Sun Devils return home with confidence

Down to six scholarship players as they boarded the plane for their Los Angeles road trip a week ago today, the ASU Men's basketball team certainly didn't have a bounce in their step. Following a road split, and despite the dismissal of leading scorer and starting point guard Keala King, the Sun Devils' spirits are high as they host the Oregon schools, starting with the Ducks on Thursday.

"I really enjoyed coaching the team this past week in practice and then in Los Angeles," said head coach Herb Sendek. "We had tremendous leadership from Trent Lockett and I really thought he took his leadership to another level. Our guys really came together. I loved the communication that they shared, the camaraderie that they had and I thought that we played some good basketball and gave terrific effort.

"As a coach I couldn't have been anymore proud in what I saw and heard in the locker room and on the bus. It was just fun to be with those guys and coach that team."

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This was in fact the first time since he donned the maroon and gold, that junior Trent Lockett assumed the point guard spot as both players in that role, King and Chris Colvin, were suspended from the team last week.

"I thought Trent did amazingly well, Sendek stated. "That's never an easy position to transition to, let alone doing it on the fly in a couple days. I thought he did a terrific job and it really showed his basketball IQ. Now he's actually played every position on our team except center."

While Colvin is expected to play this week it will certainly be in a reserve role, which naturally means more minutes for Lockett as the floor general.

"I think he's going to probably play the majority of his minutes, or at least a significant amount of his minutes, at that spot moving forward," Sendek commented. "There's certain things that can dictate change but I think we have to be prepared at this point to have Trent at the point."

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At 11-5, 2-2 in Pac-12 play the Oregon Ducks have enjoyed a fairly successful season thus far. It's not only their talent that will present a challenge to ASU, but it's also their defensive scheme which by and large is unique.

"Our first three conference games have been against teams who have been exclusively man-to-man," Sendek explained, "whereas, Oregon is a multiple defensive team. They are going to full court press, they're going to three-quarter court press, they're going to mix man and zone, they're going to trap out of their half court defenses, they're going to play a hybrid underneath out-of-bounds defense. It's going to force our team to handle a different kind of pressure and it's also going to require us to have recognition. What are they in and how are we attacking it?"

While the Ducks' scheme is a system that ASU has seen in the non-conference schedule, the Sun Devil still face a short amount of time a small roster of players to prepare for this challenge.

"I think the most difficult thing for us at this point, given our numbers and our situation, is to try to somehow simulate what they do in a couple days of practice," Sendek acknowledged. "I don't know if that's possible and so it really puts a lot of heavy lifting on the mental, through film work and what we can show them on the court because I don't know that we can re-event what Oregon does with our scout team right now. Given our numbers and our situation."

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There is little doubt that the road ahead for ASU is likely to be more treacherous than smooth. Nonetheless, the way Sendek saw his team perform both mentally and physically last weekend does provide him much reason for optimism.

" I thought our guys did a great job of coming together, talking to each other and supporting each other," Sendek stated. "Those are values that we espouse and emphasize all the time. It wasn't like we flipped a switch for this weekend. Those are our expectations. Those are our values. That's what we're all about at Arizona State basketball. Some teams capture it better than others. It's not something you can force-feed on people."


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