From suspensions to 6th man, Colvin matures as a leader

Senior guard Chris Colvin knows what’s coming after a good practice day.

ASU coach Herb Sendek will remind him about his progress over the last year.

“Coach does it every practice when I have a good practice, so you’ll hear him every now and then,” Colvin said.

Colvin said he uses the past as learning experiences, but he's quick to rip off his rear view mirror. Though it’s difficult to ignore his greatest learning curve as a Sun Devil.

Colvin was suspended on Jan. 5, 2012 right before ASU’s road trip to USC and UCLA. He was suspended for “conduct detrimental to any team,” Sendek said.

It wasn’t his first suspension as a Sun Devil, let alone on a Division I team.Colvin also missed three games for violating team rules during his freshman season at Iowa State. He opted to transfer after the end of the season.

“It took time,” former assistant coach Scott Pera said about Colvin integrating with the team. Pera is now an assistant at the University of Penn. “Let’s not kid each other and I think Chris would be the first one to admit it. It was frustrating moments for him and frustrating moments on our side of it as well, but then we started to see some breakthroughs.”

Colvin didn’t watch his team play the Trojans or the Bruins. He said he was trying to get away and get focused. His goal was to get back on the team as soon as possible.

He wasn’t the only one suspended on that trip. Sendek also suspended Kyle Cain and Keala King on the trip. Those were two of his closest friends on the team and were big influences on why Colvin transferred to ASU from Palm Beach Community College. Colvin and Cain are both from Chicago, while Colvin said he blended in with King.

Colvin and Cain were reinstated after the team returned from southern California. King was kicked off the team and transferred to Long Beach State. Cain transferred at the end of the season to UNC-Greensboro.

“With those two guys leaving, I knew that I would be here on my own,” Colvin said. “Basically those were the two guys I hung out with last year so I had to get with the guys.”

He knew with Cain and King gone, he had to step up. He was going into his final season and his past was stained with unfulfilled potential. King and Cain’s absence was probably just what he needed to get his mind right.

“I have more focus on the basketball court this year,” Colvin said. “With the guys that we have, we hang out and do team stuff. That kept me in a positive mode to do what I need to do.”

Senior wing Carrick Felix noticed the change once the summer started during offseason workouts and into preseason workouts. He said Colvin is at the Weatherup Center all the time putting in extra work on his game.

He never thought Colvin was off track, but he just needed people around that believed in him.

“It’s going to show,” Felix said. “Sometimes he’d play in and out through the preseason schedule, but definitely in this conference we’re going to need him. He’s definitely the x-factor for us and we believe in him.”

To coin a phrase that football coach Todd Graham trademarked, Felix said Colvin is “all in.” Colvin has stepped up as one of the vocal leaders on the team.

He’s assisted the freshmen on the team when they need something. Felix went as far as to describe Colvin as, a big brother type.

"You can look up to him because he’ll set a good example and he’ll tell you what you really need to hear,” Felix said.

Sendek announced Colvin as the sixth man in front of the team in the locker room. Colvin has never been a sixth man since he’s played basketball, but he told Sendek he was going to embrace the role to the best of his ability.

“You’ve always got to adjust when playing this game,” Colvin said. “There’s different things thrown at you. That was one of the things thrown at me this year, and I told him I’d take the role and go with it.”

He’s not leading the Pac-12, nor his team, in any statistical category. He’s averaging 5.7 points, 1.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 19.6 minutes a game. But the x-factor has brought plenty of unquantifiable characteristics to a team that’s off to a surprising 3-1 start in Pac-12 play.

“He’s made so much progress and I’m so proud of Chris in every way,” Sendek said. “Right now, he’s bringing toughness to our team, he’s playing with a lot of energy and heart and really making his teammates better in a lot of different ways.”

Colvin has been a spark off the bench in recent games, providing another facilitator on the court along with redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson. He’s also played well defensively.

“He’s the best defender on the team by far,” Felix said. “He’s very scrappy, gets to the ball and he brings his Chicago toughness onto the court. That’s one thing that separates him from a lot of guys on the team. He may not score a bunch, not saying he can’t because he can score the ball, but one that I can say is he’ll bring defensive pressure.”

Colvin said the suspension prepared him for this moment. While he doesn’t look back at last season much, he learned how to stay focused and committed to his team.

“I wouldn’t say it’s satisfying, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Colvin said. “If I keep having a positive mentality, the team is just going to get better, I’m going to get better as an individual and we’re just going to roll.”


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