The season is young. Just three games are under San Diego State’s belt, but in those three contests, they have learned quite a bit.
Below are a few of the insights the 2023-24 season has revealed so far.
The Aztecs missed Darrion Trammell in Game One as he was out with an injury. He is still dealing with discomfort but has managed to suit up and contribute the last two games. Furthermore, he improved in Tuesday’s win over Long Beach State as he led the team with six assists.
“Darrion is getting better,” head coach Brian Dutcher said after the win over Long Beach State. “He led the team with six assists and that is what we need from him. He needs to be a point guard that gets everybody involved and gets guys baskets … and at the same time be dangerous and Darrion is doing that. Trammell hasn’t even been on the floor for one week and I think the more he continues to get game minutes, practice time, his timing, he will come back and he will be even more dangerous.”
It seems that coach Dutcher would like Trammell to come off the bench, giving the Aztecs more size in the starting rotation with Elijah Saunders. That has been the case so far in the three games, and it could end up being the right decision later on in the season. Because guards Lamont Butler, Reese Waters, and Micah Parrish (only being 6-foot-6) lack size, if you were to add Trammell into the lineup, it would be very small. Furthermore, the senior could control the second unit, giving Dutcher a veteran point guard on the court at all times.
The Second Unit
The bench players have struggled to score, and Trammell has 11 of the 24 bench points so far this year. It’s early, but SDSU will need someone to take control off the bench outside of Trammell. The core-6 players of Butler, Waters, Parrish, Jaedon LeDee, Saunders, and Trammell will be on the floor a lot this season. Miles Byrd, Miles Heide, Demarshay Johnson, and Jay Pal need to play better to complement the rest.
Among those options, Pal gives the team a stretch-four player who can really do it all. It’s been a slow start to the year for him, as he is only averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. It’s a small sample size, but given his age and experience, the game will come to him soon, and he will prove to everyone why he was such a highly anticipated addition to the roster. The Aztecs will need him to do so so that LeDee and Saunders don’t need to do it all in the frontcourt.
Beyond The Arc
One final major improvement for the Aztecs is the three-point shooting. The team is shooting 31% on the season and have yet to really make the perimeter shot an impactful part of the offense. Parrish (53.8%), Waters (42.9%), and Trammell (50%) are the only three players shooting over the respectable margin.
Star On The Rise
All in all, the No. 1 thing the team has learned, and certainly the fans have learned, is that LeDee is a rising star and could be the best player in the Mountain West Conference. The 6-foot-9 senior is putting on a show every time he steps on the court.
In three games, he is averaging 25 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and is shooting 62.5% from the floor. His 25 points per game is currently 9th in Division I basketball. The Houston, Texas product scored 27 points in the win over Long Beach State, and if he continues to dominate the way he is, then he will certainly get recognition as the Player of the Year in the conference.
— San Diego State Men’s Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) November 17, 2023
Having Saunders on the floor next to him in the frontcourt complements LeDee in a big way. LeDee reminds me of Kevin Garnett, not so much in terms of athleticism (because prime KG could jump out of the gym) but more so as a very smart player who knows how to create good looks for himself. Having another big man next to a guy like that can force a smaller defender and allow for a good look on the offensive end. Right now, LeDee is creating open shots for himself, and he is knocking them down at a high rate. What makes the duo of LeDee and Saunders even more special is they can shoot free throws very well. Both finished a combined 16-16 in the win over Long Beach.
“That’s huge because most of the time that’s who they are trying to foul late in the game,” Dutcher said when asked about LeDee and Saunders finishing 16-16 from the line. “When they step up and make free throws that is going to be hard on the opposition down the stretch of a lot of these games. Hopefully that is a trend that will continue.”
This weekend against Saint Mary’s and either Xavier or Washington will be a great test for this squad. They will face a Saint Mary’s squad that scored 107 points in their opening game and won by a total of 79 points. However, the Gaels were upset last week by Weber State 61-57 in a game where they blew an 11-point halftime lead. If SDSU can show up to Las Vegas with their intense defense, then we could see the Gaels struggle offensively once again.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.