Basketball's 2014 Class Should Keep Momentum

There is a lot to be excited about the current state of Arizona State basketball, but with four of its current starters not expected back for the 2014-15 season it was imperative for the Sun Devils to load up on talent for next year. With six new additions officially on board, it appears ASU has done a solid job finding capable replacements for its future roster vacancies.

Tra Holder

After Pac-12 co-freshman of the tear, Jahii Carson, declared that he was bypassing the NBA draft and staying in Tempe for his sophomore year, the Arizona State coaching staff knew that the 2013-14 season was going be the point guard's last as a Sun Devil. Thus, the search for his replacement was one of the top priorities of this recruiting class.

Judging by Holder's four-star ranking, good for no. 20 among the nation's 2014 point guards, suffice to say that it appears ASU did a stellar job in replacing perhaps the toughest player to substitute for on its roster.

In the summer of 2012 Holder was considered as a borderline Division I prospect, according to Fox Sports Next's West Coast Recruiting Analyst Josh Gershon. Holder skipped over on the AAU circuit and worked out on his own to improve his skills. A solid spring 2013 showing opened ASU's eyes, as well as other suitors such as Florida State.

During his junior year the 6-1 170-pound Tra Holder averaged 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game and helped Brentwood advance to the California State Playoffs. Thus he came into the spring evaluation period on a hot streak.

"He worked on his mid-range game and his three shot us improving," Gershon said in a previous evaluation. "His instincts and feel for the position have also improved. You see a kid sometimes jump a spot from a low-major to a mid-major. You don't see a kid go from a low-major at best to a Pac-12 player and that is exactly what happened.

"Holder is a solidly built lead guard who has the ability to get his own shot, as well as create for others. He's a guy that will probably get a lot of playing time right away."

In previous interviews Holder said that he models his game after Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, however the Brentwood standout said the Sun Devil staff see similarities to someone much closer to home, and a player that he could very well replace once he arrives as a freshman.

"The coaches said that my game reminds them of Jahii Carson," Holder described. "I'm a fast point guard that likes to push the ball and play fast and they think I really fit their offense. I'm an up tempo player, that plays well off ball screens and penetrates the lane. I can score and get my teammates involved. I'm also a good defender who likes to challenge players."

Connor MacDougall

The 2014 in-state class is arguably the best in Arizona's history and some think that the Sun Devils actually landed the best local prospect in that group in frontcourt player Connor MacDougall. The 6-8 220-pounder is ASU's highest ranking prospect in this class, as Scout.com has him coming in at no. 17 among the 2014 centers.

"At 6-8 he may be a little undersized for the center position," Gershon said. "But he makes up for it with a strong frame and long arms. He rebounds well, he's a good finisher, and can step out up to 14 feet and shoot it. With that motor and his strength I think he is going to end up being a very good player. Definitely a player I'm very intrigued by."

Losing two front court players after this year in Jordan Bachynski and Richie Edwards, MacDougall certainly figures to be a key part of the rotation when he arrives on campus.

Roosevelt Scott

The 6-4 190-pound Indian Hills Community College standout is your proverbial freak athlete whose speed and quickness comes in very handy at both ends of the floor, and his motor and work ethic matches his high level of athleticism. He's a great finisher at the basket and very capable shooter but also an elite defender with a very tough minded attitude who can guard multiple positions.

"They get up and down the court and that is what I do," Scott said in a previous interview. "They play a lot of press defense which I love to do. I'm someone who can get to the rim but also step out and make the jumper. Everything they do fits my game."

Scott, who was first team All-State coming out of St. Paul (Minn.) Johnson Senior High School, played at Central Florida for half a year during the 2012 season and then transferred to Indian Hills-Ottumwa where he will lay just one season before arriving in Tempe for good.

Gerry Blakes

Blakes is a 6-4 180-pound combo guard from San Bernardino who's coached by former ASU player Quincy Brewer and is an elite scorer, who uses great ball handling skills and his size to finish around the basket. Blakes prepped at Inglewood (Calif.) Morningside and committed to Hawaii during his senior year. Academics forced him to go the junior college route and he landed at San Bernardino Valley.

As a freshman he averaged 16 ppg, 4 rpg and 3.1 apg shooting 41 percent from the field, 32.8 percent room three-point range and 74 .1 percent from the line for the 22-9 Wolverines.

"I always had a thing for the Sun Devils," Blakes told Devils Digest in a previous interview. "I love the conference, the opportunity to play for such a great program, it's close to mom and home and I just feel that I can be a star here. I love the up tempo style of play they have where the offense comes from the defense. Getting up and running is what I like to do and that was a big deal to me.

"They see me as a combo guard that can bring leadership to the team. I can definitely bring scoring, assist and rebounding along with defensive intensity. They need someone to fill the spot once Jahii leaves and I know that I can be that player. I feel that I have a real feel for the game and I have great ability in being in control on the floor, leading the team and scoring, but also getting everybody else involved."

Blakes was offered by LSU, Colorado and Iowa among others.

Octavius Ellis

The 6-10 210-pound Ellis signed with Cincinnati after prepping at Memphis' Whitehaven High School. He played just three games with the Bearcats due to a hand injury (received a medical redshirt) and eventually left the school to play at Trinity Valley (Tex.) Community College. In his first year there he averaged 13.1 points per game shooting at a 66.8 percent clip, as well as averaging 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks a game.

Ellis was the last recruit to commit to ASU, and in fact was being pursued just a few weeks before he pledged to the Sun Devils. ASU needed some frontcourt help in this class and along with MacDougal he fulfills that need. He's a very athletic player who's a great shot blocker and could potentially pick up the slack there after Bachynski exhausts his eligibility. He's also a solid rebounder and does a good job using both hands in scoring.

"Arizona State plays in the Pac-12 and it's a good conference to play in," Ellis said in a previous interview. "I like it that they are on the West Coast and have such a great coaching staff. I liked everything I saw on the visit, the weight room, the (basketball) facility, the whole campus and meeting with the coaches and players.

"They play my type of game, playing real fast, pressuring at times…and they like their big men to be able to really run the floor which I do well."

Kodi Justice

The local Mesa Dobson 6-4 170-pound guard is often the forgotten man of this group because he committed to ASU over two years ago and was overshadowed by some of in-state peers in a very deep 2014 lass. Nonetheless, Justice is considered a fierce competitor and deft jump shooter who can also handle the basketball well. The three-star prospect is considered the proverbial gym rat and someone who possesses a high basketball I.Q.


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