Harden Enjoying Busy, Successful Week

In span of seven days, ASU basketball signee James Harden captured his second consecutive state title, participated in the prestigious McDonalds All-American All-Star game, and will travel to the Roundball Classic All-Star game. Devils Digest caught up with the future Sun Devil in between trips to get his impressions on his recent and lofty accomplishments.

It all started last Saturday for James Harden, as his 22 points (20 in the second half) paced Lakewood Artesia in a 91-64 victory over Oakland Bishop O'Dowd to win the California state Division III title for the second year in a row. The Pioneers finished 33-2 on the season, and Harden was their leading scorer averaging 18.8 points per game shooting at a 63% clip from the field and 48% from beyond the arc. He also had a team-high in rebounds (275 total, 7.8 per game), assists (136, 3.8) and steals (68, 1.9). He's ranked as Scout.com's top 2007 West Coast shooting guard prospect, as well as the fourth best in his position nationwide.

"It's a great feeling to finish your high school career with a state championship," said Harden. "I'd be so mad if we lost that title game. I'd be at such a bad mood at the McDonalds game. I'm so happy we won it back-to-back."

Despite having a phenomenal junior season at Artesia, the ever so humble shooting guard didn't feel like he was destined to follow-up with an ever better senior year, and one that would recognize him nationally as one of the best in his position. "I just came everyday and worked hard on my game," remarked Harden. "My coaches always told me that I'll be rewarded only if I worked hard and that's what happened. We won state and I went to the McDonalds game."

As one can expect, the McDonalds All-Star, which was played in Louisville, was a memory that Harden will cherish for a long time. "It was a fun experience," he noted. "I was with a great group of guys and we just had a fun and relaxing time. It was great being with all these high school all-stars, and it gives you a preview of what to expect on the college level. It just made me more excited to develop my game and start playing in college."

In that contest, Harden collected 8 points. One of them was a breakaway dunk, and the other three baskets were identical to each other, as he drove the lane dropping in a high arching ‘teardrop' basket. He also had a rebound and an assist that evening. "That was a preview to what the Sun Devil nation can expect from James Harden," said Scott Pera who coached Artesia last season to a state title and now is the current Director of Basketball Operations at ASU. "I'm so happy for him that he got rewarded for a great season and got to go to the McDonalds All-American game."

Harden claimed that he wasn't disappointed with the limited minutes that he got in that contest. "I made the most of my time when I was in there, I was aggressive going to the basket and I think I was at my best in that game."

With such a big collection of talented athletes, there was obviously a good deal of back and forth trash talking. One would expect that James Harden and University of Arizona-bound Jerrod Bayless would perhaps exchange some good nature ribbing, as part of the intense rivalry between both of their schools. But there was one problem…"Jerrod and I were roommates so we didn't talk a lot of smack," said Harden. "We both said how much we're looking forward to playing each other in college."

Harden can't point to one skill in specific that he improved on from last season, but did comment that: "I got into better shape and improved my endurance. I can't say that I noticed one aspect of my game that I'm really better at from last season. Just playing and getting more experience helped my overall game."

On Saturday Harden will depart to Chicago where he will play in the nation's oldest high school All-Star game – the Roundball Classic on April 3rd. Harden, who's academically qualified, will finish up his high school studies in the later part of June. Shortly after that, he will arrive in Tempe in time for the second summer session in the beginning of July. "I'm really excited about coming to ASU," he said.

And the maroon and gold faithful are equally as thrilled for the arrival of one of the most heralded recruits to ever set foot on the Sun Devil campus.

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