2011/12 Pac-12 Preview: Arizona State

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by: John Chase

The Sun Devils finished last in the Pac-10 the previous season with a miserable 4-14 record in conference and a not much better 12-19 overall. Only Kyle Cain played in each of the 31 games during the season. The other 4 starters played in 29 games at most. It was a very down year for the Devils, but not surprisingly so as their roster featured 6 freshmen, 4 sophomores, only 1 junior, and 3 seniors. The youth on this team should be much better going into this season as they’ll have a little more experience under their belt. That said, the Devils will likely finish in the bottom 3 or 4. They simply don’t have the talent to compete with the majority of the conference. After losing Derek Glasser, the Devils have been hurting for some serious talent and it isn’t looking like this will be their year either.

Key Losses

The Sun Devils lose 3 seniors coming into this season all of whom started and played significant minutes throughout the year. The 3 seniors were the second, third, and fourth highest scorers on a team that averaged a mere 64 points per game (UW averaged around 20 points higher).

Richard Kuksiks:

Kuksiks was a fairly consistent player his entire ASU career. His last three seasons averaged 10.3, 12.1, and 10.4 points per game. He has a solid outside shot, hitting around 40% each and every year, and was also an excellent free throw shooter finishing his career just under 80%. Kuksiks was never a super talent in the conference by any means, but his ability to hit from range made him a dangerous player that had to be kept in check, lest he drop 20+ points from outside. He was a decent enough defender and at 6-6 in a G-F position, he often created a bit of a mismatch when Isaiah Thomas or Venoy Overton was forced to guard him.

Ty Abbott:

Much like Kuksiks, Abbott was consistent though never a terribly threatening player during his time at Arizona State. He averaged a little over 12 points per game his final two seasons along with 3 to 4 rebounds. Abbott possessed a nice 3-point shot, but was not as deadly as Kuksiks. The real loss from Abbott comes from his experience and leadership abilities on the court as a senior player. Honestly, when thinking back on the season, I remember his name and I could probably point him out without his numbered jersey on, but I don’t remember any significant plays or outstanding moments where I thought he was going to take over a game.

Jamelle McMillan:

Jamelle is a fine example of how spending four years in a program, developing your game, can really pay off. Jamelle averaged around 2.6 points his freshman year, but ended his season season with a much improved 7.2 points per game. This might not seem like a huge improvement, but every season McMillian shot a little better and was able to help his team that much more. What McMillian lacked in scoring ability he made up for in play making ability. McMillian averaged just under 4 assists per game while only giving up 1.5 turnovers for an A/T ratio of 2.7, a solid number (for reference, Thomas had an A/T ratio of 2 and Gaddy posted a 3.1 ratio before his injury). As with Kuksiks and Abbott, McMillian was never a superstar player, but he had a lot of valuable experience that is tough to replace.

Incoming Freshman

After losing Glasser and now Abbott and McMillian, ASU needed to bring in some solid guards. For the most part it appears they have done a good enough job. The ASU recruiting class features two guards, one of which is an ESPN top 100 player, and one big man.

Jonathan Gillings (from Denmark) 6-8  226lb

I couldn’t find any useful information on this guy. ESPN lists him at 6-7 0lbs. Not a typo, zero pounds. ASU definitely went under the radar to find and recruit this guy. He has some decent size and could be a nice addition to the team. The few highlights I could find of him didn’t impress me much and in fact, he might be the only player to include a missed shot in his highlight reel. If anyone has useful information on this guy, please link it in the comment section so I can be a little more informed.

Chris Colvin 6-3 185lb

As with Gillings, Colvin was not a highly recruited player. Any time ESPN rates a guy at 40, it means he was not on their radar until he has essentially signed with the Sun Devils. Colvin is a Junior College transfer. The fact that the ASU coaching staff was able to haul in a top rated freshman guard and a JC guard is a wise decision in my opinion as it allows both talented youth and a little more experienced guard to get in mix to help contribute right away. Colvin has originally signed with Iowa State as a freshman, but ended the year averaging a mere 3 points along with 1.9 assists and 2 turnovers per game (he played 15 minutes or so per outing). Overall he doesn’t seem like a big nab, but he does have some experience running the court at the “college” level, which is much more helpful then one might initially think.

Jahii Carson 5-11 160lb

Carson is the big grab of the Arizona class. Rated as the number 8 PG and 50th overall, he should be a solid player that can immediately help get this team rolling. What is really interesting about Carson is the fact that he is a run and gun player, while the ASU offense tends towards a much slower tempo. I’m interested to see how the coach deals with this issue and whether we’ll see a slowed down Jahii Carson or a sped up ASU Sun Devil team. Personally, I’d much rather see the latter as it is a much more exciting style of basketball. Carson had originally committed to OSU before joining the Sun Devil squad. Carson can score with the best, according to his ESPN recruitment page. To me this says we will see Carson as a hybrid 1/2 guard, much like Isaiah Thomas, as his size limits his ability to effectively play the 2 spot without suffering a huge mismatch.

Returning Players

Corey Hawkins 6-1 196lb

Brandon Dunson 6-1 181lb

Marcus Jackson 6-1 183lb

Keala King 6-4 201lb

Trent Lockett 6-4 210lb

Chanse Cheekmur 6-5 216lb

Carrick Felix 6-6 196lb

Dave Whitmore 6-6 215lb

Kyle Cain 6-7 210lb

Ruslan Pateev 7-0 249lb

Jordan Bachynski 7-2 243lb

ASU returns a lot of size in Pateev and Bachynski. While neither player was a major contributor to the program they could be tough match-ups should they develop their game a bit more over the summer. The two combine for over 14 feet of basketball ability, but they only combined for 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game (22 minutes of play). Neither player shot free throws well, but have a decent enough field goal percentage around 50%.

The most important returning player has to be Trent Lockett. He led the Sun Devils in scoring with 13.4 points per game and nearly led the team in rebounding with 5.3 boards per game. He’s a dynamic player who could score close to 20 a game next season if he continues his progression. The key for Lockett is to improve his 3-point shot. If he can raise his percentage to 40% he could be a real threat and a legit Pac-12 1st team player.

Projected Lineup:

Jahii Carson 5-11 160lb FR

Trent Lockett 6-4 210lb JR

Kyle Cain 6-7 210lb SO

Carrick Felix 6-6 196lb JR

Ruslan Pateev 7-0 249lb JR

Not sure who to put in for their 4th and 5th players. Felix could be replaced by incoming freshman Jonathan Gillings as Gillings has a little more size, but Felix has more experience. I expect Pateev will start over Bachynski as he has played better over all and the Devils need some size down low. Outside the 7 footers, Gillings is the next tallest player at 6-8.

Don’t expect to see an improvement from the Sun Devils this season. They will finish near, if not the bottom, of the conference. The do not have the talent necessary to take on any of the top 5 teams (UW, UCLA, Arizona, Cal, and Oregon). ASU misses the Oregon road trip and miss the Northern California schools at home this season. This is a disadvantage for ASU as the NorCal schools are a much tougher test than the Oregon schools as a whole. They also open and close against instate rival Arizona. I would imagine ASU will finish with maybe 5 or 6 conference wins this year. They could beat WSU, Utah, and maybe pick up a game against OSU or Colorado. The ASU non-con schedule is pretty soft. A lot of “North This” and “South That.” Their toughest test will come against New Mexico who will more than likely blow them out of the water.

On the plus side, the Devils have nowhere to go but up.