Oct. 4, 2012
Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek enters his 20th season as a head coach with a strong feeling about his group.
There are the on-paper reasons...a 7-2 center who really came on strong last year.
A local top-50 recruit playing the point guard spot who has had more than 450,000 views of this highlight video.
But a big reason is the attitude of the team.
There is a good mix of experience with three seniors, a lot of players that finished strong, three experienced newcomers (yes, that is possible) and two new staff members who have been a part of the greatest basketball league on the planet. The Nov. 10 opening game (matching the earliest start date in Sun Devil history) will be here faster than Jahii Carson can get from baseline to baseline.
"I have been around this group since last April at all kinds of events and skill sessions, doing community service at Andre House and even just hanging around the Weatherup Center, and I can guarantee you it is a great bunch of Sun Devils who will be easy to cheer for," notes Coach Sendek, the 2009-10 Pac-10 Coach of the Year. "It starts with the seniors and goes right through the roster. Guys showed improvement last year and will show it this year from the summer to October. They have had a great summer and an efficient fall. We are really excited about this season for a variety of reasons."
Rarely do assistant coach hirings register, but Coach Sendek thought outside the box in the late summer when he had to fill two spots. One went to NBA assistant Larry Greer, considered one of the best advance scouts in the NBA. The other went to Eric Musselman who had been a head coach in more than 750 professional basketball games. No, he didn't start coaching in high school. But he did at 23.
"Larry and Eric bring so much to the table," notes Sendek. "Think of all the games they have been a part of and all the basketball experience they have. I am really excited to continue to learn from them and I know that Coach (associate head coach Dedrique) Taylor has been busy helping them learn about the college game."
Had a great talk with Eric Musselman, Arizona State's new assistant coach, on Sunday night. He 's one of best basketball minds I know!-- Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) October 8, 2012
No question chemistry and consistency has been an issue recently. In the past two seasons ASU has used 23 starting lineups. Last year's 12 starting lineups was the most since 2003-04 and in its past 36 Pac-12 games its full complement of healthy players have been available in just 20 of the games.
So one could look at the list of players returning and see only one double-digit scorer, question the emergence of a big man who averaged 4.0 points per game and try to figure out who is going to score, but in looking beyond a PDF of a stat page there are some intriguing numbers and players to talk about. Exhibit A is 7-2 junior Jordan Bachynski.
"From the middle of January through the Arizona game where he was being double-teamed, I think Jordan was the most improved player in the league," says Coach Sendek, who also earned conference coach of the year honors in the MAC (1994-95) and ACC (2003-04). "He didn't play any basketball for three years due to an injury his senior year in high school and then his LDS mission, but those final 13 games last year gave him a tremendous amount of positive momentum."
How good was he in the final 13 games? Two games jump out on the box scores. He scored a career-high 20 in Feb. 2 game at Stanford and had 19 vs. USC on Feb. 26. One area of improvement was his free throw shooting. He entered the Stanford Feb. 2 game 20-of-50 (.400) for the season and 40-of-90 (.444) in his career, but was 10-of-12 (.833) in that game. He was 33-of-47 (.702) at the charity stripe in those final 13 games, in the first 21 games he was 20-of-50 (.400). He had seven double-figure scoring games in those 13 games. On the defensive end in the 18 Pac-12 games he averaged 1.67 blocks per game (30), third in the loop. He posted 26 blocks in the final 13 games.
POINTS PER GAME: 10.1/2.8
FIELD GOAL PCT: 45-70 (.643)/18-39 (.462)
FREE THROW SHOOTING: 41-63 (.651)/12-34 (.353)
REBOUNDS PER GAME: 5.9/2.5
"Man...did he finish the season strong," says Coach Sendek. "We're really excited about his return. We think we have a good 7-0 combination with Ruslan and Jordan."
