Despite poor recruiting, future remains bright for men’s basketball

Chanse Creekmur protects the ball in a game against USC on Feb. 25. Creekmur is one of seven players in the past three years to transfer or be dismissed from the ASU basketball program. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

It’s only fitting sophomore wing Chanse Creekmur would transfer just after the season ended.

He likely wasn’t going to see many minutes next season with the emergence of freshman forward Jonathan Gilling, but it shows what has demised the program over the last two years: recruiting.

Coach Herb Sendek hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to keeping players in Tempe. Sophomore guard Keala King was kicked off the team following an indefinite suspension from Sendek. Along with Creekmur, that’s seven players to leave ASU in the past three seasons. Others include Victor Rudd at South Florida and Demetrius Walker at New Mexico — both teams that are in the NCAA tournament.

Although the Sun Devils somehow pulled out a victory over USC without King — as well as without junior guard Chris Colvin and sophomore forward Kyle Cain — the team was lacking depth.

“I just think that it’s important, regardless of circumstances, that we maintain certain standards and expectations,” Sendek said following King’s dismissal. “We spent a lot of time together and in the final analysis, it just seemed to me that it made great sense for our program and for Keala that he have a new beginning.”

It left the Sun Devils with just eight available scholarship players. That number would eventually shrink due to injuries.

ASU used 11 starting lineups this season. Junior guard Trent Lockett made the transition to point guard in the victory over the Trojans without Colvin and King, but went down with an ankle injury against Oregon State on Jan. 24. He missed six games, but the clear-cut leader on the team didn’t look the same until the last game of the regular season. Junior guard Carrick Felix missed several games because of an illness.

Although ASU’s lineup was inconsistent, the high number of turnovers wasn’t.  The Sun Devils were 326th in turnovers out of 338 teams with 16.3 per game. They had 20 or more turnovers in five games this season.

ASU did tie a season-low 10 turnovers in its regular season finale against UA. In what the whole team considered the best performance of the season, everything finally clicked for the Sun Devils. Sendek said ASU made plays it typically didn’t make during other games this season.

It was the only time it won back-to-back games this season. Just when it seemed to be carrying some sort of momentum, ASU fell flat in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament to Stanford.

While it was another dreadful year for the basketball program, Gilling and sophomore forward Jordan Bachynski took big steps in the right direction this season.

“Jordan took over a year off of basketball, so I think he’s kind of getting into the swing of things, and Jon is kind of finding his groove through his freshman year and I think he’s coming along,” Lockett said. “So I guess you could say the future is great or that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

With the addition of freshman point guard Jahii Carson and Sendek’s incoming class of Eric Jacobsen, Kenny Martin and Calaen Robinson, next season could be a turnaround for Sendek and the Sun Devils. It’ll likely ride on the shoulders of Carson and his ability to adjust to the collegiate level on the fly. If he can do so, and he’s more than capable of it, the future looks bright in Tempe.

“Any season that you have, you’re able to add to your portfolio of experience,” Sendek said about this season. “We all carry the sum total of our past experiences to the present moment, so our guys are going to bring everything that we’ve gone through to next year. So far as we can learn from it, it will be valuable and then we have to let it go and be in the present moment as it presents itself at that time.”

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu

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