Prized freshman Sam Cunliffe to transfer from Arizona State

The building of Bobby Hurley's program at Arizona State suffered a big hit on Monday with the departure of his top ranked 2016 signee.

The first signature recruit of the Bobby Hurley-era at Arizona State lasted just 10 games at the school. 

Freshman Sam Cunliffe, who averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, has requested a scholarship release and is planning to transfer. 

ESPN's Jeff Goodman was first to report the news of Cunliffe's departure. 

Cunliffe, 6-foot-6, was the No. 45 overall recruit in the 2016 recruiting class and No. 11 small forward. He is the third-highest rated prospect to sign with ASU in the last decade, behind only James Harden (No. 23 in 2007) and Jahii Carson (No. 34 in 2011).

A big feather in the cap of Hurley in his first full-year recruiting cycle, Cunliffe committed to the Sun Devils in June of 2015 over Cal, Colorado, Gonzaga, Washington and Washington State. 

Per a program source, Cunliffe’s transfer is due at least in part to unspecified family issues.

Playing time doesn't appear to have been an issue, with Cunliffe starting all 10 games of his career. He played 30 or more minutes in three of the team's last five games. 

Cunliffe was gradually building up as a freshman. After a slow start he scored in double figures in five straight games including a career-best 23 points against The Citadel on Nov. 23 in a 127-110 ASU win. He also scored 14 points against then-No. 1 Kentucky on Nov. 28. 

With Cunliffe leaving mid-season, an already tenuously thin ASU roster becomes even more so. The 6-4 Sun Devils, coming off their best win of the season, 74-63 at San Diego State on Saturday, had at most an eight man rotation. Often they'll play just seven player for the bulk of a game. 

Cunliffe is one of five players signed by ASU in the 2016 recruiting class, three of whom were four-star prospects by Scout. Highly regarded 6-foot-8 freshman Romello White is sitting out this season due to academics and 6-foot-9 Vitaliy Shibel was lost for the season in August with an ACL injury. 

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