Ruslan Pateev averaged 16.7 minutes and shot .545 from the floor last year and has 67 career blocks. He has played in 79 games in his career, and the coaching staff has been impressed with his offseason improvements. You don't have to go far back in Sun Devil lore to find an example of a big man making huge strides from junior to senior season. Eric Boateng, who played on the 2012 Great Britain Olympic squad, averaged 8.2 minutes and 2.0 rebounds in 2008-09. One year later he was an impact player in the Pac-12 at 27.1 minutes, shot .665 from the field and averaged 8.8 points and 7.2 boards per game.
"Ruslan understood how important this summer was and we are expecting a solid senior season from him."
Solid senior seasons are expected from two other players as well. Carrick Felix has shown flashes of brilliance and has track-athlete athleticism. Chris Colvin started slow last season after a year of junior college, but down the stretch controlled the pace and led ASU to a pair of late season wins over USC and Arizona.
"Carrick is engaging and charismatic and that is appreciated by a coaching staff," notes Coach Sendek. "We want to put him in the right places to make sure he can succeed each game and each play."
Already with his undergraduate degree in hand and studying for his master's, Carrick notched the fifth 20-point game of his career with a career-best 23 on March 4 in the Arizona win, including an 8-of-9 performance from the foul line. Is it a case as how Carrick goes is how ASU goes? He did lead the team scoring (14.4 points per game) in the wins but dropped to 8.8 in the losses. Toss in that ASU's scoring margin last year as -5.6 points per game, and you probably have a big key in how the Sun Devils can win games in 2012-13.
Lost in the chatter about three players who practiced last year and will play this year in the backcourt is the improved play of senior Chris Colvin last season. "There were some bumps in the road early for Chris, but anyone who follows us knows he finished on a strong note; especially with that game winning shot against USC and a fine performance in the Arizona win," notes Coach Sendek of the Chicago-area product. "
Colvin had his best floor-general game of the season in the March 4 high-level Arizona win matching career-high with nine assists and just two turnovers. In his final 15 games he averaged 8.7 points (fourth on the team), 31.1 minutes and had 75 assists (5.0 per game) and had six double-figure scoring games in that time, including a career-best 18 at Washington State (Feb. 18). He is another one that you almost have to cut the season in half when talking about statistics. All parts of his game became much better over time and it is shown by the final 15 games.
FIRST 16 GAMES OF SEASON/FINAL 15 GAMES FOR CHRIS
MINUTES PER GAME: 20.3/31.1
POINTS PER GAME: 4.9/8.7
FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE: .277 (18-65)/.406 (41-101)
THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE: .250 (5-20)/.375 (12-32)
ASSISTS PER GAME: 2.8/5.0
Speaking of improving as the year went on, the Sun Devils had a guy who might have been overlooked for the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team last year. If you look at his league stats, Jon Gilling was a great find for the Sun Devils and most importantly a perfect fit for the Herb Sendek system which always has produced good three-point shooters.
"As Jon became familiar with campus, school and the level of play in the league, he just continued to get better," notes Sendek. "Once he finished his first semester and became comfortable, he became a real threat."
Gilling, like Felix, had one of his best games of the year in the March 4 Arizona win with 21 points including 5-of-6 from the three-point stripe. How good was Gilling late as compared to early? In his first eight games he averaged 8.8 minutes, while in the final 22 games he averaged nine points and had eight double-figure games in the final 18 tilts. He was good on the road, as he averaged 14.5 points on the USC/UCLA Road trip.
FIRST 9 GAMES OF SEASON/FINAL 22 GAMES FOR JON
MINUTES PER GAME: 8.8/29.9
POINTS PER GAME: 1.9/9.0
FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE: .357 (5-14)/.424 (64-151)
THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE: .357 (5-14)/.417 (48-115)
ASSISTS PER GAME: 0.3/2.2
REBOUNDS PER GAME: 0.5/2.3
His 31.9 minutes per Pac-12 contest is seventh-most by a freshman in Sun Devil history, while his 53 three pointers is fifth best all-time and just four less than noted marksman Eddie House made in his freshman year. And when compared to other freshman in the league last year, he was simply overlooked. In Pac-12 statistics only among freshmen, he was second in minutes per game (31.9), second in three-pointers (42), second in three-point percentage (.416) and fifth in points per game. Those returners all posted promising finishes. But there is no doubt that the key to the season could be the players who could only practice. Not games, just practice. And one of them has been on the Sun Devil radar since September of 2010. Mesa High School graduate Jahii Carson could only practice last year, but he is bigger, faster and stronger and at about 175 pounds, is ready to take what he learned on the practice court last year and put it to use.
