Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Men's Basketball Preview

by T.J. Lovejoy, Pitchfork Nation Men's Basketball contributor.

As the eyes of the sporting world turn to Eugene this weekend for the football match-up of the year, another promising Sun Devil team jumps into action back in Tempe. The college basketball season is right around the corner and Herb Sendek’s bunch is full of promise. While this year’s basketball squad won’t achieve the type of success that the football team has reached, what we will see is how far the team has come under just one year of tutelage under Sendek. Although five of the top six scorers from last year’s team are returning, expect a whole new look for this year’s team.


Sendek and his staff have shown their recruiting prowess by bringing in seven new faces with loads of talent. The first is Eric Boateng, a 6-10, 245 pound, sophomore center who transferred from Duke soon after Sendek arrived in the Valley. The other six newcomers are all freshmen, led by McDonald’s All-American James Harden. Harden, a 6-4 guard from Artesia High School in Lakewood, California a suburb of Los Angeles, will be expected to start immediately for the Sun Devils and provide much needed scoring. While Harden has arrived as a heralded recruit, another freshman, Jamelle McMillan, has arrived under the radar and should make an immediate impact. McMillan, the son of Portland Trail Blazers head coach and former Seattle Super Sonics star Nate McMillan, will challenge Derek Glasser and Antwi Atuahene for minutes at the point guard position and could even find himself in the starting spot by the season’s beginning.

With all these new faces, we can expect to see an influx of talent and energy but a lack of experience. This will result in a season full of ups and downs and flashes of brilliance. The importance of this recruiting class will be felt for years, as it has provided the foundation of credibility for the ASU program that has been missing, which will bring in high caliber recruits in the near future. In addition to more energy and talent, the Sun Devil newcomers will allow Herb Sendek to play a rotation that features depth…something last year’s team could only dream of. We could see as many as four new starters this year, with Jeff Pendergraph finishing out the starting lineup. This will move players like Glasser, Jerren Shipp, and Christian Polk to the bench where they can come in as valuable substitutes with a year of Pac-10 experience under their belts. A deeper bench may allow ASU to win a few more of the close games that they lost last year due to a lack of depth and experience in late game situations. More depth also means that we may see less of the zone defense that Sendek was forced to run so much last year. A deeper rotation will allow Sendek to change defensive schemes to frustrate the opposition. Look for the Sun Devils to again have one of the stingiest defenses in the Pac-10.

The foundation for the Sun Devil basketball team is junior forward Jeff Pendergraph, who averaged 12.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg last year. Pendergraph, a projected first round selection in the 2008 NBA Draft, should step his game up this year with the presence of Boateng, who should pull away some of the double and triple teams that Pendergraph faced continually last year. While ASU has a number of talented guards and wing players, depth in the post behind Pendergraph and Boateng is lacking in proven players. If these two get into foul trouble, look for ASU to run its own version of small ball.

James Harden is the future of the Sun Devil basketball and will open many eyes this year in a Pac-10 conference that is overloaded with talent. Artesia High School has been known for producing great college basketball talent, most of which usually ends up at UCLA in the form of the O'Bannon brothers of the 1995 UCLA championship team and in current Miami Heat sharpshooter Jason Kapono. Artesia achieved its greatest success with Harden and current teammate Derek Glasser leading the team, winning the California Divison III State Basketball Championship back-to-back seasons in 2006 and without Glasser in 2007. Look for Harden to put up big numbers in non-conference play and play solidly against the talented shooting guards of the Pac-10. Harden is an extremely athletic guard who can shoot the lights out from deep and easily make his way through the lane. Want more proof? Check out this YouTube video of his high school days. Harden is #13 in the video and yes, that between the legs dunk (during a game!) at the end of the video is our man. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFG5IjBx37M%20%20

While this year’s team will definitely have talent and promise, it will still struggle at times being such a young team (1 Senior, 3 Juniors). The team’s success will hinge upon how the newcomers take to Sendek’s system and how the veterans adjust to all of the new players in the rotation. While the Sun Devils are a conference sleeper in the eyes of some experts, expect them to win a few more conference games this year but still finish in the bottom half of the extremely talented Pac-10. While this year’s team will definitely be better than last year’s lovable effort squad, the 2008-2009 season will be the year that ASU makes its move into the top of the conference and finally challenges the University of Arizona for state supremacy.

3 comments:

Bobby said...

Nice work Rev. Can't wait to see what Sendek does with this team in year 2.

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