National scoring leader Jaedon LeDee is carrying the Aztecs on his powerful shoulders

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San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee (13) brings the ball up against BYU during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Isaac Hale)

SAN DIEGO – San Diego State's Jaedon LeDee walked off the court after a monster performance in Las Vegas on Sunday night with the Continental Tire Main Event championship belt in his right hand and the garish MVP medallion draped around his neck.

The Aztecs' bruising forward continued to hit the jackpot in the following days. He won four national player of the week awards, including being named one of five players on the Oscar Robertson National Players of the Week list, plus the Mountain West Player of the Week Award.

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If there was any question about who would carry the load for the Aztecs (4-1) following their stirring run to the national championship game last season, LeDee has quickly answered it. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior is the nation's leading scorer at 26.8 points per game and 20th in rebounding at 10.6.

He went off for 34 points and 17 rebounds, both career highs, in a 100-97 overtime win against Washington on Sunday night, an eye-popping result for a program that prides itself on its defensive focus. LeDee became the only player in Mountain West history to put up those numbers while shooting at least 50% percent (10 for 20) from the field.

“It’s fun," LeDee said. “We’re still defensive-minded. We have a lot of scoring firepower outside of me. You just try to combine that this year with the defensive stuff we already do."

Not quite two months after the Aztecs reached their first Final Four, in LeDee's hometown of Houston, he announced he was withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning for his final college season.

“I wanted to come back. I had a chance at a bigger role this year, so I knew that. I had so much fun last year I wanted to do it again," LeDee said.

It was a big deal for the Aztecs, who lost several key players to graduation and the transfer portal after losing the national title game to UConn.

“I'm glad he didn't leave for the NFL. Forget the NBA," coach Brian Dutcher joked about the powerfully built LeDee.

Five games into another season of high expectations on Montezuma Mesa, LeDee has twice set his scoring career high and is shooting 58.4%.

“It's my third year here. I'm very comfortable in what we do and I know how we operate and how we do things," said LeDee, who also played at Ohio State and TCU. "I love it.”

LeDee gives the Aztecs a different dynamic.

“He’s been great. Obviously he walks the line as being a really good offensive player, of playing for himself and then playing for his teammates,” Dutcher said. “A lot of times point guards are the ones who walk that line, because they have the ball so much.”

Dutcher likened LeDee’s role to the one guard Malachi Flynn had in leading SDSU to a 30-2 record and an expected No. 1 or 2 seed in 2020 before the pandemic wiped out March Madness.

“There’d be times I thought early in games when he’d be wide open when he wouldn’t shoot the ball,” Dutcher said about Flynn, who is now with the Toronto Raptors. “He’d just pick and choose. He’d give his teammates the ball, and then he’d take over a game. I think Jaedon has to play the same way. Even though he’s not a point guard, he has the ball a lot of time away from the basket. He’s going to have to continue to grow his playmaking ability to go along with his really good scoring.”

LeDee started only one game last year but was a big part of the Aztecs’ nine-deep rotation.

“He was ready to do this last year. But I just didn’t feel we needed him to be so aggressive last year with the team we had,” Dutcher said. "I thought Jaedon was dangerous off the bench as a scoring threat. This year he’s in more prominent role. He was capable of doing a lot of this last year, but the dynamics of the team were different.”

LeDee said he took nothing for granted coming into this season.

“It’s something I had to come in and earn. I come in every day ready to work and try to earn my keep every day," he said.

The Aztecs began the season ranked No. 17 in The Associated Press Top 25 but fell out after a nine-point loss at BYU in the second game. They play California on Saturday in San Juan Capistrano.


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