(Photo: Nick Krueger/WCSN)
It’s that time of year again. Soon some sort of mainstream song will be blasting over the Wells Fargo Arena speakers while Sparky crawls around on the hardwood floor and the ASU basketball players have a spotlight shined on them as their respective names are announced.
You’ve seen this before, but the first few times around this season the only rituals in WFA that will seem familiar are the Raising Cane’s promotions, and the ASU band’s interruptions during free throws, intermissions, and other unexpected times of play.
A lot has occurred since the Sun Devils were defeated by Baylor in the second round of the NIT, and there is not a lot of time to catch up. The season is upon us though, and everything that fell into the Robin Thicke sponsored blurred lines will soon be cleared up as I sat down to talk about the offseason that was with head coach Herb Sendek.
Arizona State’s season was ended on Mar. 22 when they lost 89-86 to the Baylor Bears. Jahii Carson and Jon Gilling both fouled out in the loss. Gilling’s exit was due to a few questionable calls, but there is no sense in speculating their legitimacy; that was eight months ago.
Carrick Felix cemented his crest onto the drying wax of his league ready application to the NBA as he filled the box score with 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. Chris Colvin and Ruslan Pateev also ended their ASU careers as seniors that night on two different ends of the spectrum. Pateev played five minutes, while Colvin had 15 points and a respectable eight rebounds in 38 minutes of time logged.
“I always thank our guys the final game of the season for their dedication, for their representation of our program and university,” Sendek said. “Even though everybody wants to win that last game when the season eventually ends we want to make sure we express our gratitude for the time we had together and everybody’s contributions.”
It’s a good thing that, that gratitude for hard work was expressed because a boat load of departures were about to commence. Many people thought one guard was getting ready to depart the program prematurely, but it was the other ball handler that shocked Sun Devil nation.
Speaking of which…
He came back. After much speculation on Twitter and around Tempe the Jordan wearing, interior slicing, warm-up dunk contest all-star forewent the NBA draft to take another crack at collegiate basketball. “Jahii is a very smart basketball player, he really knows the game and knows himself better than anyone else. And he just felt at the end of the day he would be better served at coming back to school for another year,” Coach Sendek voiced.
Carson is more than confident in his abilities, and there is no doubt after seeing highlights of him handling the basketball as if he has it on a string over the summer his confidence is justified. However, unfortunately when a basketball player is five-foot-nine-inches, there is always something more to prove. He’ll face two glaring challenges in this 2013-2014 season. Proving that he is the type of elite player that can carry a team on the fence into a successful March, and proving that in what is being hailed as the most talented NBA draft in decades, he deserves to be looked at just as much as any other player available.
Evan Gordon transfers to Indiana
Coach Sendek said the first conversation he had about Gordon’s transfer was with the Indiana native’s father. Sendek continued on to explain that Gordon’s father expressed a desire to have the shooting guard play his final season at home.
“On one hand I guess I was surprised, and on the other I wasn’t,” Sendek said.
Evan Gordon was getting ready to graduate from ASU at the time, and consequentially took advantage of a NCAA rule that allowed him to play immediately after transferring.
Sendek explained that he and his staff are always in the mindset of wishing departing players well and then quickly focusing in on the players who are still present with the program.
“We were fortunate to quickly pick up some other players that can really help us. And as much as we lost Evan because of that transfer and play immediately rule we were able to gain Jermaine Marshall an outstanding player from the Big Ten,” Sendek said.
Coach Sendek is always eloquent and gracious with his words; however, Carson decided to be a bit more sharp with his tongue.
“Honestly, you know, Evan was a little inconsistent a lot of times last year. I was relying on him a lot last year and I don’t think he came through as often as I needed him to,” Carson said.
The point guard went on to say that he thinks some of the guards are a little more serious about their play this year as well as, “I think we’re going to be better at that position.”
Well we know how the on-court leader of the Sun Devils feels about the situation moving forward. So we also mine as well move on with the timeline.
ASU basketball packed up their belongings and spent 10 days of their summer in China this off-season. They played three games in which Sendek said the level of play was not much better than a pick-up game.
Although, that’s not to say impressive performances were not exerted.
New comer Calaen Robinson had 16 points and six assists in a 104-70 victory. In the same game big man Eric Jacobsen threw in 25 points of his own.
Not to be out done, later in the trip Carson made sure his mark was left somewhere in Asia after suffering a concussion in the first game, and receiving limited playing time in the second the point guard registered 24 points in 24 minutes in the third and final contest.
Sendek said that there probably won’t be a specific facet of the game that will be improved on the court as a result of the trip to China. The head coach did however stress the unity that hopefully sprouts.
“I don’t know if there’s any intangibles or measurement we will take away,” Sendek admitted.
“We will take away a greater respect for each other, a greater appreciation for each other. Hopefully a lot of unity is spawned form that experience.”
New Players Galore
Eight players that did not dress in maroon and gold last season will now be draped in the prestigious colors.
Those men are Richie Edwards, Brandan Kearney, Egor Koulechov, Jermaine Marshall, Shaquielle McKissic, Chance Murray, Calaen Robinson, and Sai Tummala.
Coach Sendek has had father like things to say about each and every one of those players.
But of course certain transfers and new additions get more press than others. Then again, that is expected and arguably deserved when you score 33 points in your first public showing like McKissic did.
The shooting guard looked jacked as well as mightily impressive in the October Maroon and Gold game.
Sendek recently stated that his starting lineup is currently Carson, McKissic, Marshall, Gilling, and Bachynski.
Oh yeah, did someone mention that Jermaine Marshall guy? He was pretty good in his last season at Penn State. You’re right, the Big Ten had tremendous competition that he had to face on a nightly basis as well.
It can definitively be said the second new addition to coach Sendek’s starting lineup is downgrading in competition as he moves from the prominent Big Ten to the Pac-12.
Marshall averaged 15 points a game in Happy Valley last season. Along the way he dropped 29 and 10 on Michigan State, 25 points on tournament runner-up Michigan, and 23 points against Wisconsin.
The six-foot-four-inch 215 pound fifth year senior can play. Unfortunately, his efforts have not yet been displayed in an ASU uniform. Marshall has been sick for about a month now with, “valley fever.”
As the season approaches the wing player said he is now at about 85 percent health wise.
ASU basketball is in a different place mentally and physically as an organization than it was last year.
They were expected to be amongst the bottom feeders of the Pac-12 prior to last season’s start, and as the year progressed, there were whimpers of thought they might be toe tapping into March.
Now as they have a superstar that is receiving the most national attention since the guy in Houston with the beard wore an oversized tee shirt under his ASU jersey, the Sun Devils are expected to excel.
Carson has announced he will be heading to the League after this season. Jordan Bachynski, McKissic, and Marshall are all seniors that will be graduating after the year.
The time is now.
“We’re focused right now by staying in the present trying to have good days one at a time so we can build championship habits,” Sendek stated.
It’s been a long and eventful off-season to form these habits the ASU coach so often stresses.
Friday’s season premiere will likely be a blow out, but it’s the games and battles to come afterward that will determine whether fans look back and label this busy off-season as the catalyst that got ASU basketball over the hump.