Evaluation: ASU commit Jethro Tshisumpa

After watching Jethro Tshisumpa up close and in person in multiple games last week at the Adidas Summer Championship, we have an extensive evaluation of the newest Arizona State commit and additional program context.

Only once in the last decade has Arizona State signed two Scout100 national recruits, in 2007 when James Harden (No. 23) and Jamelle McMillan (No. 96) joined the program early in then-coach Herb Sendek's tenure.

Bobby Hurley is now on pace to equal that mark -- or perhaps beat it -- in his first full-cycle recruiting class at the helm for the Sun Devils.

Hurley landed a commitment from the nation's No. 80 overall prospect and No. 21 center, 6-foot-9, 260 pound Jethro Tshisumpa, Tuesday. Tshisumpa joins 6-foot-6 wing Sam Cunliffe, the No. 87 overall recruit in the Scout100 and the No. 18 small forward, as ASU's second commit in the class.

Things are setting up quite well for Hurley to eventually wind up with a nationally ranked haul in 2016. Only six other schools nationally can currently also boast two Scout100 commits in the class: Florida State, Michigan State, Syracuse, Texas A&M and UCLA.

ASU is also very actively in contention for additional Scout100 prospects including Thon Maker, Mario Kegler, Brendan Bailey, Payton Pritchard, De'Ron Davis, Taurean Thompson, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Eron Gordon. There's a very real possibility ASU could eventually sign three Scout100 prospects, which would likely be its best class in history and a first for the program.

Perhaps most remarkable about ASU's haul of Cunliffe and Tshisumpa is the jump Hurley and his staff got on the rest of the country in both recruitments despite being new to the high major level and the job in Tempe. Hurley saw both players in the April evaluation and prioritized them before they were four-star Scout 100 recruits. That's an impressive demonstration of evaluation skill.

When ASU turned things up on Cunliffe in April he had offers from only Pacific Northwest schools and Utah. Then he went to Pangos All-American Camp the NBA Players Association Camp a month later and earned a lot of positive reviews. But he was already a Sun Devil commit, so national programs were held at bay.

In the case of Tshisumpa, ASU was even more ahead of the curve and a big reason was ASU assistant coach Brian Merritt's grassroots basketball experience and connections. He was already well aware of Tshisumpa and his play with Urban DFW Elite when he took the job at ASU and that no doubt helped the Sun Devils beat others to establish an early relationship.

The Sun Devils were the first high major offer, which came before the Grundy, Virginia, Mountainside Mission School center went from largely unknown prospect to Scout100 prospect at the high profile NBA Players Association Camp earlier this summer when he led the Camp in blocked shots.

Tshisumpa immediately thereafter visited ASU and it cemented the program as the leader. More than likely he wanted to play through the rest of July to help get his teammates more recruiting looks but already knew at the end of the period he would be committing to the Sun Devils.

As a prospect, the Congolese native is an elite rim protector. After watching Tshisumpa in action in three games last week at the Adidas Summer Championships, it is clear that he absolutely loves anchoring the defensive end of the floor and being an intimidating presence at the rim. Tshisumpa uses his huge hands, natural timing and reported 7-foot-6 wingspan to menace opponents. He led arguably the nation's best AAU tournament in blocks with 4.3 per game, and had severe foul trouble in one game, with seven blocks and fewer than 20 minutes on the court.

Though sometimes Tshisumpa can get overzealous and be a bit wild with his approach, he generally tends to have pretty good timing. Being foul prone is the natural and obvious concern with someone who can block and alter so many shots on that end of the floor, but few if any prospects nationally have his ability to change the game on the interior.

A bigger question may perhaps be how well the 260-pounder handles defensive responsibility that brings him further out onto the floor in two man actions. He may be susceptible to some degree in pick and pop or pick and roll situations, so how ASU does with him involved in defending high ball screens will be something to watch closely. Tshisumpa's foot quickness isn't shabby for his size, but he's a true center, not someone with the agility and foot quickness to be a good defender in space.

Offensively, Tshisumpa is very raw and early in his development. He seems to have pretty soft hands and is relatively coordinated. When he gets his feet set in position, he's a powerhouse who will carry defenders up to the rim and finish with dunks through contact. However, he's not as determined to do this right now as he'll need to eventually be. Right now he'll drop step and get his shoulders around and it'll look like he's about to dunk in a way that conveys a true offensive awakening, but instead he'll take a step back jumper.

A lot of this is just skill development reps. He has the ability to develop over a period of several years into a capable low post player on the offensive end. His mental approach is going to ultimately determine how successful he is in this regard. If he becomes as determined to finish with authority on the offensive end as he is to dominate on the defensive end, he can be a very potent two-way player.

But in the short term, Tshisumpa is a player who probably is immediately able to provide defensive minutes and start to rack up shot blocks in a way that perhaps eventually enables him to challenge Jordan Bachynski as the career leader at ASU. He's that level of a presence on the defensive end, but he'll have to stay on the floor and not in foul trouble.


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