Zone Meeting in Corvallis

In the Herb Sendek era in Tempe, many of ASU's league foes expressed their concerns preparing for the Sun Devils' match-up zone defense. Ironically, ASU's head coach is just as respectful of the defensive scheme that his next opponent, Oregon State employs.

"I think they are a talented group of guys," Sendek said of Oregon State. "They present a difficult preparation because of the uniqueness of the way they play. Defensively they are going to play their 1-3-1 extended defense. It's difficult to simulate that in a couple of days in practice.

"We know we are going to be as always, when you get into conference play, challenged every night. As much as anything my focus has to be on Arizona State and trying to figure us out as much as anything."

***

There is no question that this Arizona State squad is the deepest since Sendek arrived here four year ago, yet this hasn't exactly solved any rotation questions that still linger.

"Right now we have a lot of moving parts," Sendek confessed. "I can't sit here and state categorically that we have a locked in, cast in stone like the ten commandments were, rotation. It seems to me that every time we have our chisel out and we're ready to set something in stone, something else happens. Some guy plays better, or some guy misses practice. And then it's, ‘OK, put the hammer back on the shelf.'"

***

The Christmas hiatus the team enjoyed late last week hasn't done much to improve the health of the Sun Devils.

Ever since suffering a groin strain against Richmond on Dec. 5th, Jamelle McMillan hasn't practiced the entire month although hasn't missed any playing time during that period. Ty Abbott is suffering from the flu and upon his return from holiday break Trent Lockett sprained his toe during Sunday night's practice.

All three didn't practice Tuesday but are expected to suit up in Corvallis Thursday night.

"We continue to battle health issues and we have three of our starters who haven't practiced this week," Sendek said. "It is all obviously part of sports. Sometimes you are fortunate and you can go for a stretch of time where it seems like everybody feels pretty good and sometimes it hits you harder than others.

"I think what has made it more challenging for us is we have this very small nucleus of guys with experience, namely four guys. They all four now had something to deal with, and that's made it harder as we try to integrate the rest of the team, which is all new. That has made it hard to have any continuity through practice carrying over into games."

***

Much of team's pre-season chatter surrounded around the significant strides Trent Lockett has made. Once the season tipped-off the guard's improvement has been noticeable to say the least. The sophomore this season is pacing the maroon and gold scoring 14.7 points per game scoring while placing second on the team in rebounds with 6.5 caroms per contest.

While vacationing back home in Minnesota last week, Lockett was still hard at work and actually he spent a few hours Christmas Eve working out some kinks in his game.

"I think my hard work is paying off but at the same time there are a lot of areas of improvement," Lockett commented. "I need to take what the defense gives me, create some space instead of ploughing away.

"I think I'm playing a bigger role as far as scoring and helping the team more compared to my freshman year."

One of the noticeable blemishes in Lockett's game are his struggles at the free throw line. His 59 attempts are far and above any of his teammates, but his shooting percentage from the charity stripe is just 67.8 percent, a stat that actually was much worse earlier in the season.

Lockett credited Assistant Head Coach Scott Pera with the turnaround in this aspect.

"He has been getting my release point right and just focusing on getting up a lot of free throws in practice," Lockett described. "A lot of it is just mental, if you feel good at the free throw line they will go in."

***

A tough non-conference schedule hasn't resulted in the most flattering of records at 7-4 . Nonetheless, Lockett realizes that this slate has prepared the team well for the rest of the 2010-011 campaign, and playing in hostile environments such as New Mexico provide a realistic preview to what awaits the Sun Devils in certain Pac-10 venues in the next couple of months.

Furthermore, the sophomore feels that the team's newcomers have also benefited from a challenging schedule and have increased their contributions as of late.

"Every practice they come ready to work hard and they are improving each day in practice, in games," Lockett stated. "They stepped up big for us (in the North Carolina A&T win) and played their hearts out and got us back in the game."

Lockett has been helping the first-year players by sharing his experiences from last season. One player he has been assisting is true freshman Keala King who in his team's last game exhibited some of the potential that many were anxiously waiting to manifest itself.

"I think Keala was down on himself a little bit after the Long Beach State game where he didn't play a lot," Lockett recalled. "I told him that going into winter break (last year) I didn't play a whole lot either. But I also told him that if he works hard things will start turning into his favor. Just do like coach says and be an everyday player in practice.

"You can't take a day off. Every game in the Pac-10 is a dogfight. I know the coaches will do a great job preparing us and scouting, so it's on us to be prepared. We are trying to win the Pac-10. That is our goal."


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