There is no denying he is exciting. But overlooked in those crazy hops is a solid floor general game. He makes free throws. He gets in the lane. He can score (as in 58 points in his final high school game). But above all, he makes others around him better.
"Simply put, we can't wait to watch Jahii in a uniform in a game," says Coach Sendek. "Every Sun Devil should be really excited to watch him. He is dynamic and explosive. One of our responsibilities as coaches, and really the part I enjoy as much as any other, is putting our guys in the best position to be successful and I think Jahii obviously has some real gifts in the open floor. I think he's going to be particularly good at using ball screens. He's a guy that can really create shots not only for himself but his teammates and so I think he will allow us to open some things up and in particular do some fun things with pick and roll that we probably weren't in as good of a position to do this past year."
But two other practice players from last year could actually be the key to the season. Evan Gordon and Scottsdale native Bo Barnes already have great collegiate experience. Barnes set the Hawaii three-pointer freshman record two years ago with 57 long shots made, while Gordon led Liberty in scoring.Gordon with an old-school game according to a teammate,quietly led Liberty in scoring in his sophomore year, can shoot it and score it, and has basketball in his blood. His brother is NBA standout Eric.
"Evan just has the innate ability to score," says Coach Sendek. "He's a very serious player and extremely hard worker and although he'll be a junior he'll be in his fourth year of college this year. That can't be overlooked. He has a lot of experience."
Three local products close the scholarship players, as 6-10 Eric Jacobsen (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton High School), guard Calaen Robinson (Tempe, Ariz./Corona del Sol High School) and 6-8 jumping jack Kenny Martin (Glendale, Ariz./Glendale Ellis High School). Dave Whitmore and Jarrett Upchurch round out the roster, along with Richie Edwards, who transferred from Valparaiso and will have one year to play and will add depth to the practice squad this year the way Gordon and Barnes did last year. "I really am excited to coach this group. We have a chance in the backcourt to really compete and push the ball at a fast pace with Jahii. Evan, Bo and Jon should benefit from Chris and Jahii's ability to penetrate. And we need Jordan to pick up where he left off last year and for Carrick and Ruslan to have Eric Boateng-like senior seasons. That can all happen."
"We open a new era in the Pac-12 on Jan. 2 with the Pac-12 Networks and look forward to variety in the conference schedule this year with conference games on Wednesdays for the first time," notes Coach Sendek. "We have some new faces and could have a lot of changes in what we do, both subtle and obvious. We had some good momentum towards the latter part of last season with Carrick (Felix), Jordan (Bachynski), Jon (Gilling), Chris (Colvin) and Ruslan (Pateev) playing well and making big improvements in their game."
Arizona State will play 19 home games for just the second time in school history (other was in 2009-10), and will travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech for the first time since the 1988-89 season. The Red Raiders and Sun Devils will play on Dec. 22. ASU last visited Lubbock on Dec. 8, 1988 with ASU winning 81-75. Texas Tech will return the trip in 2013-14 to Tempe.
A Big East team will visit Wells Fargo Arena for the first time since the 1993-94 season, as DePaul will play in Tempe on Wednesday, Dec. 12. ASU beat Villanova 73-62 in overtime on Dec. 29, 1993, the last time a Big East team came to Wells Fargo Arena. ASU will return the trip to Chicago in 2013-14. In the past decade, only four Pac-12 teams have hosted a Big East team in regular season play. "Our league will be back to being as competitive as any in the nation. We also look forward to two trips to Las Vegas where we know many Sun Devils reside."
