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Two transfers hope to elevate ASU men's basketball to new heights this season

Marreon Jackson and DJ Horne hope to put ASU atop the the Pac-12 Conference this season with their past NCAA experience

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ASU graduate student guard Marreon Jackson (3) swings the ball to the corner during the season-opener against the University of Portland at Desert Financial Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. ASU won 76-60.

Guards graduate student Marreon Jackson and sophomore DJ Horne, both transfers, hope to elevate the Sun Devil men's basketball offense throughout the 2021-22 season using their past NCAA experience.

Jackson, who transferred from the University of Toledo and was the 2020-21 MAC Player of the Year, debuted on Tuesday against the University of Portland alongside Illinois State University transfer Horne. 

Jackson compiled a total of 1,817 career points and 574 career assists in four years with the Rockets. He played a total of 26 minutes against the Pilots Tuesday, going 1-7 and scoring two points. 

“Toledo made me the player I am today. They were patient with me,” Jackson said. “I was short, and I wasn't that strong. They really helped turn my game into what it is now. They molded me.”

Horne averaged 15.1 points, 2.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game last season with the Redbirds. He is the fourth transfer head coach Bobby Hurley brought in this offseason for the Sun Devils.

Horne was part of the 2018-19 MVC All-Freshman at Illinois and became the fifth on the team to enter the transfer portal since the team finished 7-18 last season.

“Coming out of high school, I wasn't recruited heavy. Illinois State was my first offer, so that kind of stuck with me,” Horne said. “It was a good two years there.”

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

The backcourt definitely complements each other, Jackson said. “There are no egos, and I think we all bring something different. Everyone knows what the team needs and that's going to be a big thing this year with us, with so many new guys,” he said.

Horne attributes his shared East Coast roots with the team’s added chemistry. 

“We all (the guards) come from the East Coast,” Horne said. “A lot of the things we're used to over there is the same. East Coast culture is different from West Coast, so that just makes it a lot easier.”

Both Horne and Jackson joined the Sun Devils in hopes of improving their game and careers. 

“Just the knowledge that he (Hurley) can teach me of the game," Horne said. “Like I said, him being at Duke, playing for Coach K and playing in the NBA. He's been to the highest stage before. Playing for somebody like that, you can't get better than that.” 

The Sun Devils competed in their first exhibition game on Nov. 1, defeating the University of Saint Katherine by a score of 108-41.

Of the 26 assists that ASU recorded in the matchup, redshirt junior Luther Muhammad and Jackson had the most assists on the team, with five each. 

“When you have a guy with Marreon’s experience, toughness, it's obviously a benefit when you're retooling a team like we're doing this year,” assistant coach Joel Justus said. “I think that we're extremely excited about how he's practiced, how he's trained, how he's played, and how he leads. So, for us, I don't think that there's anything but positive vibes and excitement when you think about Marreon.”

Horne also put up a big performance with 15 points against Saint Katherine and had 11 points with three field goals in five attempts against Portland on Tuesday. 

“He's an explosive offensive player. He can score the ball at three levels. He's a guy who can get in the paint, collapse the defense, and distribute,” Justus said. But he's also going to be a guy that's going to put pressure on the offense, on the defensive side of the floor. So, again, another guy that has a high motor similar to Marreon, where they play hard and fast on both ends of the floor.”

Last season, the Sun Devils finished with an 11-14 overall record, compiling a 7-10 record in conference play. The team finished toward the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference and failed to make the NCAA tournament.

“We have a really good team this year,” Jackson said. “They had a tough year last year, and I hope fans don't think that there's going to be any type of a repeat of that, especially with me being here.”

The Sun Devils will continue non-conference play on Nov. 11 against the University of California, Riverside 6:30 p.m. MST in Tempe. 

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Aayush Gupta

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