ASU Basketball has a bright future ahead

The Sun Devils had a disappointing season, but Bobby Hurley and his recruits make the future look promising

It's that time of year again when millions of people spend all day watching basketball games, root on miracle Cinderella teams making runs through the tournament and slowly watch pre-made bracket predictions crumble right in front of their eyes. 

March Madness is college basketball players', coaches' and fans' favorite time of the year.

Unfortunately, the ASU men’s basketball team is missing out on the madness for the third season in a row. However, there is a bright future for the Sun Devils team.

Head coach Bobby Hurley turned around the University of Buffalo's team and took it to the NCAA Tournament in just his second season there. ASU is hoping that it can do the same with the Sun Devils.

”His heart is definitely in it,” said Joseph Camporeale, a sports journalism professor at ASU and photographer for USA Today. “If he can consistently get the right players that fit his style, he could be the coach to take ASU to the next level.”

Although the Sun Devils had a disappointing season this year, finishing 15-18, they had some major unforeseen complications that hindered their success.

Before the season began, ASU looked like it could have made a stride to success when the team had a top 25 recruiting class. The team got three of ESPN.com Top-100 prospects in Jethro Tshisumpa, Romello White and Sam Cunliffe, who was its highest rated recruit at No. 41.

The biggest disappointment occurred when the promising Cunliffe decided to ask for his scholarship release and unexpectedly left midway through the season.

“The whole Cunliffe situation was unfortunate for both sides,” Camporeale said. “Both sides adjusted accordingly, but still unfortunate. There was a lot of promise there and we can only wonder at this point.”

In addition, White, a 6-foot-8-inch forward who can really score in the post, was ruled academically ineligible before the season even began.

While it’s unclear if White’s talents would have had the same impact as they did in high school, the team definitely missed the presence of big men this season, especially after failing to land the No. 10 pick in the NBA Draft, Thon Maker.

“It's tough to speculate if one player would have made a difference or not,” Camporeale said. “The bench might have been a little deeper with him in the lineup, which could have given Hurley another option.”

Tshisumpa didn’t make up for the offensive fire power that Maker and White would have had this year as he only scored 25 points the whole season. However, Tshisumpa did make a big difference on the defensive end, as he was expected to do. 

This year he had 25 blocks in 193 minutes — an average of one block every 7.72 minutes that he was on the court. With White and other players joining, hopefully Tshisumpa can get more minutes so he can scare opposing offenses with his fantastic defense.

The Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA, and obviously ASU's record reflects it hasn’t had the talent to be a strong competitor in recent seasons.

“The team could have used a little more talent and a deeper bench,” Camporeale said. “They played in a tough conference that had some of the nation's top teams in it.”

Getting more talent is exactly what the Sun Devils are doing. This year’s recruiting class already has three four-star commits, two of them being ESPN.com Top-100 prospects. 

Their two Top-100 players are 6-foot-5-inch small forward Kimani Lawrence from Providence, Rhode Island, and 6-foot point guard Remy Martin from Chatsworth, California. The team's other commit is Kenneth Wooten, a 6-foot-9-inch power forward from Manteca, California. Wooten will add size, rebounding and scoring down low with the other big men — something ASU definitely missed this season.

ASU also has three highly talented recruits still considering Tempe as their college destination: Alfred HollinsMatur Maker and Jordan Goldwire. If ASU can land any of those players, it would have a fantastic recruiting class once again as it shows a promising future.

The Sun Devils won’t have an amazing season out of nowhere — it will take them some time. 

The team probably isn’t going to have a breakout season next year, but with Hurley bringing in more and more top players, the team should become much improved and continue to make strides toward becoming a true tournament contender.


Reach the columnist at kmarlin1@asu.edu or follow @kynan_marlin on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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