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King picking it up in practice, on the court

Keala King will be the first person to tell you that his practice habits weren’t acceptable.

The freshman came into ASU thinking that his raw talent would get him by like it did in high school.

He was wrong, and it prevented him from both seeing the playing time that he wanted and becoming the player he desired to be.

“I wasn’t a good practice player,” King said. “I didn’t have a good work ethic coming into college.”

King admitted that the seniors, especially guard Ty Abbott, tried to warn him about his work ethic and how hard it is to be successful at the collegiate level, but he wasn’t listening.

“He tried to tell me all the time,” King said. “A hard-headed kid like I am, I wasn’t listening. Now I see what he meant.”

Something had to change, and in the last few weeks, after meetings with ASU coach Herb Sendek, King has changed the way he practices.

“His attitude has been phenomenal the last few weeks in practice,” senior guard Jamelle McMillan said. “You see a huge difference from the beginning of the year. He’s become a practice player, which has put him in position to be successful.”

Since his practice habits have picked up, King’s production on the court has as well.  This past Thursday, King grabbed eight rebounds against Washington and then on Saturday scored 10 points in a victory over Washington State.

“I knew I had to do something to get on the court,” King said. “I just wanted to practice well and come in with a good attitude.”

Part of King’s struggles stemmed from his inability to embrace his role as the backup point guard, a position he’d never played before.

“He had to embrace the point guard position,” McMillan said. “He’s a guy that’s not a fan of it, but he’s good at it. Coming off the pick and roll you have to make a decision, if you don’t hard hedge him I don’t know what you are going to do, because he finds people.”

With help from McMillan, King is starting to embrace the position and learning how to be a point guard.

“Early in the season I wasn’t able to run the point as well,” King said. “I’ve never been a point guard before college, now I’m starting to get a lot more comfortable.

“Jamelle has helped me a lot. He tells me what to do and what not to do. He tells me how to come off picks, he just gives me a lot of keys and points on how to play point guard.”

With highly touted point guard Jahii Carson joining the Sun Devils next season, King won’t have to play the point guard position as much and can shift to his more natural position as shooting guard.

As a good friend of Carson, King has a clear message for him if he wants to be successful as a freshman.

“I hope he comes in with a good mindset and knowing that he has to grind hard because college is not easy at all,” King said. “I hope him and coach Herb [Sendek] can go through things in practice where he can get better and I hope he listens.

“If he doesn’t, he is going to go through the same things I went through, that’s having to sit out a couple of games watching other players play, knowing you should be out there.”

Early wakeup call

Much has been made of ASU assistant coaches Scott Pera and Lamont Smith crashing the team breakfast prior to the WSU game to fire up and energize the team.

It turns out that McMillan got an even earlier wakeup call.

Pera called him at 5:30 a.m.

“I got the voicemail,” McMillan said. “I didn’t receive the phone call, but the voicemail was about eight minutes long and it was in all caps.”

Creekmur finding groove

Fresh off of a career high 18 points on Saturday against Washington State, freshman Chanse Creekmur put on an impressive shooting display in practice on Monday.

“Yesterday was a joke,” McMillan said. “He was 29-for-32 from a 3-shooting drill off the run.  People call him Baby Rik.  He’s right there [with the best shooters].”

Creekmur went five-for-eight from 3-point range against the Cougars.

Injury update

Sendek is unsure if Abbott and fellow senior Rihards Kuksiks will play this Thursday against UCLA.

Kuksiks has missed the previous two games with a sprained ankle he suffered against UA, while Abbott missed the WSU game with a left shoulder injury.

Both have yet to practice this week.

“They are getting better but at this point I don’t know if they are able to play and if they do to what capacity,” Sendek said. “We’ve had a number of guys play in games without the best practice preparation this year.”

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