ASU Basketball Preview

The ASU men's basketball team struggled through the 2000-2001 season. Among the various reasons for struggle were injuries, the loss of 1999-2000 Pac 10 Player of the Year Eddie House, and inexperience. The Sun Devils played poorly during conference play and finished the season 13-16.

However, all these problems were left behind when the Devils had the opportunity to take a trip to Australia and play five games against some of the finest teams down under. With an undefeated 5-0 record on trip the devils enter the season with confidence and experience that previous Sun Devil teams have lacked. In Head Coach Rob Evans' Fourth Season, there is confidence on campus that this will be the season that Evans will lead the Sun Devils to an NCAA tournament berth. The return of Tanner Shell and Justin Allen from injuries, a solid recruiting class, and the return of every player from last season's roster except Alton Mason, may all translate in putting the struggles of last season behind and having a successful 2001-2002 season.

Point Guards

Kyle Dodd - 6'1 165 PG Jr. He has seen a lot of playing time in his first two seasons as a Sun Devil. He started most games last year as a sophomore and figures to earn the start again this season with his ability to run the team and play mistake free basketball. Dodd's major weakness is his lack of strength, which prevents him from driving the lane with confidence and hinders his defensive play. After an off-season in the weight room and extensive play in competitive summer leagues, Dodd has improved his strength and shooting. He should play 20-25 solid minutes per game for the Devils.

Jason Braxton - 6'2 181 PG Fr. He is the lone freshman on this year's team and will battle Dodd for playing time. Braxton is practically the exact opposite type of player from Dodd. He is explosive and extremely quick, but lacks the experience, which raises questions about his ability to run the team from the point guard position. Braxton figures to earn a lot of playing time and challenge Dodd for the starting spot as the season progresses. It's a question of "When" not "If" Braxton will be the starting point guard for ASU.

Wings

Tanner Shell - 6'6 212 SG So. Shell is tenacious a player and will provide the Sun Devils with the single thing they lacked the most last season - outside shooting. As a freshman in the 99-00 season he had a good season averaging about 10 points a game in Pac 10 play including a 24-point effort against USC in Los Angeles. Shell's sweet shot from three-point range should loosen defenses and take the pressure off his teammates on offense. Injury problems have troubled Shell since high school, and his back and ankle problems last year forced a medical redshirt. Should he remain healthy, and keep his ferocious temper in check, he will see a lot of playing time this season and will be an invaluable asset for the team.

Curtis Mileage - 6'2 175 G Jr. A JC transfer who was the LA JC Player of the Year. Mileage is an extremely quick player that can score from anywhere on the floor. When the Sun Devils are on a fast break, you can expect him to be the first one down the floor finishing with a score. He will be an excellent defensive player as he uses his quick feet and hands to create havoc, however he must learn not to reach on defense so he stays out of foul trouble. Will challenge for the starting shooting guard position and could be one of the leading scores on the team. Also could see some time at the point guard position.

Kenny Crandall - 6'3 194 SG So. After a two-year Mormon Mission he returns to the squad still possessing a great shooting touch. Will be used as a shooter against a zone defense and may earn his way into the regular rotation if he can prove himself as a solid defender.

Brad Nahra- 6'4 213 SG Sr. A walk-on who has been a solid contributor in the previous three seasons. He does not figure to see any important playing time, but was effective at the end of last season and in Australia. The senior is a good shooter and solid defender. Has slimmed down and added strength in the off-season. Nahra is considered one of the leaders off the court.

Jon Howard - 6'4 200 SG So. Struggled in his freshman year adjusting to the college game and has slimmed down in the off-season and found some of the quickness he displayed in high school. During the Australian tour he was given time as the back-up point guard but figures to see most of his time at the shooting guard spot. With the amount of talent at this position Howard will need to show a vast improvement in many aspects of his game to earn more than a few minutes of playing time each game.

Donnell Knight - 6'7 200 SF Jr. Has had two up and down seasons as a Sun Devil. Was expected to pick up much scoring last season in place of Eddie House but struggled in that role. Knight's play will determine much of what Rob Evans does with his line up. If Knight can step up and play at a high level throughout the season Evans will have a lot of flexibility. Knight could see time at shooting guard but with both Shell and Mileage he figures to see the majority of his time at small forward. Knight has always had the physical tools to play well, but his mental ability has prevented him from greatness. With a deep roster there's less pressure than last year on him, which may transform into Knight's finest season to date.

Shawn Redhage - 6'7 205 SF Jr. A solid contributor in his first two seasons and has played extremely well in non-conference games. Nevertheless, Redhage has struggled finishing around the basket against the bigger, and stronger players in the Pac-10. If he can sustain his usual fine early season play throughout the season the Sun Devils will have a solid 6th man to come in and play wing position. He is also will see a lot of time in end of game situations when the opposing team is forced to foul, being that he's ASU's all-time free throw percentage leader, shooting over 85%.

