2007-2008 Men's Basketball Preview

After a tough first season and an off-season that seemed forever long, the second year of the Herb Sendek era at Arizona State has arrived. 2006-07 was a struggle for everyone invested in the program as the Sun Devils went 8-22 and finished in last place in the Pac-10, winning only two conference games. However, with all of the tribulations endured then there was hope aplenty on the horizon.

Well, know the future is here.

With a recruiting class that is nationally ranked in the Top 20 in many publications, to go along with an impact transfer, the Sun Devils are ready to embark on a mission that will turn around the maroon and gold. There are six returning players and five newcomers make up a team that will have a very new and improved look from a year ago.

There may be many unknowns in regards to how the Sun Devils will do this year, but one thing is for certain – youth will be served. In its upcoming season opener against Illinois in the Maui Invitational, three true freshmen are expected to start: Jamelle McMillan, Ty Abbott and James Harden. Joining them in the starting five is Eric Boateng, a sophomore who transferred from Duke University after seeing limited time as a freshman with the Blue Devils. Junior Jeff Pendergraph, the most seasoned player on the squad, rounds out the starting lineup.

The plethora of new faces does carry some positives. ASU's style of play will be much more up tempo compared to last season, and its transition game should be light years improved over the 2006-07 campaign. Walking the ball up the court will now be the exception, rather than the norm. The offensive firepower this year should easily put the Devils over the 58.5 points scored per game average of last season.

The addition of Boateng, sporting a sweet looking hook shot, is an instant upgrade to ASU's inside game and will relieve pressure off of Pendergraph, who can further display his underrated, yet effective 15-foot jumper. In two exhibition games where he was the leading scorer and averaged 20 points, Harden is so far proving that his five-star and McDonald's All-American accolades are justified to say the least. He drives to the basket at will, and if he doesn't finish with two points then more than likely he earn the same amount from the charity stripe being after fouled.

Harden, along with Abbott and McMillan are accomplished outside shooters, which aside from putting points on the board, and should successfully combat the zone defenses opponents are likely to throw at them, as well as open up matters inside for Boateng and Pendergraph. While the offense isn't quite the full blown proverbial "Princeton Offense" that Sendek would like to employ one day, back door cuts and slashing to the baskets will show up more often than before.

Last season ASU allowed 61.8 points per game, and throughout the season established itself as one of the top defensive teams in the Pac-10. 14 of its games (2 wins, 12 losses) were decided by five points or less, which is a remarkable stat considering their offensive shortcomings at that time. Their signature zone defense is back from last year, and most of the team's newcomers are also known as stout defenders. It will be interesting to see if the anticipated dramatic improvement on offense has any effect on the other side of the court.

Let's meet the players who comprise the 2007-08 squad.

Returning Players:

G – Antwi Atuahene – Sr. – 6-3, 200

The lone senior on a young team, Atuahene is a workhorse on both ends of the court and can play both inside and out. He may be more known more for his slashing abilities and ability to create when posting up. An improved jump shot could only increase his offensive abilities. The Canadian import averaged 6.9 PPG and 3.7 RPG in his junior season and looks to be the vocal leader on and off the court for the Devils this season.

F – Jeff Pendergraph – Jr. – 6-9, 230

One of the few bright spots from last season and a player with growing NBA potential, Pendergraph is a guy with tremendous ability on both offense and defense with a soft touch and an ability to rebound anything in his vicinity. Pendergraph finished his solid sophomore season with a near double-double with 12.1 PPG and 9.1 RPG. This season could be his biggest yet as he will play side-by-side with Boateng in the frontcourt for the first time.

G – Steve Jones – Jr. – 6-1, 220

Fan favorite Steve Jones came to ASU as a walk-on and with incredible hustle and hard-working attitude he earned a spot in the rotation last season. His playing minutes may be hard to come by with a deeper bench, but once can be sure that his name will be called first from the Wells Fargo Arena stands in blowout games.

