ASU men's basketball uses Mill Madness hype to prepare for upcoming season

Hundreds of fans showed up to Mill Avenue in Tempe to watch their favorite players showcase their skills

The 75-degree weather, a Zylan Cheatham dunk over three of his teammates and an outstanding crowd were the highlights of this year's Mill Madness on Mill Avenue Friday night.

The event serves as an opening to the ASU women's and men’s basketball season and a way to give their fans an opportunity to see the players for the upcoming season.

If last year's Mill Madness generated buzz, this year's definitely surpassed it. The event began at approximately 8:45 p.m., when both teams were introduced at center court along with the coaching staffs. It followed with a skills challenge and a three-point competition, and it ended with the signature dunk contest.

Although this event is a way to entertain the fans of both teams, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said the atmosphere gives his players a reason to be excited for the upcoming season. He jokingly said his players talked about it all week and had a hard time focusing during practice. 

“They know how close the season is now, and this is just a celebration of the beginning,” Hurley said.  “A couple of guys get to showcase their bounce, some other guys their shooting range. It is great for the program.” 

The upcoming season will be led by the team's top-scorers from last season, senior guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II, who have added much needed size to their backcourt. 

Redshirt freshman forwards Vitaliy Shibel and Romello White, freshman forward Kimani Lawrence, sophomore forward Mickey Mitchell and junior transfer forward De’Quon Lake will all look to make an immediate impact in the backcourt as they make their debuts for the Sun Devils this season.

Mitchell, however, will not be able to play until December due to NCAA’s transfer rules — he sat out last year as well. 

The Sun Devils were not efficient in the backcourt last year — in the Pac-12 conference alone they were 11th in points allowed, 12th in rebounds and 11th in blocked shots. 

Shibel, who was out last year due to a knee injury, said he is looking forward to changing that narrative and eager for the season to start. 

“I can’t wait to play,” Shibel said. “I haven’t played in a year, so I just can’t wait to be on the court helping my team and cherishing this moment.”

ASU will look to make a statement in the first half of the season where they have the opportunity to square off against four NCAA tournament teams from last year in the first half of the season.

The Sun Devils will travel to Las Vegas on Nov. 23-24 to participate in the Continental Tire Invitational, which includes Kansas St. (2017 NCAA appearance), Xavier (2017 NCAA appearance) and George Washington.

Then on Dec. 10 they will head to Lawrence to face off against No. 4 Kansas, which will be televised on ESPN, and will play host to Vanderbilt on Dec. 17. Both teams appeared in the 2017 NCAA tournament. 

The Sun Devils open up their season at Wells Fargo Arena versus Idaho State on Nov. 10.

Reach the reporter at or follow @felipecorraljr on Twitter.  

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