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Sendek remains positive despite struggles

Remaining Upbeat: ASU senior guard Ty Abbott tries to drive inside during the Sun Devils’ 67-52 loss to UA on Sunday. Despite the team’s poor Pac-10 record, Abbott has had a strong year on the defensive side of the ball. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)
Remaining Upbeat: ASU senior guard Ty Abbott tries to drive inside during the Sun Devils’ 67-52 loss to UA on Sunday. Despite the team’s poor Pac-10 record, Abbott has had a strong year on the defensive side of the ball. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

It is natural human instinct to put your head down and mope around when you don’t get your way.

When the desired result is not achieved, it is easy to give up when your goal is no longer attainable.

At this point, it is clear to all involved in the program that the ASU men’s basketball team hasn’t had desirable results and will miss its goals by a long shot.

So, one would imagine that it would be hard to stay positive as the season enters its final leg.

However, the Sun Devils are staying positive, thanks to the approach of their head coach.

“He’s a class act guy,” senior guard Jamelle McMillan said of Herb Sendek. “I don’t think anyone else could have handled this situation any better. He comes in every day fully prepared with a lot of energy.

“He’s done a fantastic job of keeping the guys’ minds right, coming up with motivational speeches, videos, quotes, articles, whatever it may be. His positive attitude towards the situation has helped this team improve.”

Sendek has said that he wants to keep everything nine-tenths positive, even after dropping 10 straight conference games.

But he doesn’t want to confuse staying positive with ignoring areas that need improvement.

“I would say less of that and more of telling them the truth, but in a positive way. I haven’t relied a lot on gimmicks or rah rah speeches,” Sendek said. “Every once in a while there will be an article that I will share with the team. I just try to give them honest feedback. As much as we are trying to be positive, that shouldn’t be misconstrued as being honest.”

Abbott Lacking Credit For Defense

If you ask anyone inside of the program, senior guard Ty Abbott is one of the best defensive players in the Pac-10.

“I don’t think he gets the kind of recognition he deserves as a defensive player,” Sendek said. “I would champion him any day as one of the best defenders. I may be biased, but I really believe that.”

Abbott has become an excellent shot blocker as a guard, especially at closing out and swatting away opponent’s 3-point attempts.

Against UA on Sunday, Abbott had two of them.

“The guy closed out from the opposite block almost and blocked two threes,” McMillan said. “Ty is fully capable of doing that, we call him Ty Robot, he just keeps going.”

Sendek believes that Abbott has something more than just his great athletic ability.

“There are guys that have the same athletic ability that would have never made some of the plays he made the other night,” Sendek said. “Those plays were more a function of his heart and his competitiveness and his desire to do well than his athleticism. In some cases it’s almost like the parent who lifts the car off of their kid. It’s not like they are very strong, it’s because they really care. Ty really cares.”

Abbott loves to play defense. He got that mindset from his high school basketball coach at Phoenix Desert Vista High School.

“When we had tryouts and first practices, the first two and a half weeks we didn’t use a ball,” Abbott said. “It was drilled into me. That’s how we played in high school; it was man-to-man, full court. Let’s get turnovers and let’s go dunk.”

Blocking a 3-point shot is challenging, especially with the threat of fouling so prevalent, especially when Abbott is charging full steam ahead at a jump shooter.

“Timing, I try to make it seem like I’m not going to get there and I jump a second or two before,” Abbott said. “You can read their eyes. You can tell if he is going to shoot it.”

It’s not a guarantee that Abbott will make the all-defensive team this season, and Sendek thinks that sometimes the wrong statistics are used to make selections for that team.

“Sometimes too much has given to who has the most steals,” Sendek said. “It has been my experience that sometimes the guy with the most steals is one of the worst defensive players, or who has the most shot blocks, not that those things aren’t good, but we look for numbers to support our feelings. They miss some of the important subtleties that make a good defensive player.”

In his mind, Abbott knows he could very easily be on the list of the Pac-10’s top defenders, but might get ignored because he plays in a zone defense.

“I definitely think I could be there,” Abbott said. “I think I can play defense with the best of them. I haven’t made any all-defensive teams or that. We play a zone, so I don’t know if you can single out one person.”

Hollins, Scott to be honored

Prior to Thursday’s game against Washington, two more Sun Devils greats will get the ultimate honor of seeing their number raised to the Wells Fargo Arena rafters.

Lionel Hollins and Byron Scott will be in attendance, as their numbers will be hung next to Joe Caldwell’s.

Hollins played at ASU from 1973 to 1975, averaging 17 points per game and spending 10 seasons in the NBA. He currently serves as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Scott wore the maroon and gold from 1979 to 1983 averaging 17.5 points per game, and like Hollins, was a first round selection in the NBA Draft. After spending 14 seasons playing in the NBA, Scott has served as the head coach for the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and currently is the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Scott was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2008 with New Orleans, while Hollins is a strong candidate to receive the award this season.

“What a unique opportunity we have to tribute,” Sendek said. “Not only do we have two great players, but two present day NBA coaches coming into our building and deservedly getting their numbers put up in the rafters. What a unique and special opportunity that is.”

Reach the reporter at andrew.gruman@asu.edu


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