Junior guard Aaron Hines’ journey to the Billikens’ starting lineup has been anything but typical. In 2013, as a senior at Parkway North high school in St. Louis, Hines’ signing day letter was not faxed in to the SLU athletic office, and he wasn’t wearing SLU blue. Instead, he was headed to John Wood Community College, where he would spend the 2013-14 season.
At John Wood, a junior college located in Quincy, Illinois, Hines averaged 5.8 points per game, making 24 appearances for the Trailblazers. However, after one season, Hines knew that it was time to make a change.
“I left John Wood and decided to come to SLU because I wanted to play at the Division I level. I felt that I was ready to compete on the highest collegiate level,” Hines said.
But coming to SLU wasn’t full of perks for Hines. In his first season, Hines was labeled a walk-on, meaning that he wasn’t given a scholarship. Another obstacle to Hines’ first season was that he didn’t conveniently live in Grand Forest – or even on campus – like the rest of the team, making break-of-dawn workouts especially brutal.
“The journey has been tough. There were numerous days where I was exhausted and questioned if it was really what I wanted to do. For example, last year not living on campus and driving 25 minutes in the morning to weights everyday, it was a grind. But I knew that it was bettering me in the long run,” Hines said.
Despite all of the initial sacrifices, Hines knew that he wouldn’t set foot on the Chaifetz Arena court during the 2014-15 season, since he had opted to redshirt.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to see any time on the court. At John Wood, I knew I had the possibility of playing right away. I used last year to really work on my game and try to help the team in any way I could, whether it was pushing guys in practice to get better or serving on the scout team,” Hines said.
Finally, in early August 2015, Hines got his first big break as a Billiken. At a private room at a restaurant in Paradise Island, Bahamas, during the team’s exhibition trip, head coach Jim Crews awarded Hines a scholarship.
“Aaron really sacrificed to be a part of this program. Big time. He’s come here with no guarantees whatsoever … he’s done a great job,” Crews said when making the announcement.
Hines first saw action in the 2015-16 season in the third game of the year against St. Francis Brooklyn. His playing time remained low, playing only one to two minutes per game, until Jan. 13, in Pittsburgh against Duquesne. Against the Dukes, Hines saw significant court time, playing 23 minutes. In the next game, a 92-79 loss to George Mason on Jan. 17, Hines earned his first-career start, en route to 14 points.
“When I found out I would be starting against George Mason I was excited; it was my first Division 1 start. However, I still remained focused on the main objective, which was trying to help my team win that game,” Hines said.
Though the Bills didn’t top George Mason, Hines’ next start against Davidson turned out more favorably. He posted a career-high 18 points, contributing to SLU’s 96 overall, the most points by a SLU team in a conference game since 1991. Hines has continued to start every game since the Duquesne game.
Through his first three starts, Hines made an immediate impact for SLU, averaging 11.7 points over those three games. Hines has two years of eligibility left after this season, and could likely become the surprising kingpin of the sophomore class, despite his unconventional journey to the starting lineup. Hines, like the SLU team overall this season, continues to surprise, showing glimpses that perhaps the best is yet to come.