It’s no secret that ASU will be picking up the pace on the court this year. After a disappointing 10-21 finish last season, it was apparent that change was on the horizon for the Sun Devils. That change came in the form of the much-anticipated arrival of point guard Jahii Carson, the local Mesa product who sat out last year due to academic eligibility issues. With Carson now ready and able, it is clear that ASU basketball is about to crank up the speed.
“I think I’m one of the fastest guys in the country,” said Carson. “With the offense coach (Sendek) is putting in and the fast break style we’re getting in, I think I’m going to flourish in that offense.”
However, a fast pace is not only going to benefit Carson. Senior forward Carrick Felix will also enjoy the benefits according to Coach Sendek, “Carrick is a high energy guy… being able to get out in the open floor and take advantage of his athletic ability I think will be a real positive.”
Looking at last year’s numbers, it seems as if pushing the pace would be last thing ASU would want to do. They finished last in the Pac-12 in turnover margin at (-5.03) and second to last in assist/turnover ratio (.75). However the team has been conditioning during the offseason to prepare for the change.
“Because of the new style of play we’re going to be utilizing, we’re going to be in better shape than ever before… we’ve never been pushed this hard in an offseason before, we were running so much more often and so much harder, guys were really pushing each other,” said 7’2” big man Jordan Bachynski.
Even though he is one of the faster bigs in the Pac-12, Bachynski will make one the bigger adaptations to the new style of play. If “JB” as he is known to his teammates can run the floor with Carson, Felix, and the rest of what proves to be an athletic lineup, Carson will be able to drive and dish the ball off more easily to Bachynski who could have a breakout year and be yet another weapon for the already explosive point guard.
Running a high tempo transition offense does come with its risks, but Coach Sendek seems fully aware, “Speed can be fun and an easy sell but speed also kills…there is always a push to play fast but when you play against the best teams you must be able to execute in the half court,” Sendek said. “Even though players talk about playing fast, the best teams don’t give you a lot of baskets in transition.”
He also understands the need to balance speed and a halfcourt game, “Fast looks faster when it’s next to slow, but if fast is the only speed you know, then you lose a sense of keeping people off balance and you can get yourself into dangerous waters.” Hopefully Sendek has worked in enough halfcourt motion to prepare the team to run both. Championship teams can do both because running clock and getting shots to fall late in the shotclock matters in big and close games. If done the right way, the Sun Devil’s speed could be deadly against unprepared teams. One thing is for sure though according to Sendek, “I would be hard pressed to believe anybody will push the ball any faster than Arizona State this season.”