The vast majority of record holders at major college basketball programs are highly recruited players out of high school.
It is not too often that a player that was going to walk on at a program finds himself etched in another school’s record books when he graduates.
That is the Derek Glasser story.
Glasser was all set to walk on to the USC men’s basketball program before Herb Sendek was hired as the head coach at ASU and desperately needed a point guard.
Glasser got the late scholarship offer and the rest is history — literally.
When his time is up at ASU, Glasser’s name will sit atop the record books as ASU’s all-time leader in assists, free-throw percentage and games played, while spearheading the Sun Devils climb from bottom-feeder to an NCAA Tournament contender by providing the guts and determination as their leader.
If you would have told that to Sendek four years ago, he may have called you crazy.
“I would have probably thought that was a stretch,” Sendek said. “Not that I would have known at that time very much at all what would happen, but Derek has had a brilliant career. His assists record won’t be easy to break.”
Because of necessity, Glasser was thrown into the fire immediately during his freshman season. He started 21 games and, like everyone else on that team, experienced the lows of an 8-22 season.
Glasser improved as the season went on, scoring in double-digits six times during Pac-10 play.
In his final eight games of his first season, he averaged 9.1 points per game and hit the game winning 3-pointer in ASU’s season finale upset over California.
“Everybody pays their dues, [and] as a freshman I didn’t know what to expect,” Glasser said. “I wasn’t ready to be a starting point guard in the Pac-10. All the experience I have gained in playing in all the games, it helps you grow as a player.”
After his freshman season, Glasser was joined on campus by former high school teammate James Harden, and things began to look up for the ASU program.
In his sophomore and junior seasons, ASU made the leap from 8-22 to the NIT and then the NCAA Tournament.
Last season, Glasser thrived during postseason play. He was named to the All-Pac 10 Tournament team and scored 22 points in ASU’s NCAA Tournament win over Temple.
Through it all, he constantly grew as a player and a leader.
“He has done an incredibly good job for us over the course of his career,” Sendek said. “I think he has improved and probably has come to playing to his potential, which I think is one of the best compliments anybody can receive.”
One of the biggest impacts Glasser has had is changing the culture around the program. Just four short years ago, it was all right to lose at ASU. Now nothing short of winning is acceptable.
A huge credit has to go to Glasser for that.
“It is at a much better place than when we got here,” Glasser said. “Coach Sendek has done a great job of changing the culture. It is not OK to lose now. You come here to win a Pac-10 Championship and not just to be in the Pac-10.”
In his senior season, Glasser has gone through his ups and downs, but one thing has stayed constant. With a lead late, nobody is better at closing out opponents.
“Who would you rather have the ball at the end of the game?” Sendek said. “He doesn’t turn it over and he makes all of his free throws.”
No Sun Devil has played more games than Glasser, so his last time playing in front of the home faithful on Saturday figures to garner a big ovation from the crowd.
“I am trying as hard as I can not to think about it because I know it is going to be such an emotional day,” Glasser said of Senior Day. “The roller- coaster ride is had its ups and its downs, and it is just going to be a tough day.”
Glasser will be for remembered for his resiliency and toughness on the basketball court. He became Mr. Clutch for ASU, showing an unbelievable knack for knocking down key 3-pointers.
It was Glasser who knocked down a big shot during his junior season to help ASU knock off UA, and it was also Glasser who drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to cement a season sweep of UCLA last season.
As one NBA scout put it while watching Glasser lead the Sun Devils during the first half of last Saturday’s game at Cal, “Glasser plays tougher than he looks.”
His ultimate goal is to play professional basketball somewhere. While playing in the NBA may be a stretch, Glasser has been the underdog before and has the heart, determination and experiences to continue to prove doubters wrong.
“Hopefully some basketball, that is for sure,” Glasser said of his future goals. “I have talked to some people, but I will know more after the season. We are leaving that for after the season.”
The future can wait for now, because Glasser is still focused on the here and now.
While he already holds three prestigious records, a team goal is what would put the cherry on top of his career as a Sun Devil.
“It will hit me later on — I haven’t focused on personal goals really,” Glasser said of his place in the record books. “I will be able to look in five and 10 years and say, ‘Wow, I did that.’ Right now, I am just focused on making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.”
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