Quick Start for Kuksiks

His freshman year was off to a rocky start, but when the light bulb finally went on for Rihards Kuksiks it strongly shined for the last 12 games of the season. The sophomore from Latvia has stormed out of the gates this season expanding his game and shedding the label of a spot-up shooter beyond the arc.

In Arizona State's 64-44 win over Nebraska not only did Rihards Kuksiks post a career best 18 points, but also collected a high mark of six rebounds. The 6-6 205 guard didn't settle for long range outside shots, and actually mixed it up the paint on both ends of the floor.

"Whatever the team needs I'll do it," said a humble Kuksiks. "Whatever it takes to win.

"Teams know I'm a shooter, so sometimes I'll ball fake and go right by them. It's not too hard because they're all guarding me (tight). I used to do that in high school all the time. If I have to do it and throw down a dunk I will."

In the game prior to Nebraska, against Jackson State, Kuksiks posted a career high of 16 points which served as further evidence that he'll probably won't repeat the feat of an early season slump. Last year the forward had just 42 points in the first 22 games of the 2007-08 campaign.

Kuksiks agreed that last year's strong finish, where he averaged 8.7 points in the final 12 games of the season, has created a momentum that is carrying him these days. "I also had injuries in the beginning of last year," explained the sophomore, "and now I feel much better and I'm playing better."

The team's last game against Nebraska, according to head coach Herb Sendek, was probably the best defensive effort put forward by the Sun Devils. Even though his coach praised him and his teammates after the win; Kuksiks knows that when it comes to this game aspect Sendek doesn't relent.

"We probably have to keep it down to zero (points)," he quipped. "But when he sees that we play good defense he'll say that we did good but we can do better."

On offense, having a defender magnet such as James Harden, naturally creates open shots for players such as Kuksiks and Ty Abbott who have shown the prowess of converting from three-point range.

"He makes my life a lot easier," admitted Kuksiks. "The guy is so good, it takes two to guard him and when he passes you have a wide open shot."

A 7-1 mark is obviously very pleasing for the Sun Devils at this point of the year, but that content shouldn't be mistaken for complacency.

"I think we still have to get better and get ready for Pac-10," said Kuksiks. "We have a couple of good teams to play and then the Pac-10 – that's when it really starts."

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