This year’s ASU men's basketball team will look quite different with a number of different players taking on a variety of new roles, but coach Bobby Hurley thinks it could be even better.
The Sun Devils had one of its most successful basketball seasons in school history last year, climbing all the way to number three in the AP poll before a disappointing loss in the play-in game of the NCAA tournament.
“Knowing the recruiting class and knowing who we had sitting out, it was always my thought that this one has the chance to be our best team," Hurley said. “We’re bigger and more athletic than any team I’ve ever had, and it has the potential to be the best defensive team that I’ve coached anywhere.”
The team features a bevy of talented guards, and Hurley will quickly have to determine how to divvy up the limited number of minutes.
Sophomore guard Remy Martin burst onto the scene last year as a relatively unheralded freshman and has quickly established himself as the logical pick to begin the season as the team’s starting point guard. With the departure of guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans, Martin has slowly but surely grown into his role as a team leader — a big step for someone who few expected would play meaningful minutes this time last year.
“I’m a born leader,” Martin said. “My goal is to get the best out of my guys and just to win games here. I’m here to lead my guys to the best of their potential.”
The other starting guard position opposite Martin will likely be a point of speculation for a majority of the season, but early on it appears freshman Luguentz Dort has the inside track on the starting job.
Dort, one of the country’s top recruits, has earned rave reviews in his limited time at ASU and has impressed Hurley with his skills on the defensive side of the floor.
“When it’s all said and done, I don’t know if I’ll coach a better defensive guard than (Dort),” Hurley said. “As soon as he got here, Lu had an immediate impact on everything we do. He has such a presence in practice and affects practice in so many different ways. He attacks the basket, is super athletic and strong and, again, I think he’s got the potential to be just an incredible defender.”
Edwards, a redshirt junior guard who spent his last two years with the Cleveland State Vikings, sat out all of last season and is anxious to make an impact for a team primed to build off last year’s success.
“I did think last year I think I could have helped,” Edwards said. “This year, we’re more focused on defense. We still have guys who can score the ball but for the most part we are looking to get stops.”
Cheatham, a redshirt senior forward and transfer from San Diego State, is equally excited about returning to college basketball and the role he can play on the team. A phenomenal athlete who’s listed at 6 feet 8 inches tall, Cheatham presents a matchup problem that Hurley has not had the luxury of possessing during his time at ASU.
“Zylan Cheatham is as good an athlete as there is in the college game,” said Hurley. “He can guard multiple positions, has a 42-inch vertical and when you have guys like that it gives you a lot of flexibility defensively and really helps our rebounding.”
Expectations have never been higher for Hurley and the rest of the team, and a successful season could redefine the national perception surrounding Sun Devil basketball.
"Everybody's locked in," said Cheatham. "We all battle together and compete together every day. Everybody wants to make this year one to remember."