Today, that lanky freshman's clunky shot would be almost impossible to trace back from Jarred Shaw's silky touch.
The Utah State senior center has become well-known for his versatile offensive game: the spins into the post, the baby hooks over opponents, the step-back jumpers. Although there's almost an uncomfortable pause inside the Spectrum when Shaw takes a shot from beyond 15 feet, he's drained a few. At the free-throw line, he's one of the best shooters on the team.
For two years, Shaw gave Utah State fans some of the most skilled basketball they've ever seen from a 6-foot-10 center. For his career, he's averaged 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He's shot better than 51 percent, and he's close to cracking the school's top 10 in career blocks. Last year, he was an all-conference player, and he may get some postseason honors this year as well.
And yet more than any other player on the team, there's an enigmatic quality to Shaw. The soft-spoken giant whom teammates call "Slim" has had bouts with inconsistency in his play and controlling his emotion. An off-court run-in with the law in December resulted in Shaw pleading guilty to marijuana possession and serving a five-game suspension.
Fans have always seemed to ask more from Shaw, in part because he's seemed to have even more talent beneath his surface. The Texan didn't always live up to the sky-high standards, and he may not have been able to single-handedly lift the program in its first Mountain West season. But at his best, Shaw has given the Aggies an inside force they've rarely had.
Utah State did not make Shaw available for an interview with The Tribune, but his teammates are more than willing to speak up for him.
"When he's on, his presence is huge," sophomore forward Kyle Davis said. "When he's on, he can dominate the whole floor. It's hard to fully explain how much he means to our team."
Shaw came to Utah State by way of Stillwater, Okla., where he was a two-year reserve for Oklahoma State's team. Shaw reconnected with former high school teammate Brockeith Pane, who was happy to point the big man to Logan.
After sitting out a year, Shaw quickly assumed a starting spot in the lineup. By his second game, the center who had averaged a point and a rebound per game with the Cowboys amassed a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double against Saint Mary's, which would eventually be an NCAA Tournament team.
Since then, while he's had his share of off games to go with his dominating ones, he has been an inside force on which the Aggies rely. Utah State is 6-2 when Shaw records a double-double this year. Stat website KenPom.com has Shaw as the 11th-best defensive rebounder in the nation by percentage.
"He's been showing everybody all year: He's a good post player," said senior guard TeNale Roland, one of Shaw's closest friends on the team. "We motivate him, he motivates us."
Although Shaw can have an emotional on-court persona, he's unassuming off of it. Among close friends, he opens up and jokes and teases, but is not a life-of-the-party type character.
Shaw, however, is a practitioner of one of the team's mottoes: "Stay positive." He repeats it in interviews as the team's top focus, and it appears to be his favorite mantra.
Shaw also had to work to regain his optimism after his suspension, which left him in street clothes on the bench for a chunk of Utah State's season. Shaw has a court agreement that will knock his drug charge to a misdemeanor pending completion of certain counseling and community service requirements.
Although some were displeased by Shaw's off-the-court offense and subsequent reinstatement, his teammates rallied around him.
"I think what people don't understand about Jarred is, most of all, he's a good friend and good teammate," Davis said. "He made a mistake and was able to come back and seriously help our team. We just try to support him. That's what we can offer each other."
On senior night Wednesday, Shaw strode out onto the court with his mother, Johnetta Perry, who hadn't seen him play in person at Utah State. Taking his jersey in his hands, he raised it over his head to furious applause in the Spectrum. He then helped lead the Aggies to a win over Wyoming with a double-double.
He's looking to showcase more of his talents this week at the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas, and Utah State will lean on its tall, capable center to lead the program that is on a bit of a roll.
Because even though Shaw already has a strong career in Logan behind him, there's still a lot of work to do.
Jarred Shaw's big games
Looking back on some memorable moments for the senior center:
Nov. 15, 2012 • First career double-double against St. Mary's, 17 points and 15 rebounds
Jan. 31, 2013 • Career-high 27 points against Idaho and WAC MVP Kyle Barone
Feb. 5, 2014 • 17 points and 13 rebounds to top Nevada, starting a three-game win streak
March 1, 2014 • Career-high 17 rebounds and 19 points against San Jose State