Blakes’ versatility bolsters ASU backcourt

It is no secret that Arizona State will have to replace a gaping hole in the backcourt created by the departures of Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall. The dynamic duo accounted for 33.6 points per game – roughly 45 percent of the Sun Devils’ scoring last season. ASU hopes the arrival of 6-foot-4 junior guard Gerry Blakes will cushion the blow of losing their top two scorers from a year ago.

Gerry Blakes, a junior-college transfer, is adept at playing both guard positions. He has a unique combination of size, speed and athleticism in addition to his savvy on-court presence.

The Inglewood (Calif.) native gives the Sun Devils a taller guard with playmaking ability and solid handles – the type of player ASU has not had since James Harden.

While their games are markedly different, the crafty southpaw is confident he can be a multi-purpose player like Harden was.

“I’ll play wherever the coach wants me to play,” he stated. “I just want to contribute and help our team win some games.”

This is good news for the Sun Devils, who fully intend on utilizing the guard’s versatile skill set.

“We see him playing multiple positions for us,” said ASU assistant coach Stan Johnson. “He’ll have to score the ball for us, but he’ll also have to play some time at the one.”

With only one true point guard on the roster (freshman Tra Holder), Blakes will have ample opportunities to run the show this upcoming season. However, he could easily slide over to a wing position and play alongside Holder as well.

For Blakes, he is simply happy to realize a life-long dream that was initially postponed.

Originally committed to the University of Hawaii out of high school, his plans were derailed when he failed to qualify academically.

“I wasn’t mature enough to handle my business as a student-athlete,” Blakes admitted. “So I had to go a different route.”

He decided to stay close to home and attend San Bernardino (Calif.) Valley College. Playing under head coach (and former Sun Devil) Quincy Brewer, Blakes had a stellar two-year run at SBVC, which culminated in a banner sophomore campaign last season.

He averaged 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game en route to being named the California Junior College Co-Player of the Year.

Blakes said he was grateful for his JUCO experience and said it ultimately made him a better person at the end of the day. “It made me want to work harder to be successful, earn my degree and strive for greatness,” he added.

His penchant for greatness has also caught the attention of the coaching staff.

“The biggest thing about Gerry is his willingness to learn,” said assistant coach Johnson. “He’s always asking questions and puts in the time before and after practice. He sincerely wants to be a good player.”

Blakes is part of a seven-man recruiting class that features four highly touted junior college transfers (Savon Goodman, Willie Atwood and Roosevelt Scott). All four are expected to play a prominent role for the Devils this upcoming season.

There is a palpable buzz surrounding the JUCO newcomers, who bring a reserved confidence to this year’s squad. They exude toughness and grittiness – traits that have been noticeably absent from ASU teams in recent years.

“We have a lot to prove and play with a chip on our shoulders,” he added.

Whether this translates to more wins remains to be seen, but Blakes liked what he observed over the summer.

“Everyone was practicing hard and working to improve their games,” he stated.

While he was not concerned with discussing any personal goals for the upcoming season, he was steadfast in relaying the team’s ultimate goal: return and advance.

Comfortably settled into his new home, Blakes finally had a chance to reflect on his journey to Tempe.

He said the transition has left an indelible mark on him. Although he always expected to play Division-I basketball at a major university, he never imagined it would have this type of impact.

“It has changed me,” he said. “It has taught me to realize there are bigger things in life, and if you work hard, life has no limits.”

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