San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Portal pair, Waters and Pal are ready to add to Aztecs’ basketball legacy

Men’s basketball transfers came from opposite sides of the country, with the same goal in mind
Jesse Gordon
San Diego State guard Reese Waters surveys the court during an exhibition game against Cal State San Marcos on Monday, Oct. 30 at Viejas Arena.

Though the allure of the Scarlet and Black brought both Reese Waters and Jay Pal to San Diego State, their paths couldn’t have been more different.

For one, it was a matter of moving a couple hours down the coast, leaving the city he grew up in.

For the other, it was part of a winding path across the country and through multiple levels of the sport.

Both, however, saw and resonated with the character and culture of the San Diego State men’s basketball team. Now, following in the footsteps of teammates who were previous transfers Darrion Trammell and Jaedon LeDee, the duo are ready to make their mark on the Mesa.

Analytical approach, personal potential wills Waters

A whole lot more than around 120 miles of I-5 freeway separates San Diego and Los Angeles.

For Waters, the junior guard who earned Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year at USC last season, the slower pace of life in the 619 has allowed the self-described introvert to ease into everything.

“I’m usually just in the gym or at home doing my school work,” Waters said. “I have a dog as well, so I’ll take care of the dog.”

He also follows basketball at all professional levels — whether it’s the Aces or the Lakers playing, Waters watches with a keen eye. It’s part of a basketball viewing diet that includes “a lot” of film, with particular purpose coming into the season.

“It’s really about learning the plays and learning the positions, knowing everybody’s position on the floor even if it’s not mine,” Waters said.

The potential for what it will look like when Waters is fully comfortable in the Scarlet and Black system is enticing. He averaged 9.6 points in 25.8 minutes per game last season, including scoring in double-figures in five of the final seven games while also grabbing five or more rebounds in four games.

“I’m a really good scorer (and) I can also facilitate and give people the ball-help on defense,” Waters said. “But just winning, my end goal is to win. I have nothing else that I’m looking forward to.”

Having already gotten a sense of what the Aztecs basketball is about from the 2021 Paycom Wooden Legacy, that culture was one of the main draws to join the program.

“Being a part of an environment where it’s play hard all the time, play defense, push the pace, rebound and just play unselfishly while also being able to play free is also something that I’ve been very blessed to be a part of,” Waters said.

After getting the starting nod in SDSU’s exhibition win over Cal State San Marcos, Waters is here to contribute and keep bettering himself as part of the continued rise of the Aztecs.

“I’m just trying to perfect myself… as long as I strive to be there, I’ll be alright, I can live with the results,” he said. “As long as I’m playing hard, playing defense, scoring and rebounding — you know, regular stuff.”

San Diego State forward Jay Pal looks for a lane to drive during an exhibition game against Cal State San Marcos on Monday, Oct. 30 at Viejas Arena. (Jesse Gordon)

Many moves exemplify the experience, abilities of Pal

Starting in Omaha, Nebraska, Pal’s basketball journey has taken him everywhere from Atlanta to Texas, then Alabama and North Carolina.

The climb after high school has included rungs of a development program year, junior college, then Division I in the Ohio Valley, Atlantic Sun and Big South conferences.

Suffice it to say, he’s gotten used to getting comfortable finding his place with new teammates.

“It gave me a lot of different experiences, I say that’s an advantage,” said Pal, who earned All-Tournament Team honors at Campbell last year. “I learned so much going (and) playing at different levels, understanding how different the games could change and different types of teams to play on.”

Pal had long been aware of SDSU’s program, thanks in large part to the role played by former player and current Director of Player Development Aguek Arop. The two attended rival high schools in Omaha, facing off on the court twice.

“It’s an honor (to be here) because I know where he came from, so like just the fact that he did it, I know I can do it too,” Pal said. ”I’m not the only one who’s inspired by AG — he’s been inspiring a lot of other kids and just been a good role model.”

Pal sees his role on the team as an extension of the unique attributes and skill set he brings. Listed at six feet, nine inches, and blessed with a long wingspan, he made a point to develop his ball handling and attacking abilities to become a “positionless” player.

“I’d say using my length, being able to guard on the perimeter or being on the perimeter, spacing the floor on offense, rebounding, getting in the pass lane to get a steal, using my length to contest shots and being able to switch on any position, if needed,” he said.

Having taken the time to see some of the scenes around San Diego — including the zoo, Mission Beach and several museums — Pal has his sights set on how he will make an impact on the court this season.

“I just wanna come in and help,” he said. “I know I have some attributes I can help and bring to the team and make us better each and every day.”

Portal pickups add to and enhance Aztecs’ culture

Transfers have long been a part of the SDSU success story.

In the last half-decade alone the Aztecs have been able to add players like Malachi Flynn, Trey Pulliam and Matt Bradley through the portal to round out rosters that have been regulars in March Madness.

While there’s just one more night of celebration in store for the successes of last season, seeing those peaks has made it easy for the newest Aztecs to fit in and be ready to make that climb again.

“We’re probably (all) together outside of practice, just talking about where we want to be and where we want to get to and what it’s gonna take,” Pal said.

“That’s what I like about this group of guys. We’re really focused and motivated to get back.”

About the Contributor
Eric Evelhoch
Eric Evelhoch, '23-24 Sports Editor
Eric Evelhoch (he/him/his) is a senior media studies major who was born outside of Detroit, Michigan, and lived in Ventura County, California, for a decade-plus. He is a returning college student and transfer from Santa Barbara City College, where he served as Sports Editor for The Channels. Evelhoch is also a Sports Director for KCR College Radio, where he restarted play-by-play coverage post-pandemic. Currently, he serves as the play-by-play broadcaster for the SDSU ACHA DI hockey team and has filled in on the call for Aztecs sports on the Mountain West Network. His prior freelance experience includes print, digital, online video and audio-only, and broadcast radio formats covering football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and volleyball.