As has been mentioned many times previously, the ATB crew loves the Suns. Shaun wants to be the mop boy and I spent nearly 2000 words trying to figure out some possible way that the Suns might be somehow be good this year. They are, quite unfortunately, atrocious, so I have to search for my basketball fix somewhere else. Fortunately for me I have another basketball team budding right in front of me, even closer than the Suns: my beloved Sun Devils.
Yup, I’m writing about them again, this time on the basketball side. This year, the Devils were able to navigate through their way through the pre-conference schedule much better than the previous year, only losing to a ranked Creighton team, and a very solid DePaul team. Yet on a national, or even regional scale, nary a head has been turned based on a 11-2 beginning to the season, but that all changed last Sunday when ASU defeated the defending PAC 12 champion Colorado Buffaloes.
Not a lot of people even saw this one coming. After last year’s horrible 10-21 season, there were a lot of calls for Coach Herb Sendek to be fired, and embarrassingly enough, I was one of them. It had looked like ASU had reverted back to their old selves, not being able to even compete with the middle of the pack teams. That worry was even more justified when soon to be senior leader Trent Lockett transferred from the school in order to be closer to his ailing mother. So, with the Devils coming out of nowhere this year, not many people have any idea who is even on the team. Therefore, I’ve decided to take it on myself to let the world know about the team that might not have the most talent, but has a ton of heart. ASU goes about 7 deep each game, so without further ado:
Eric Jacobsen: The freshman big man from Phoenix has shown great flashes off of the bench. While the stats aren’t impressive, 3.3 points and two rebounds in about 11 minutes per game, his hustle and smart play are a spark needed when starting center Jordan Bachynski gets in foul trouble or needs a rest.
Chris Colvin: The starting point guard from last year’s team has now been regulated to the bench with a new hot shot freshman coming in. Yet Chris hasn’t sulked, instead he has turned into the team’s best perimeter defender, holding Colorado star forward Spencer Dinwiddie to 8-20 shooting in last week’s win. Colvin isn’t the greatest shooter, on the team, nor the best ball handler, but he’s an athletic guard that plays with a ton of heart.
Evan Gordon: While he’s not exactly the Gordon that I wanted, (see Eric Gordon in my Suns preview), the transfer from Indiana is a solid three point shooter who can spread the floor. His potential was shown especially against Sacramento State, scoring 29 points and hitting 5 threes. His shooting has added a second shooter that last year’s 10-21 team never had.
Jonathan Gilling: The Danish Dagger has added a lot to his game since last year. While every team wishes they had a 6’8” power forward that can stretch the floor, this Sun Devil team has that along with a 6’8” power forward who can rebound. Gilling has upped his rebounds per game to 7.1 from last year’s abysmal 1.9, and has completely transformed himself on the defensive end. The change started last year in ASU’s win over Arizona. Despite the fact that Gilling was only a freshman, he stepped up hitting 3 huge shots down the stretch. He’s shown that he’s not only a physical player, but a mentally strong one as well.
Jahii Carson: The most hyped recruit for ASU basketball since James Harden, Jahii has not disappointed so far this year. He leads the team in scoring and assists, while providing an element of athleticism and dribble penetration that hasn’t been seen in years at ASU. While Jahii missed out on last year due to academic issues, he has shown that he is the real deal. Despite his 5’10” frame, he drives the lane with a reckless abandon, and is the team’s most talented player by far.
Jordan Bachynski: I’m starting to think that Jordan should change his last name to Jordan Blockynski. Jordan has turned his natural gift of being 7’2” into a real weapon this year. The big man is third in the nation in blocked shots averaging 4.6 per game. That doesn’t even begin to mention the amount of shots that he has changed and caused to miss merely by being near the hoop. He recorded the first triple double in ASU history earlier this year, with 12 points, 11 rebounds and an astonishing 12 blocked shots. Jordan has been able to turn himself into a lanky tall kid with no real coordination into a possible NBA prospect. His scoring and touch around the basket really needs some work before he has a chance to go to the next level, and his strength could use some work, but so far this season, he’s the runner up MVP, finishing second only to:
Carrack Felix: What hasn’t the senior leader done this year for the Sun Devils? He scores, he rebounds, he blocks shots, and is the heart and soul of this team. Sendek is obviously very proud of his senior leader, “He’s just played with so much heart. I mean every second of every possession he just gives everything he has. He’s really been fun to watch. He’s been great to coach, just has had an exemplary attitude, tremendous leadership.” There really isn’t a better way to describe this guy, and when you throw that in with his freakish athleticism, he makes this team work. An example is a play that occurred in the Colorado win: Felix went up for a shot and had it blocked, that started a fast break on the other end, where somehow Felix corralled himself, sprinted down the court and blocked the fast break attempt LeBron James style from behind, setting up a 3 pointer on the other end. This is a player that truly does put everything on the line, and he might just earn himself a chance at the next level.
Naturally I have to mention that coming up on January 19th is the true test for this team. ASU faces bitter rival Arizona in Tempe in what is by far the biggest test of the year. Arizona so far is the #4 team in the country and hasn’t lost yet this season. If some heads were turned by the Devils being able to take care of Colorado, just imagine what they’ll be saying if they take down a top 5 team. This is shaping up to be a great season for basketball here in the valley of the sun, and it’s crazy to me that it’s not coming from Phoenix, but rather that college town of Tempe.