Hoops Team Excited Amid Low Expectations

Much like the Sun Devil football team, Rob Evans' squad is coming off a disappointing season. Thus, once again the pre-season outlook from the Pac-10 pundits is likely to be bleak for another maroon and gold team. During the team's media day, coaches and players alike were confident that they could follow in the footsteps of the football team and prove the doubters wrong.

"The one thing I've never worried about is what people thought of me or my basketball team," said head coach Rob Evans. "That never fazes me. It probably fazes the players and they look at it as a challenge. I only worry about what I can truly affect, and the only thing I can truly affect is how hard these guys play, how well they execute. We will have a better sense of where we are a month or so from now."

Evans cited the maturity and the chemistry of his team as factors that will translate into an improved season. "I like the team, and I like the make-up of it," he stated. "I like the fact that we have one of the best players in the country, and we added some pieces to the puzzle that will even help him more. They have a lot better understanding what it takes to be successful at this level. They worked extremely in the off-season, and all of them, at one point or another, stayed here this summer."

Depth is another team aspect that the Sun Devil coach named as a possible contributor to success. "Every position will be contended for except Ike's position (smile)," commented Evans. "We have guys that can extend the defense. We have guys that can create for other guys. Everything starts at the point guard position. Tyrone (Jackson) has won at every level and there's something to be said about that. He has a chance to be a tremendous player. (Kevin) Kruger is a very intelligent kid. He can score and we will run a lot of set screens for him to get open. I think Jason (Braxton) will have a good year We've gone over a lot of film, and he knows what we want from him."

ASU's All-American center Ike Diogu didn't want to leave the team on a bad note. Actually, he claimed that dating back to the begining of last season, he never intended to enter the NBA draft following his sophomore season, On the eve of his third year with the Devils, Diogu is ready to roll up his sleeves and reverse the fortunes of the maroon and gold. "I'm ready to turn it around and take it to the next level. I expect us to make it to the tournament and finish in the upper half of the Pac-10. I feel we have all the necessary tools and we're gonna get the job done this year."

The old cliché a year older and a year wiser is one that Diogu feels is very apropos for the Sun Devils as they begin the 2003-04 campaign. "They (the youger players) know what to expect now when we go on the road," he explained. "We had a lot of tough games that didn't go our way last year and we'll improve on that. Last year everybody was really frustrated that we lost. Things will be different this year, because we're a year older, and we know how each other works. They'll be a lot more challenging amongst the players compared to last year. I'm looking forward to an exciting season."

If there was ever a knock on ASU's MVP, it was his play on defense. Nevertheless, Diogu for the most part begged to differ on that issue. "It needs to improve," he admitted. "But at the same time do I think it's bad as some people try to make it? I don't think so at all. There were a lot of good things I did on the defensive end last year. Is it on the same level as my offensive game? I don't think so. But I still think I need to improve on a lot of things."

The consensus among the players was that their captain did take the failures of last season in a very personal way. Diogu agreed with statement, and also feels that the work accomplished following the 2003-04 season is about to pay hefty dividends. "I think we were a lot better than a last place Pac-10 team," he claimed. "In the off-season we all made a commitment to hit the weights hard. We did a lot of running because we want to change the face of our offense. We've been doing all the little things that it takes in order to turn it around."

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