At 7 feet 3 inches and 295 pounds, Aaron Menzies is the largest player in the Western Athletic Conference.
Brendan Westendorf enjoys watching the look on the faces of opposing players and fans when Seattle University center Aaron Menzies steps on the court.
“It’s like, ‘Whoa, that’s a big dude,’ ” the Redhawks senior guard said before the season. “You just don’t see people like him who is that big. Especially not in college.”
At 7 feet 3 inches and 295 pounds, Menzies is the largest player in the Western Athletic Conference.
“It’s basketball, so you always like to play with the biggest guy on the court,” Westendorf said. “Every night, that guy is on our team. So every night, we have a chance to win. That’s the first thing Aaron gives us.”
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Menzies, a redshirt sophomore who came to Seattle U from Manchester, England, is the only WAC player among the top 15 in the conference in scoring (12.3 points per game), the top six in rebounding (6.3) and the top three in blocks (1.1).
He’s also shooting 52.7 percent from the field in 21.8 minutes per game. It’s a considerable improvement from last season, when Menzies averaged 4.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 16.3 minutes during 32 games as a backup.
“He’s just learning how to play the game and getting a feel for it and playing in a system where we give it to him and feature him,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “Sometimes he’ll make two, three and four moves in the post when only one will do. Take it, big fella. No need to do all of that other stuff.
“Sometimes you get in a hurry not knowing when you’ll get the ball again.”
Dollar admits Menzies is still a work in progress.
Menzies, second on the team in scoring, is getting adjusted to the transition from a role player to the No. 2 scoring option.
One night, he’ll look like the next Shaquille O’Neal while scoring a career-high 35 points on 12-for-15 shooting from the field and canning 11 of 14 free throws in an 81-75 overtime win against Louisiana Monroe on Nov. 21.
But two games later Menzies was a virtual no-show during a 67-51 loss at Central Florida when he tallied a season-low two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
“One of the traits that you have to have as a big is you got to be OK stumbling and bumbling early on and having some of those moments when you throw it off the backboard and the crowd gasps,” Dollar said. “That stuff doesn’t bother him. It even makes him more determined.”
Unlike many of today’s big men who are intent on developing a perimeter game, Menzies rarely strays too far from the rim. He’s never attempted a three-pointer.
“Not yet,” Menzies said, laughing. “Right now I’m playing off of my skill set. I know that I shoot a higher percentage inside the paint. I draw a lot of contact and put a lot of pressure on other teams’ defenses. As I progress, I’ll develop a jumper and a little bit more range.”
The Redhawks are 4-2 when Menzies scores in double figures – both losses in double overtime against Eastern Washington.
Seattle University (8-7) might possibly be without Menzies, who sat out last week’s 72-65 loss against UC Davis due to a foot sprain.
He made the trip with the Redhawks for Saturday’s 7 p.m. WAC opener against Cal State Bakersfield (9-6) at the Icardo Center. However, his status is undetermined.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” Dollar said. “He’ll evolve to where he’s the first option. That’s been the plan all along, and he wants to be that guy. He’s just taking his time and doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
“We’ve always played inside-out. He just gives us a great option to continue to do that at a high level. I expect to set it up and really go at it next year with him being the first option. Being 7 foot 3 and 280, if you got that guy then you give him the ball. It’s really that simple.”
Above the rest
|Seattle University center Aaron Menzies is the biggest men’s basketball player in the Western Athletic Conference. A look at each team’s tallest player:|
|Aaron Menzies||Seattle U.||7-3|
|Tanveer Bhullar||NM State||7-2|
|Isaac Nielson||Utah Valley||6-11|
|Boubacar Toure||Grand Canyon||6-11|
|Fallou Ndoye||CS Bakersfield||6-11|
|Patrick Szpir||Chicago State||6-9|