(Photo: Noah Findling/WCSN)
The big question for the Arizona State basketball team last season was whether or not Jahii Carson would take the next step and become one of the biggest forces in the country at the point guard position.
Now, Carson is gone, and with an extreme roster turnover, ASU head coach Herb Sendek has to start with a clean slate as far as determining the rotation. For the point guard position, however, it isn’t so much a question of what the rotation will be, but who will be in it.
Let’s face it, expecting Carson-like numbers this year from the 1 spot is more than likely setting the bar too high. Carson led the Sun Devils in points, assists, minutes, field goals made, field goals attempted, free throws made, free throws attempted per game, not to mention the amount of highlights he provided. Despite Carson’s diminutive 5-foot-10 frame, he left big shoes to fill in Tempe.
Six players from last year’s NCAA tournament team are returning, but only three of them – seniors Shaquielle McKissic, Bo Barnes and Jonathan Gilling – had enough consistent playing time to make a real difference from game to game. Of those three, none of them are point guards, but like a lot of the questions surrounding this Sun Devil squad, the answer might be someone we haven’t seen yet.
One of the six returners looking to make an impact is sophomore guard Chance Murray. Murray only averaged eight minutes and 2.4 points per game last season, but expect a significant increase in both his minutes as well as production. Murray, along with San Bernardino Community College transfer Gerry Blakes, have been in the discussion to fill the need at point guard.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity for me,” Blakes said. “I feel like I’ve worked hard to be in this position right here, so I just want to impact the game of basketball and also my team in whichever way I can.”
Blakes was named the Foothill Conference Most Valuable Player his sophomore year at San Bernardino CC, leading his team to the California state title behind his 23.7 points per game.
Murray gave a similar answer when asked about the possibility of him playing major minutes at the point guard position.
“If it’s needed, if coach wants me to, I will be there, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be on the floor,” Murray said.
Despite their lack of experience, Sendek has little doubt these two can succeed as point guards.
“They’re more combo guards, they’re very versatile guards, they’re big guards,” Sendek said. “So I think we have a combination of players like that that we’ll use in that spot.”
Adding on to that duo is the one player that Sendek calls a “true” point guard: freshman Tra Holder.
“I’d say he’s the one player on our team that that’s the only position he’s ever played,” Sendek said. “He’s a point guard and nothing else.”
In his senior year at Brentwood School in Los Angeles, Calif., Holder averaged 22.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Despite knowing who is going to compete for the point guard spot, neither Sendek nor any of the players gave any information about who has the upper hand during media day.
All things considered, deciding between a sophomore with little experience, a junior college transfer and a true freshman is a difficult choice and something Sendek will mull over for the following weeks. Choosing a floor general for a relatively new roster is no easy decision, and it will play a big part in the success or struggles of this team.
Although the point guard dilemma does stand out because of the departure of Jahii Carson, most of the roster is going through a similar phase, so by the time Chicago State rolls into Tempe on November 14 for ASU’s season opener, expect Sendek to work with a plethora of lineup combinations to find the rotation for this season.
You can reach Zane Hopen on Twitter @zdubhops or by email at email@example.com