Arizona State second-year coach Bobby Hurley has significantly ratcheted up recruiting at the school.
Prior to Hurley's arrival, the Sun Devils had not signed more than three recruited rated as four-star prospects by Scout.com in any two-year period. Hurley accomplished that in his first class alone, signing four-star prospects Sam Cunliffe, Jethro Tshisumpa and Romello White in the 2016 cycle.
Now, the Sun Devils have two additional four-star prospects committed in the 2017 class, as 6-foot-6 small forward Kimani Lawrence picked ASU on Saturday over finalists Florida and USC. Lawrence, a 6-foot-6 wing forward out of New Hampshire, joined four-star point guard commit Remy Martin in the fold for the Sun Devils. The addition of Lawrence gives Hurley the No. 20 recruiting class nationally in the most recent updated class rankings.
In 15 games for Expressions Elite AAU this year on the Nike EYBL circuit, Lawrence averaged 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds. He shot 53.4 percent from the field, 58.3 percent from the 3-point line and made 14 of 31 three-pointers (45.2 percent).
Strong play in the spring and summer enabled Lawrence to move up in the Scout100 rankings, where he checks in at No. 54 overall and No. 11 at the small forward position ahead of the start of next week's signing period. Lawrence is also the No. 3 small forward recruit in the east region.
Cunliffe, Tshisumpa, White, Lawrence and Martin are all among the Top-25 prospects in their class and their respective positions. That's something ASU has never accomplished in basketball recruiting in a two-year period.
I had a chance to watch Lawrence in action in two games at the Fab48 in Las Vegas in July. He's clearly a high major athlete with a good basketball body, particularly for his size. Among wing forwards, very few ASU players in recent decades have the athleticism to size ratio of Lawrence. So he will not look out of place athletically at the Pac-12 level on the perimeter for the Sun Devils even when the team plays against Arizona, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, etc., and ASU is a team that hasn't had a lot of athletic length on the wing in years. Lawrence is a good transition athlete who plays above the rim and can change ends of the court in a hurry.
What really enhances that athletic length is Lawrence's broad skill base. While not a true standout in any one area, Lawrence has no real deficiency in his game. He can score at all three levels of floor, and uses his length and a respectable handle for his position to generate his own shot off the bounce, something that ASU's lacked on the wing in recent years.
This isn't just a player who can shoot three-pointers or one dribble pull up shots off hard defensive close outs. He can elevate and get quality shots off in traffic and after multiple dribbles. He's going to have to continue to improve as a ball handler to increase his effectiveness in this area, but the skill is something there to be further developed, and also allows Lawrence to access the and finish with elevation. That's still coming more on straight-line drives than weaving through the defense, but it's another area he'll continue to expand on.
Lawrence isn't a knock down shooter of the ball from the perimeter, but he has the ability to make three-point shots at a good clip, as evidenced by his success rate on the EYBL circuit. He should also be able to defend shooting guards and small forwards on the ball and be effective as a team defender. He rebounds his position well and is a solid passer who plays the game properly as a teammate with regard to spacing and ball movement.
Lawrence and Martin are able to sign with the Sun Devils starting on Nov. 9. If they follow through on their commitments, Hurley will become the first ASU coach to sign five prospects rated as four-star recruits by Scout.com. They'll be key players in ASU's effort to layer in more depth and versatility into its lineups beginning in 2017-18.
In Hurley's first season at ASU, the Sun Devils started out strong in non-conference play but tired out as the year unfolded and floundered down the stretch. Depth was an issue across the roster and there was an absence of roster flexibility. Those issues will persist into 2016-17, as ASU has just nine healthy and eligible scholarship players, only one of whom stands taller than 6-foot-8.
Backcourt and perimeter play should be improved, with Buffalo transfer Shannon Evans, a former second-team all-league player in the MAC under Hurley, now eligible after sitting out last season. Evans, a combo guard who averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 assists as a sophomore at Buffalo in 2014-15, can be paired in a backcourt with Tra Holder, who led ASU in points (14.2) and minutes (31.8) last season.
The Sun Devils will go small and play junior 6-foot-5 guard Kodi Justice a lot at the small forward position, and also bring 6-foot-5 senior Torian Graham off the bench. Cunliffe is a 6-foot-6 wing who will likely start for the Sun Devils as a freshman, but have to play at the power forward position quite a bit due to the team's lack of size. He's the highest rated wing prospect ASU has signed since James Harden in 2007.
The 2017-18 season is when the additions of this talent increase should really start to impact the program. White, a 6-foot-8 power forward, is probably the team's best post player right now, and yet academically ineligible to play this season. Tshisumpa, 6-foot-9, is a raw offensive player who can block shots but will be foul prone and only able to deliver limited minutes.
ASU's only seniors this season are Obinna Oleka, a 6-foot-8 forward who will have to play center out of necessity, and Graham. Even so, the team will likely settle on a seven or eight man rotation, with Evans, Holder, Justice, Cunliffe, Oleka, Graham and 6-foot-8 freshman power forward Ramon Vila and possibly Tshisumpa being the players who see a lot of action. Sophomore 6-foot-19 center Andre Adams is still recovering from an ACL injury last year, his second, and 6-foot-9 forward Vitaliy Shibel suffered an ACL tear this summer that will keep him off the floor this season.
It's the following season, when Evans, Holder, Justice and Cunliffe return as four starter-level players, and can be supplemented by White, Martin, Lawrence, Vila, and potentially Shibel, Tshisumpa, Adams and whomever else Hurley adds in the 2017 class, that the Sun Devils should take a significant jump forward and be able to again challenge for a possible NCAA Tournament bid.
Cunliffe and Lawrence could eventually give the Sun Devils their best and most athletic wing tandem in years, while Martin looks to be the heir apparent at point guard, and White could add a necessary post scorer. ASU will need to add more size, in particular, in its subsequent 2017 and 2018 recruiting.