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Alonzo Gaffney hopes to make an impact in first year with ASU men's basketball

After playing at Ohio State University and Northwest Florida State College, Gaffney joined the Sun Devils in hopes of making it to the NBA

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ASU junior forward Alonzo Gaffney (32) practices in the Weatherup Center in Tempe on Saturday, July 31, 2021. 

After playing at Northwest Florida State College and Ohio State University, junior forward Alonzo Gaffney joined the Sun Devil men's basketball team and hopes to impress in his first season in Tempe. 

Gaffney is one of four transfers to join ASU. The Sun Devils are expected to have only three scholarship players return from last year's roster — junior forward Jalen Graham, graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence and sophomore forward Marcus Bagley — and now have 10 new scholarship players this season.

Gaffney played for three different high schools, spending two years at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, one year at Garfield Heights High School, and his senior year at Brewster Academy

In his sophomore season at Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Gaffney averaged 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds a game and won the Division III state title, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Following his sophomore season, Gaffney transferred to Garfield Heights, a Division I school with tremendous talent. He would go on to average 18.2 points, nine rebounds and four blocks a game. 

In his senior season at Brewster Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, he averaged 10 points and six rebounds per game and led the Bobcats to a National Prep Championship.

"My junior year, when I got the offer from Ohio State, I jumped on the opportunity to go to that school because that was home for me," Gaffney said. "During my senior year at Brewster Academy, I was already focused on my school and where I wanted to be."

Gaffney's father, Kevin Gaffney, played high school basketball at Alliance High School during the late 1970s, where he would average 17 points, 12 rebounds and earn first-team All-Ohio. Kevin Gaffney went on to play at the University of Cincinnati, where he averaged 11 points a game.

"I got into basketball through my dad. He played at UC and spent a little time overseas. My sister played basketball at Northern Kentucky (University), so I just grew up watching basketball, watching my family play." Gaffney said. 

Gaffney spent one season with the Buckeyes in 2019-20 before transferring to Northwest Florida State. 

"Going to Northwest Florida State, they have a great tradition in terms of basketball, toughness, style of play, and I think with the way we play in the Pac-12, he's a guy that should be able to have an impact for us this year and hopefully many years," assistant coach Joel Justus said.

Northwest Florida State, located in Niceville, Florida, has just four varsity sports: men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and softball. Gaffney appeared in 21 games for the Raiders and averaged 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists.  

"I feel like it helped humble me," Gaffney said of the junior college experience. "Nothing's just given. I got to play the whole year, and that was the main thing for me. It taught me a lot and made me a lot stronger mentally."

Gaffney was one of three Buckeyes to transfer out following the 2019-20 season including then-freshman guard D.J. Carton and then-sophomore guard Luther Muhammad, who joined the Sun Devils in 2020.

"We looked at some film, and he looked pretty unique in terms of just his length and his movement," head coach Bobby Hurley said. "I think he fits into our style of players, just because of how active and how agile he is." 

Gaffney emphasized the importance of experience when making his decision to attend ASU.

"Being coached by Bobby Hurley, one of the hardest workers in the game. He won two NCAA Championships, and there's so much you can learn from that man." Gaffney said. "The coaching staff — coach Joel, he was at Kentucky — so we have a lot of guys on, around our team that have a different perspective of the game and have played at the level that we want to be. We just have to sit back and listen and work hard."

Gaffney will compete for playing time with Canadian freshman center Enoch Boakye.

"I hope to get quality minutes and showcase myself," Gaffney said. "I know my role is to rebound, run the floor, and play hard throughout the whole game."

According to Hurley, Gaffney can create his own shot, rebound in traffic and defend multiple positions. 

"He's been playing like he's got something to prove," Hurley said.

Gaffney and the Sun Devils are set to begin the 2021-22 basketball season on Nov. 9 against the University of Portland at 5 p.m. MST in Tempe. 

Correction: This story was updated on Oct. 24 at 3:05 p.m. to correct the number of scholarship players returning from last year's team.

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Aayush Gupta

sports reporter

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