After a season in which ASU basketball made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 and then lost arguably its three best players, head coach Herb Sendek has taken a new focus for how to bolster his team.
This year, more than any other year in his tenure at ASU, Sendek has looked toward junior college transfers to make an immediate impact. Sendek had success with this last year with senior forward Shaquielle McKissic, who transferred from Edmonds Community College in Washington. McKissic averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 27 minutes a game as the fourth scoring option for the Sun Devils last season as well as leading the team in steals.
This year ASU welcomes four juco transfers in junior guards Willie Atwood, Gerry Blakes and Roosevelt Scott as well as sophomore forward Savon Goodman. Both Scott and Goodman played for Indian Hills Community College in Iowa under coach Barret Peery, who joined the ASU coaching staff as an assistant coach in April.
Sendek said wishes that he took more advantage of junior college transfers earlier in his tenure at ASU. He also shared his thoughts on why more student-athletes seem to be transferring than have in previous years. Redshirt freshman point guard Calaen Robinson, junior forward Brandan Kearney and freshman guard Egor Koulechov all transferred out of the program.
“I’ve always said that what goes on in basketball is a reflection of society,” Sendek said. “Kids today have to make decisions from early on, the way we socialize them. They change their careers more often than people used to change jobs.”
Sendek noted how prominent NBA players, such as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and LeBron James, have switched teams in free agency more often than before.
He said he intends to change how he implements his players next season, saying that he does not want to assign positions. Instead of having a set point guard, for example, Sendek says he will experiment with different primary ball handlers on any given play as well as different lineups.
“I don’t want to put any restrictions on what we can do as a team,” Sendek said. “My job as coach is to put the best guys on the court.”
One such change Sun Devil fans might see next season is more use of small ball lineups, in which four perimeter players space the floor so there’s more room to drive to the lane. This could be especially successful given how many athletic guards and forwards ASU has on its roster.
A main storyline for ASU sports all season has been the change in the stadiums they play. ASU began renovations for Sun Devil Stadium, home to the football team, that will be an estimated $225 million project that will last until 2017. ASU baseball waved goodbye to Packard Stadium this year and will play in Phoenix Municipal Stadium next season.
Sendek said renovating Wells Fargo Arena would begin with an assessment phase to see if it’s worth it, but that it’s a “tired building.”
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