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Saint Mary’s bolsters frontcourt with Seattle transfer Aaron Menzies

It’s an intriguing addition for a team replacing a ton of production.

NCAA Basketball: Seattle at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Saint Mary’s picked up a big body to fill minutes in its frontcourt on Wednesday.

According to 247Sports’ Evan Daniels, Seattle center Aaron Menzies is transferring to Moraga. The rising redshirt senior had also withdrawn his name from the NBA draft earlier in the day.

The move puts one of the country’s biggest players on Randy Bennett’s roster. The 7’3’’ center averaged 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Redhawks last season, starting 33 games and averaging a double double (10.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG) in WAC play. It was a season of progress for the Englishman, who arrived at Seattle before the 2014-15 season having only played basketball for two years.

He redshirted his first season under then-coach Cam Dollar, before becoming a rotation player (16.3 MPG) in 2015-16. He had an encouraging start to the following season, taking over as the Redhawks starting center and flashing big-time potential, including a 35-point, 11-rebound effort in a win over Louisiana Monroe.

Dollar talked about his developing big midway through that 2016-17 season.

“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.”

A foot injury kept Menzies out of the season’s final 16 games, closing the book on a promising campaign.

But he rebounded under a new coach — Jim Hayford — last year. Menzies stayed healthy (34 games, 26.9 MPG) and made strides on the offensive glass (14.3 OR%, top-21 in the country) and as a rim protector (8.8 BLK%, top-44 in the country). He was a solid anchor around a team that liked to space the floor and shoot three’s at a high rate.

But Menzies will now be part of a group that replaces the country’s foremost frontcourt anchor. Bennett must replace a ton of production from the Gaels 30-win team, headlined by second team AP All-American Jock Landale.

It’s not clear whether Menzies is immediately eligible, though given that he’s already used a redshirt year, that would appear to be the case. If he is, he may well slot in as the Gaels’ starting center, and see a high volume of minutes. Bennett also has freshman center Matthias Tass, and a slew of options at the wing — including South Florida transfer Malik Fitts.

For Seattle, the move takes a proven piece off a team that could be a dark horse contender in the WAC. The Redhawks have a pair of talented transfers (Seton Hall’s Myles Carter and American’s Delante Jones) joining one of the league’s best scorers in rising junior Matej Kavas.