Leadership not a concern for Sun Devils

As the Sun Devils get set to embark on the 2010-11 season, a number of questions remain unanswered whether it be regarding the seven newcomers or if the team can duplicate its success from last year. What isn't unknown though is who will provide the team with leadership both on and off the court, as seniors Ty Abbott and Jamelle McMillan have taken it upon themselves to assume that role.

The departures of Derek Glasser, Eric Boateng, and Jerren Shipp - the three members of head coach Herb Sendek's first recruiting class at Arizona State - were originally thought to have been a cause for concern amongst Sun Devil fans.

After all, the trio played a substantial role in guiding the Devils to three consecutive 20-win seasons as well as three consecutive postseason appearances. However, Sendek feels confident about the state of the program as the reigns have been turned over to Abbott and McMillan to lead a team full of newcomers, seven to be exact, into a new season of Sun Devil basketball.

"I've been really impressed with our guys (Abbott and McMillan)," said Sendek. "Our leaders have stopped practice to make teaching points. They've gathered the guys together to stress the importance of staying focused and playing with great focus.

"They've really taken a sense of ownership. It's those kind of areas having guys who understand what we expect from leadership that may be the most significant progress that we've made."

Team success in college basketball is often dictated by the steady hand of the point guard. McMillan now finds himself in the position of having to replace four year starter Derek Glasser, the school's all-time assist leader, as the floor Sun Devils' floor general. While undoubtedly a daunting task to fulfill, McMillan feels confident in his ability and his approach.

"Much like I've done in the past, it's a deal where I have to have an aggressive mindset," McMillan said. "I think having the ball more forces me to put my teammates in position to be successful and recognize where they like the ball and are more comfortable with the ball. For the most part, the mental part is the same. You're going out and competing for forty minutes."

Repetition and attention to detail were re-occurring themes throughout the offseason training and conditioning sessions for the newcomers, as they attempted to familiarize themselves with the staff's on-court philosophies. Given its complexities, the senior duo made a point of making themselves available to provide their new teammates with further assistance to ease their transition.

"This group has come to us for help. They ask a lot of questions," McMillan remarked. "They like to do a lot of stuff outside of the gym, as far as film and when they're in the gym alone at nighttime.

"They're a little bit of a different group than in the past, but more because they're willing. I think each and every one of them wants to be a key contributor on this team and help out any way they can. Anything we have to say, they listen. And anything that they have on their minds, we listen. I think it's a two-way street that so far has been a very positive and uplifting environment."

While McMillan will spend most of his time facilitating the Sun Devil offense this season, much of the team's success will be predicated on Abbott's ability to continue his sensational play from last season, when he finished second in points per game behind fellow senior Rihards Kuksiks.

"I think he is a guy who so far has been dominant on both ends of the floor," McMillan said of his backcourt mate. "Defensively, he's come out and been a presence and a force. He alters a lot of plays as far as him being in one place or being in two places at one time. Offensively, obviously, he's going to be the guy that (defenses) focus on.

"His shot is the best that I think it's been thus far in his career. And he's making moves to the basket. He's putting the ball on the floor. He's working on his post up game. He's trying to play inside the three-point line, which is good to see. He's another big body who's extremely athletic, who can jump. He likes to get after it.

"Ty has a lot of goals in mind. He's hungry for success here as well as trying to make it to the next level. And we're going to do everything we can to be behind him."

It shouldn't be hard this Sun Devil squad to get behind a player like Abbott, thinks Sendek.

"Well, the best thing he brings to the floor is leadership," Sendek noted. "He is somebody who leads not only with example, but with a voice. He's one of the best leaders I've ever coached. And he's been a leader since he was a freshman.

"Every segment, of every practice, everyday, day in and day out, he does his best and he does what's right," Sendek added. "He pays attention to detail. He is aware of, not only himself, but of all around him. He's an excellent communicator. He's a tremendous young leader. On top of that he was a first team all-conference player. He has distinguished himself over the course of his career to be an extraordinary young leader and to be a really good player."

The combination of capable, experienced senior leadership and young, talented first-year players has provided many with reasons to believe that this year's Sun Devil squad will continue to build on the previous success of Herb Sendek's teams in Tempe. It's a group that has spent the offseason learning to play with each other, and eager to take on some live competition.

"I really like the personality of our team. First, we have a high character quotient," said Sendek. "Our guys are really, really good guys. I enjoy being around them. "You can talk to them and enjoy the conversation. They're intent on learning. They want to do well and get better.

"They genuinely like each other. As a coach you can talk about chemistry and having your guys united, but at the end of the day it's really hard to make two people like each other. Our guys really get along. They're gentlemen off the court. And I've really enjoyed our time together so far."


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