aiken treats each highlight play with indifference.

"I saw him make one of the best dunks I've ever seen, and he had no reaction and just ran back on defense," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.

There is indeed no chest-thumping or in-your-face pointing at opponents when Aiken makes the type of play that has revved up the home crowd at Hagan Arena.

"The beauty about C.J. is there is no disrespect. He doesn't show up an opponent, doesn't talk," Martelli said. "He is enjoying the success he's had, but he is not showing it."

The soft-spoken graduate of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School doesn't showboat for one reason: It would be out of character.

"I am real quiet and not that type of person," Aiken said.

Nothing is quiet about his game. He has blocked 48 shots this season, and his 4.8 average leads the nation.

It's not that Aiken in new to the scene. He was third in the nation last season with an average of 3.5 blocks per game. What is equally impressive this season is that he has committed just 16 personal fouls, an average of 1.6 per game.

For somebody who swats so many shots away, Aiken is rarely faked out and doesn't leave his feet unless he senses a successful swat coming.

"I learn a lot from our scouting report, and I want to stay on the floor, so I keep my hands up and try to go up strong when attempting to block a shot," he said.

Earlier this season, Aiken tied his career high with nine blocked shots as the Hawks swatted a team-record 16 in a 62-49 win over Drexel. He has twice had six blocked shots in a game.

"He's got great reactions, great length and tremendous timing," said American University coach Jeff Jones, who saw Aiken block six shots in the Hawks' 66-60 loss on Dec. 4. "He is as good as I've seen in a while at blocking shots."

Aiken is averaging 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, and he has also hit nine three-point field goals. He scores most of his points on medium range jumpers and dunks, and his offensive game is raw but improving.

"He blocks shots, dunks and shoots threes, and I'm OK with that," Martelli said.

Actually, the coaching staff is working with Aiken on a post game to give him a well-rounded offensive arsenal. Still, it is the shot blocking that has caught the attention of NBA scouts.

"I think every NBA team will be in to see him this year," said one NBA talent evaluator who requested anonymity. "He has a skill [in shot-blocking] that translates to the league, but he must work on getting stronger."

Despite the scrutiny from NBA scouts, Aiken insists that the next level is the farthest thing from his mind.

"I am just concentrating on what I have to do here," he said. "I still have a ton to learn."

On that level, the pro scouts agree.

"You have to be impressed with the way he blocks shots, but he is a player that really should stay in college four years to develop his all-around game," said another NBA talent evaluator who also did not want to be named.

And that is exactly what Aiken is attempting to do.

"I am trying to do more than block shots and be a defensive player," he said. "I am trying to get better at dribbling, shooting and be consistent.

"I don't want to be known just for blocking shots."


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com, or @sjnard on Twitter.

 

|
|
|
|
|