The Sun Devils will open the Pac-12 season at home for the first time since the 2007-08 season. ASU will host Utah on Wednesday, Jan. 2, the first Pac-12 game of the season as the rest of the league opens on Thursday. The previous four seasons ASU has opened on the road against Arizona, Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford. ASU is opening on Wednesday to avoid a conflict with the Fiesta Bowl played on Thursday, Jan. 3.
"We open a new era inwith the Pac-12 Networks and look forward to variety in the conference schedule this year with conference games on Wednesdays."
2009-10 Pac-10 Coach of the Year Herb Sendek
OTHER NOTES ON THE SCHEDULE
--For just the second time in past six seasons ASU will have five of its first seven Pac-12 games at home, including the Territorial Cup matchup on Saturday, Jan. 19.
--After hosting Utah on Jan. 2, ASU will host Pac-12 Tournament champion Colorado on Sunday, Jan. 6, travel north to face Oregon State (Thursday, Jan. 10) and then Oregon on Sunday, Jan. 13. ASU will visit Oregon's new arena for the first time since it opened in January of 2011, as last year the Sun Devils missed the Oregon road trip and the year prior ASU played in the final game of McArthur Court.
--After the Jan. 19 Territorial Cup matchup with Arizona, ASU resumes Pac-12 play with another home series, as it hosts USC on Jan. 24 and then UCLA on Jan. 26.
--In addition to the Utah game on Jan. 2, the Sun Devils will play three Wednesday Pac-12 games. ASU will play at Utah on Feb. 13 prior to its tilt at Colorado on Feb. 16, host Washington State on Feb. 20 prior to hosting Washington on Saturday, Feb. 23, and then play at UCLA on Feb. 27 prior to its Saturday, Mar. 2 game at USC.
--ASU concludes its season on Saturday, March 9, in Tucson. ASU is 3-3 at Arizona under Herb Sendekafter winning once in Tucson in the previous 23 tries (win was in 1994-95, from 1983-84 through 2006-07 period).
--ASU will miss the Bay Area road trip, but Cal (Feb. 7) and Stanford (Feb. 9) come to town, while the Sun Devils don't host the Oregon schools but make the trip north on Jan. 10 (Oregon State) and Jan. 13 (Oregon).
--ASU opens it season on Saturday, Nov. 10, against Central Arkansas in Tempe, matching the earliest starting date in school history. ASU lost to Tulsa 69-67 in Raleigh on Nov. 10, 2000, and has opened on Nov. 11 once (last season) and on Nov. 13 three times. How much has college hoops scheduling timeline changed in the past two decades. In Coach Sendek's first season (1993-94) at Miami of Ohio, his season opener was on Nov. 27.
EARLIEST SEASON OPENERS IN SUN DEVIL HISTORY
Nov. 10, 2012--Central Arkansas at Arizona State
Nov. 10, 2000--Tulsa 69, ASU 67 (Raleigh, N.C.)
Nov. 11, 2011-- ASU 78, Montana State 72
--As previously announced, the Sun Devils will host Florida A&M (Nov. 18) and Cornell (Nov. 20) in the first two games of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational before meeting Arkansas on Friday, Nov. 23, at 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Arkansas game will be broadcast on ESPN3, and the teams will play either Wisconsin or Creighton the next day. The winning teams will meet on Saturday at 8 p.m. PT on ESPN2, the losers at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN3. Arkansas and the Sun Devils have met just once, as the No. 1 seeded Razorbacks beat the Bill Frieder-coached Sun Devils in the 1991 NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, 97-90. Tickets can be purchased at the Sun Devil ticket office or by clicking right here.
If practice makes perfect, the Sun Devil men's basketball team is looking good for the 2012-13 season: ow.ly/ejj15-- AZ State University (@ASU) October 8, 2012