Forwards

Tommy Smith - 6'11 215 F Jr. Can play the either forward spot for the Sun Devils. His height allows him to play with his back to the basket and his quickness permits him to take players outside and score off the dribble. Has showed great improvement from year to year in his Sun Devils' career. He played very well on the trip to Australia and also traveled with a group of college all-stars to Europe where he impressed coach Mike Jarvis and his teammates. Smith has the potential to have an All-Pac 10 type season. His biggest weakness has been getting into foul trouble early in games and that trend reared its ugly head in Australia. One of the keys to the season will be keeping Tommy on the floor for 25-30 minutes a game. Match-ups will dictate whether he sees time at the small forward or power forward.

Justin Allen - 6'7 200 F So. Sat out last season as he battled Hodgkin's disease but returned for the trip to Australia where he played very well and made several key three-pointers during ASU's games. Along with a beautiful three point shot, Allen's diligent work in the weight room helped him develop the strength to bang in the low post. He will see time at both Forward spots but with the vast depth on this Sun Devil team he must shoot well to see consistent playing time.

Awvee Storey - 6'7 222 PF Sr. Storey lead the team in rebounding last season and is the team's returning leading scorer. He's an intense player who will once again be a leader on this team. He showed a nice 15-foot jump shot in Australia and will be counted again to rebound and play tough defense. Awvee will need to stay out of foul trouble and provide the Sun Devils with constant effort and intensity.

Chris Osborne - 6'9 240 PF Jr. Another JC transfer who will be a key reserve for the Sun Devils up front. He is a strong player who will see time backing up both the power forward and center positions. Has a nice scoring touch around the basket. One of the biggest problems facing Osborne is that his wrist has been broken since June and he is still staying out of contact drills during practice. If he does not heel soon the coaching staff may redshirt him this season as he still has that option available. He will challenge for a starting spot the following season with both Chad Prewitt and Storey graduating. Osborne will be counted on to play tough interior defense, rebound, and provide some low post points to earn consistent playing time.

Centers

Chad Prewitt- 6'9 241 C Sr. He has improved in each of his first three seasons and if that trend continues he should e in stored for a very good senior season. Prewitt can step out and hit the three point shot as well as score with his back to the basket. He will need to improve his rebounding and like many Sun Devils learn how to stay out of foul trouble this season. He will need to play stronger under the basket against physical Pac-10 players.

Tyson Johnston - 7' 250 C Jr. He has shown a couple of flashes of being able to play at the Pac 10 level but for the most part looks out of place on the court. He then spent the Australia trip on the bench seeing extremely limited play. His scholarship was not renewed this season and to his credit decided to stay and walk on. Any contribution from Tyson would be a pleasant surprise.

Predicted Starters- These are the guys who will start the majority of the games

Kyle Dodd

Curtis Mileage

Tommy Smith

Awvee Storey

Chad Prewitt

Predicted Finishers- those on the court at the end when the games are decided

Jason Braxton

Curtis Mileage

Tanner Shell

Tommy Smith

Storey/ Prewitt depending on Match ups

This is Rob Evans fourth season at Arizona State and he will be looking to duplicate his fourth season success that he achieved at Mississippi. In his fourth season at Ole Miss he lead them to the SEC West title and an NCAA tournament berth. If this team struggles in a similar fashion to last season this could signal the end of Evans run at Arizona State University. Athletic Director Gene Smith has shown with his handling of Bruce Snyder and the football program that if the team does not win he is not afraid to change the head coach.

Season Outlook

With the experience and depth on this team a vast improvement from last season is certainly expected. There will be tremendous competition for starting positions and playing time throughout the pre-season. Unlike last year, players must perform or risk being buried deep in the bench. While the Sun Devils do have great depth but the biggest question is whether this is quality depth of just a bunch of average players possessing similar skill levels. The non-conference schedule is very weak but every year the Pac 10 is one of the best conferences in the nation. The weak non-conference could actually be an asset for the Sun Devils. An undefeated pre-season would give the team great confidence and put them on a roll going into conference play that could carry earn them an NCAA tournament berth. On the other hand, if the Sun Devils do not finish at least fourth in the Pac 10 than the soft out of conference schedule could keep them out of the NCAA tournament and send them to the NIT.

If everything goes right

The Sun Devils go undefeated in non-conference play, sweep UofA, sweep the lower level teams in the Pac 10 like the Oregon and Washington schools and knock off a couple of the top level teams like Cal, Stanford or USC and finish third in the Pac 10. Personnel wise Tommy Smith is first team All-Pac 10, Donnell Knight plays up to the level that was expected when he was recruited, and Curtis Mileage and Jason Braxton combine for an explosive and athletic backcourt.

If nothing goes right

This team is still good enough to finish 6th in the Pac 10 and go to the NIT. Braxton does not adjust to the college game, Smith is in constant foul trouble and Shell continues to be injury prone. We are swept by UofA and lose a couple of games that we should not lose.


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