Eric Boateng – The Future is Here

When the Sun Devils are riding a 12-game losing streak late in the year, it's only natural for some to think about next season. One need not look further than ASU's bench and 6-10 255 Duke transfer Eric Boateng, to realize that the center is a major reason for the promise the future holds. Yet, as some of the ASU fans think ahead, Boateng who's sitting out this season, is focused on the present.

Eric Boateng claimed that it's not hard for him, even as a one who doesn't get to play night in and night out, or for his teammates, to go through this tough stretch of the 2006-07 campaign. "Our spirits are still high," he said. "We're still competing everyday and coming with the attitude and the resilience to learn from our mistakes. For me it's just a matter of developing and helping out the team the best I can. You just worry about the things you can control. I don't really see any downside (in terms of not playing) to this year. I'm able to walk, I'm able to do a lot of tings other human beings can't. I'm thankful for everything have – great team, great coaches."

The center averaged only 2.5 minutes with Duke last season. Surely that didn't make matters easier as far as mentally preparing to not playing even one second in the current campaign due to his transfer status. Nonetheless, Boateng stated that he was able to do a good job mentally preparing to sit out the year. "You can definitely prepare, work and set goals and that does make it easier," he commented. "You still have to push yourself, knowing that one day you can make a difference and add value to the team."

Boateng's workouts in some ways are no different than any other player on the team. He does however also have individual practice sessions with Associate Head Coach Mark Phelps. "We work on basic fundamentals of the game, work on the pace of my post moves and moves on the floor," he described those sessions. "I'm just trying to become a dynamic player and I feel that I'm becoming more explosive. On defense I'm trying to more physical in blocking out and getting rebounds. I just try to be as active as possible. My shooting, finishing around the basket has gotten a lot better, but I don't want to pigeonhole myself to one skill that I do better than the rest on offense. I just work on being a fundamental player who has no weaknesses. "

Head Coach Herb Sendek has been impressed with the center's dedication in his workouts, despite the steep learning curve ahead of him. "He's on a crash course to improve as much as possible," said Sendek. "We really focused a lot of our energies with Eric on helping to transform his body. He's still a young guy that hasn't developed physically and changed his physique and athleticism. He's working very diligently together with our Performance Coach Rich Wenner. It's comprehensive - lowering his body fat, increasing his muscle mass, improving his agility, explosion…"

"He understands what he has to do this year and the importance of getting the most out of each and every opportunity," continued Sendek. "He's not waiting for the meet to start – he's swimming everyday to develop himself so when the meet starts he can be in the race."

Boateng himself acknowledges the fact that he's significantly a different player now than he was when he first came in. "I feel like I worked a lot of my body in terms of conditioning and strength," he stated. "I'm running a lot better…skill wise I'm continuing to develop and learn. Even though I'm not playing, just practicing, I learned a lot more about the game and what we try to do on the floor. I learn from the success and mistakes of my teammates."

The center started playing the sport at 15, giving up his first love of soccer. He was a standout at St. Andrews High School where he was named Gatorade State Player of the Year as a senior and second team All-State as a junior. His senior year accomplishments of 21 points, 16 rebounds, and four block shots per game, landed him on the prestigious McDonald's All-American team. For a player that has just been playing basketball less than three years at the time, it would be hard to over dramatize his accomplishments at the high school level. Then again, the ever humble Boateng puts those feats in pragmatic perspective.

"Basketball is just a game that I really have grown to love," he noted. "I had a burning desire to get better at and it helped being in this country watching the game and learning more and more. I also learned from watching players back home (in England) on TV like Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan. It's just a sport that I have grown to love."

Aside from being recruited obviously by Duke, Boateng was pursued by UCLA, Georgetown, Villanova, Boston College, and North Carolina State who Sendek was coaching at the time. Playing scarcely for the Blue Devils made his choice to transfer uncomplicated. "At the time I wasn't comfortable and it wasn't the right fit for me," he recalled. "It was an easy decision and I was happy and one with myself. Fortunately, I'm in a position where I have great teammates, great coaches, a great University first and foremost…I'm really honored to be part of this basketball program."

Arizona State was the first trip that Boateng took after leaving Duke. His prior relationship with Sendek from his recruiting days spared any needed introductions on both sides, and the ASU freshman admitted that his acquaintance with Sendek the second time around was even better than the initial encounter. Boateng was simply looking for a place where he could feel content and comfortable not only on the court, but also off of it. Ultimately, Tempe proved to be that place.

Distance wasn't a factor for a player that is originally from a different continent all together. "Being from London…the geographics of things (i.e. east coast vs. west coast) are alien to me," he remarked with a smile. "I'm experiencing great weather here compared to the east coast, so things are great. I lived away from home for years and was fortunate to have a good close network of family and friends in Middletown, Delaware. I made good friends at Duke and I'm having some good relationships here."

One of those relationships that stand to bear invaluable fruit is with current Sun Devil forward Jeff Pendergraph. Both players are literally pitted against each other each practice; a move that Sendek believes is mutually beneficial. "I think it's always good when you have competition, it helps you go to another level, reach and strive," he explained. "Those guys do match-up against each other a great deal in practice and you do stand to benefit going up against a guy like Eric."

Those practices, as well as the whole 2006-07 campaign for that matter, are likely to end in one month from now at the Pac-10 tournament. Being that he's watching a trying season from the bench and not traveling with the team on road games, would probably have Boateng wish that this season had already come to an end. He passionately contends that theory. "I feel like we have a lot unfinished business," he stated. "I'm sure some people want to see this season end, but as a team – we're looking forward to the next battle. It's just a matter of taking it a day at a time and taking the effort to fight. No one around here wants the year to end. Next year will come, but it's about the here and now."

And the hard work put in by Boateng and his teammates today should pay hefty dividends next season.

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