Hurley gets aggressive with scheduling

First-year Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley decided to delve right into the fire and schedule what figures be the most challenging non-conference schedule at the school in years.

Strengthening Arizona State's non-conference schedule is something Bobby Hurley spoke with school officials about even prior to becoming head coach. The execution of that philosophy was accelerated once Hurley became familiarized with his returning talent, which includes four starters back from a team that went 9-9 in the Pac-12 regular season.

The result is perhaps ASU's most challenging early slate in recent history, highlighted by a game at national powerhouse Kentucky Dec. 12. The Sun Devils will also play at Creighton Dec. 2, at UNLV Dec. 16, vs St. John's in Las Vegas Dec. 22, at home against Texas A&M Dec. 5 and in two games at the Legends Classic at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, against two of LSU, Marquette and N.C. State.

"After working with [the returning players] for a couple weeks and getting a better feel for them it gave me the confidence to try and aggressively schedule some games that I think are going to lift the profile of our out of conference (schedule)," Hurley said Thursday. "I believe that it pays dividends when the NCAA Tournament Committee is in that room examining your resume if you're willing to schedule games like the Kentucky game on Dec. 12 and St. John's on a neutral site and the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. All those games are important for us in terms of getting the exposure that we want for the program and then also challenging our players to play those quality teams.

"I think our fanbase wants that, wants to see us playing in those types of games. It's obviously a huge school, Arizona State, so you have alums all across the country that want to see your team and the opportunity to play at a place like Kentucky or in the Barclay Center in Brooklyn against quality competition gets our fans excited and I think our players want to play in those types of games."

Hurley recalled an experience of his own, when he was dunked on by Syracuse star Billy Owens at the outset of first game as a freshman point guard at Duke in 1989 in the Big East vs ACC Challenge. It was a memory he and Owens recounted at a recent charity event in Florida.

"I remember off the tip, I was protecting the rim and the ball got tipped to Stevie Thompson and he took one dribble and threw an alley-oop to Billy Owens, who dunked it right over me," Hurley said. "That was like my baptism into non-conference play.

"It was always fun. I loved being challenged that way. I remember my senior year playing Michigan and the Fab Five in Cameron Indoor when they were No. 1 in the country and beating a team like that. Playing in those games, you love it as a player, and that's what I want our guys to taste."

Scott departs

After averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds last season, guard Roosevelt Scott will not return to the Sun Devil program for his senior year and is expected to transfer.

The Sun Devils are set to return just six scholarship players from last season. Scott joins Connor MacDougall, Sai Tummala and Chance Murray as players who will not return.

Junior college guard addition Andre Spight is now on campus according to Hurley and ASU also has signed forward Obina Oleka and Maurice O'Field. Those three players are eligible in 2015-16 and Buffalo point guard transfer Shannon Evans will sit out this season and then have two remaining seasons of eligibility.

ASU has three more scholarships it can allocate for this season but Hurley said he may not use them all and likes the talent he has returning.

"Some of the guys fit how I intend to play," Hurley said. "I really like (junior forward) Savon Goodman's versatility and his history and athleticism on the frontcourt. I like (senior center) Eric Jacobsen. I haven't really had a guy like him that had his frame and can rebound and play defense and score a little bit inside so he was exciting. (Senior shooting guard) Gerry Blakes I think is a guy who can continue to build on a pretty solid season last year and (sophomore point guard) Tra Holder is a young guy who has a chance to keep developing and getting better. Those are some of the young core guys.

"We are recruiting, we realize we still have some flexibility on our roster. It's got to be the right fit and it has to make sense for us. That have to be the type of players that are going to compete and contend in the Pac-12 and we're going to do everything we can to make that happen but I would have no issues with maybe not carrying the full load if that's the circumstances that are presented."

Notes

  • Kodi Justice is going to be brought along slowly as he recovers from surgery to address a broken bone in his foot that prematurely ended his freshman season. Hurley said the goal is to get Justice full active again at some point in July.

  • Hurley still has not hired a Director of Operations but said he's close to doing so.


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