Aaron It Out
Shaqquan Aaron gets the same text every day.
It’s his younger sister, Shalexxus, checking in on him.
The siblings are three years apart, but they’re so close and so similar that people often mistake them for twins. They talk the same, walk the same, both love Marvel comics and both play basketball for USC.
Shaqquan and Shalexxus have been tightly bound by a love of basketball from a young age. Their parents and older brother all played competitively (their father even played professionally in Australia), so as soon as Shalexxus was old enough, she joined Shaqquan on the court for two-a-day training sessions. Their father, Carl, would wake them up as early as 5 a.m. to teach them the game before they left for school, and after the desert heat cooled down in the evening, they’d train again with their mother, Madinah.
With the guidance of their parents and thier older brother, both Shaqquan and Shalexxus landed college basketball scholarships. Shaqquan initially headed to Louisville, but only spent one season there before transferring to USC. When Shaqquan got here, he made a change that brought him closer to his little sister.
“I was wearing the number 21, but I wanted to change,” he said. “When I came here, I wanted a different identity. My sister had worn 0 for a long time and I liked the number, so I said, ‘I’m gonna go rock with my sister.'”
Not long after, Shalexxus made a decision that brought them even closer when she committed to join the USC women’s basketball team.
Shalexxus chose USC because she loved the education, the people and the coaching staff, adding that her brother’s presence was “just a bonus.” But as soon as she got on campus, she was grateful to have Shaqquan’s support. Shalexxus was the only freshman on the team that year, and a knee injury she suffered in her final high school season forced her to redshirt her first year as a Trojan. With no fellow newcomers to navigate college life with, she turned to her older brother. He helped her locate her classrooms and find shortcuts to get around campus. And having redshirted himself after transferring to USC, he offered perspective and eased Shalexxus’ frustration about sitting out the year.
“I’m glad I could be here early and show her, especially coming off of injury and starting off slow,” Shaqquan said. “Being there so she didn’t feel like there was no one there for her. That’s what I love the most about being here with her.”
As the older brother, Shaqquan feels a responsibility to help his sister in any way he can. But just because Shalexxus is the younger sibling doesn’t mean she doesn’t offer plenty of advice to her older brother. The siblings watch every one of each other’s games and afterwards, they come back to their shared apartment and critique each other with a unique understanding of their personalities, strengths and weaknesses.
“Since we’re so close, we know our moments,” Shalexxus said. “If I know Shaqquan is super heated or frustrated, I know how to approach him with the right tone or to not talk about a certain part of the game.”
At the same time, the siblings — both shooting guards — can be brutally honest with each other.
“If I play like crap, she’s gonna tell me I played like crap,” Shaqquan said. “We keep it real. No point in lying to each other.”
The countless hours the Aarons have spent helping each other improve is definitely paying off. Shaqquan has started all 17 games for the Trojans this season, averaging 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. In her first season of collegiate competition, Shalexxus has cemented herself as one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the country, making a whopping 52.2 percent of her shots from downtown.
After both siblings face off against UCLA this weekend (January 20, 2019), they’ll surely get together to go over what went right and wrong. But they’ll also find the time to discuss the new Spider Man trailer, restaurants around campus, viral dance videos and all the other interests they share.
They’ll do so in their shared apartment until Shaqquan moves out to pursue his NBA dreams at the end of this season. But even if they live far apart, they’ll remain connected by their special bond.
“We’re always going to find ways to support each other,” Shalexxus said. “We’ll always have each other’s back.”
By Aubrey Kragen