G – Derek Glasser – So. – 6-1, 180

A late signee in Sendek's first ASU recruiting class, Glasser quickly rose from the bench to earn the job as starting PG. He's done so thanks to his sound fundamental play, positive assist to turnover ratio and leadership qualities. Glasser struggled shooting early on but came into form later in the year and made a game-winning 3-PT at Cal in the regular season finale. Currently, the sophomore has lost his starting spot to McMillan but still stands to get substantial minutes this season in a back up role. G – Christian Polk – So. – 6-3, 185

A local product out of Glendale Deer Valley High School, Polk surged onto the scene last season with the Devils when he drained a 35-ft. three-pointer to beat Iowa. As most true freshmen, Polk had an up-and-down season scoring at 12.0 PPG. In 2006-07, he was by far the most consistent outside shooter on the team, even though he had some struggles of his own. In two exhibition games he's proving his worth as a bench player proving instant offense when he steps on the court. There's no doubt that less pressure will be put on him this year, which can only help him and the Sun Devils. G – Jerren Shipp – So. – 6-4, 214

The youngest of three siblings that have played Pac-10 basketball, Jerren Ship may not have the recognition that brother Josh at UCLA has. Nonetheless, Shipp had a respectable freshman campaign averaging 30 minutes a game and 7.6 PPG while shooting 34% from three-point range. To a somewhat lesser extent than his good friend Polk, Shipp can be that important bench player who can contribute with his effective jump shooting. Compared to Polk he's a better cutter and screener, as well as defender.

F – Chad Goldstein – Jr. – 6-9, 231

Another local product from Scottsdale, Goldstein returns to the Sun Devils after playing in 2005-2006 but sat out last season with health issues. Goldstein saw action in 19 games in his lone campaign and averaged 3.0 PPG and 2.1 RPG while providing depth. He will look to do the same this year as he will provide relief to a thin ASU frontcourt.


C – Eric Boateng – So. – 6-10, 245

The first impact move by Coach Sendek was landing Duke-transfer and McDonald's High School All-American Eric Boateng. Boateng played sparingly in his freshman campaign at Duke playing behind several current NBA players. After sitting out a season because of NCAA transfer rules, Boateng is going to be a big piece of the puzzle this season with his size, skill, and athleticism.

G – James Harden – 6-4, 218

The crown jewel of the freshman class. Harden was also a McDonald's High School All-American from Southern California. He was rated as one of the best high school players in the nation and has been touted as a potential "program-changer" for ASU. Harden will be one of the feature players in the offense and will look to make an immediate impact for the Devils. G – Jamelle McMillan – 6-1, 165

The son of former NBA star Nate McMillan, Jamelle is another gem in the freshman class. With a team-first attitude and incredible tenacity on defense, McMillan will get a lot of playing time this season and has a great chance to take over the reigns as starting PG. Prior to his arrival his outside shot has been thought to be a liability, but so far he's starting to prove that he can tickle the twine in a fairly consistent matter. G – Ty Abbott – 6-3, 200

The lone Arizona product in the freshman class, Abbott comes to ASU from Phoenix Desert Vista after a decorated high school career. Abbott is a tough perimeter player on both ends of the floor and as a starter will have a chance to frequently showcase his outside shot, as well as his defensive prowess. F – Rihards Kuksiks – 6-6, 205

Originally from Latvia, Kuksiks went to high school in Florida and impressed college coaches around the country with his unlimited shooting range and consistency. The sharp-shooting Latvian will likely see some playing time as Coach Sendek's offense caters to good three-point shooters. On the other hand, he may be the weakest defender out of al the freshmen and on an Herb Sendek team that doesn't bode well.

F – Kraidon Woods – 6-8, 200

After signing with Villanova, Woods went to prep school for a year and dropped his commitment with the Wildcats and joined the Sun Devils. The Pennsylvania native is a long and athletic big-man that will fit in well with a fast-paced offense that Coach Sendek is implementing for this season. His primary role will obviously spell Pendergraph and Boateng. What he lacks in physical play he makes up to some extent with his athleticism, and arguably has the biggest upside on the team. F – Trent Anderson – 6-7, 210

A Tucson product, this freshman walk-on will miss the season after tearing his ACL. A tremendous scholar-athlete, Anderson hopes to get healthy as soon as possible and be a contributor for the Sun Devils in the future.

Early Prediction

This is a very young Sun Devils team but there is a talent level on this team that hasn't been seen in Tempe for a very long time. With Pendergraph returning and an influx of incredible new players, this is a team that will be able to compete in the nation's best conference. A realistic expectation for Coach Sendek and the team would be 15 wins. This season may have its own set of struggles, but the improvement of the maroon and gold should be enough to draw more support from the Sun Devil fans compared to last year.

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