The Kia Picanto, eager to atone for a terrible Philippine Cup performance where they won just once in 12 games, are hoping for a better showing in the 2018 Honda Commissioner's Cup with the help of new import C.J. Aiken.
Picanto head coach Ricky Dandan confirmed via text message to ESPN5 that the team has signed up the 27-year-old Aiken.
"Yes, C.J. Aiken," Dandan said when asked if Kia had made its import choice. "(He) played college ball at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, played in the NBA G-League, Poland, and recently the National Basketball League in Canada."
Dandan said that Aiken arrived in the country last Saturday and has already worked out with the coaches. He will join the Picanto for their twice-a-day training camp for the Commissioner's Cup starting on Tuesday.
Listed at six-foot-nine, Aiken played three years for the Hawks where he earned a reputation as a shot-blocker, averaging 3.5 blocks per game in his freshman year, 3.6 in his sophomore year and 2.6 in his junior year. For his shot-blocking prowess, he was named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, when his 3.6bpg ranked third-best in the entire US NCAA Division 1. On the scoring end, Aiken put up decent points-per-game numbers of 7.4, 10.9, and 10.4 in his three seasons.
Aiken skipped his senior season to declare for the NBA Draft, but went undrafted. He went on to play for the Erin BayHawks in the NBA Developmental League (now known as the G-League) before joining Wilki Morskie Szczecin of the Polish Basketball League. He is coming off a stint with the Niagara River Lions of the National Basketball League in Canada, where he played nine games and averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
ESPN's Myron Medcalf featured Aiken in a 2012 article entitled "The return of the great shot-blockers". Also mentioned in the article were NBA centers Steven Adams, then playing for Pitt, and Gorgui Dieng, who was then with Louisville, and Gilas naturalized prospect Isaiah Austin, who was still swatting shots for Baylor at the time.
Medcalf said of Aiken, quoting St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli: "Although Aiken and players like him receive the most praise for blocks, that's not their greatest trait, Martelli said. Aiken also affects the game by altering shots, a stat that's not included in the typical box score."
"'It's almost like you're sending a subtle message to the other team that the lane and easy shots in the lane are not going to be easy to come by,' Martelli said. 'I think to block shots and alter shots and to be a factor defensively without fouling is enormous.'"