After two weeks of practice, ASU men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek had a chance to test out his team with six newcomers in Friday’s Maroon and Gold Scrimmage.
The Gold team, led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson, edged out the Maroon squad 100-72 through four 10-minute periods. The scores didn’t really matter because ASU coach Herb Sendek adjusted the teams throughout the scrimmage.
Senior center Jordan Bachynski (sprained ankle) and senior guard Jermaine Marshall (illness) did not play. Here’s how the team looked without them in its first public glimpse:
1. ASU is going to play a lot quicker this year.
Sendek said before the first day of practice that the Sun Devils were going to play a much quicker tempo this season, and it showed.
The Sun Devils ran with an NBA 24-second shot clock instead of the collegiate 35-second clock as they usually do in practice, and the 11-second difference didn’t seem to matter.
ASU had many possessions that lasted under 10 seconds. In one point in the second quarter, the players chained together three 3-pointers in about 30 seconds.
“It favors to our advantage to get up and down the court and push the basketball,” Carson said.
The players showed some fatigue, though, and the only two times the shot clock expired was in the final two quarters.
“You see the premium that has to be placed on conditioning, because it’s non-stop action.” Sendek said. “Sometimes with the best of intentions, things don’t go well unless you’re in incredible mental and physical shape.”
2. McKissic has some flashes of Carrick Felix.
The star of the scrimmage by far was junior forward Shaquielle McKissic, who ended the game with 33 points.
McKissic established himself early. With McKissic running the lanes well, Carson connected with McKissic on multiple fastbreaks that ended with a dunk. McKissic also forced several turnovers and hit a couple 3-pointers.
Sounds a lot like former wing Carrick Felix, who did many of those things last season.
“They have some similarities,” Sendek said. “Both of them are elite athletes.”
Playing with a point guard like Carson helped, too.
“He’s easily the best player I’ve ever played with in my life,” McKissic said.
In the layup lines during warm-ups, McKissic had an impromptu dunk contest with Carson, which the fans thought McKissic had the better dunks.
There’s little doubt McKissic will be a major part of the rotation this season, but it will be interesting to see if he could win a starting spot on one of the wing positions against Marshall and freshman forward Egor Koulechov.
“Everyone wants those minutes,” McKissic said. “Everybody’s been working hard.”
3. Oh, and Koulechov is pretty good too.
Koulechov was another star in the scrimmage, filling the lanes on fastbreak, hitting outside shots and finishing layups.
“He’s a tough winner and also has a very good basketball IQ,” Sendek said.
Carson liked having both Koulechov and McKissic running along the sidelines throughout the entire scrimmage.
“They get out on the wing,” Carson said. “They’re getting used to this type of basketball (of quick tempo), and I think they’re going to be helpful for us.
4. Carson’s outside shot already looks better than last year.
Besides Carson’s small frame, many analysts believed his biggest weakness was his outside shooting.
Carson hit four 3-pointers in the game, with most of them being set shots from the top of the key. As he was developing a rhythm from the perimeter, it made it easier for him to attack the lane late in the scrimmage.
“I think everybody got an idea tonight of how much he’s improved as a shooter,” Sendek said.
Carson finished the game with 22 points and six assists.
5. Length (or lack thereof) may be an issue, especially without Bachynski.
With Bachynski out, the Sun Devils needed to look at their backup options at the five-spot. After 7-foot-2 Bachynski, the next tallest player is Eric Jacobsen at 6-foot-10, with senior Richie Edwards, junior Jonathan Gilling and sophomore Sai Tummala standing at 6-foot-7.
Throughout the scrimmage, the coaches experimented with many small lineups, with all four of those players seeing time at center. The big men often tipped the ball around after missed shots and had problems finishing around the basket.
“We don’t have an overly big team, especially if Jordan is going to be out,” Sendek said. “Jermaine Marshall was a big, strong guard that wasn’t out there tonight. We don’t have an exceedingly big team or a long team. Obviously Jordan changes that dramatically, Jermaine helps out considerably.”
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