Pendergraph ‘Proud' of Team, Season

MIAMI - Losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament isn't how Jeff Pendergraph wanted to end his career, and to add insult to injury he had to watch the last ten plus minutes of the game from the bench after fouling out. Yet, shelving his disappointment he was able to reflect positively on the season that just ended.

"Looking back at this year, especially being the only senior, I'm really proud of our guys," said Jeff Pendergraph. "Even how well we were supposed to do this year, we still had a lot of doubters and everything, and I still think even though we're disappointed in the loss today, we still had a productive year, and with Coach Sendek and the guys that are still here, this will be a great thing for them to build on for next year.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better from our guys, helping me out with my senior year. They left it on the line for me, and I couldn't have asked for a better senior year. When I look back at my career it was pretty successful."

Throughout his Arizona State tenure Pendergraph has had his shares of emotional outbursts, thus he even astonished himself we he didn't have another one of those episodes after he fouled out with so much time remaining.

"I'm surprised I didn't kick something and get ejected," the forward admitted. "I'm surprised I just sat there. To me that is the worse ending I could ever have for my senior career.

"There were ten minutes left. Are you serious? What am I gonna do now? I felt that I should grab a coloring book or something to occupy my time."

Pendergraph kept on encouraging his teammates while on the bench telling them. "They have to step up their game and don't wait for me," the forward said about his speech to them, "because I'm not in there. If they want to do it, find it in their hearts and do it for me. I don't have no more – it's on them."

Pendergraph felt that the stable of big men Syracuse presented today, was by far the toughest group he has faced this year. "They have guys there that are 6-9 and weigh 250 on average," he commented. "It's not like one is seven foot and the other one is 6-4, like our team.

"(Arinze) Onuaku is like a seven foot Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens' linebacker). It's not like he's just a big body, he's a good post player too. I had my work cut out. Their guards drive to the basket and shoot. The whole team is consistent. They're a high power offensive team. You can't have bums if they average 80 points a game. That tells you right there how good they can be offensively."

The forward added that he wouldn't be surprised if the Orangemen made it to the Final Four.

Pendergraph confessed that it was hard to believe that his college career is over now, but as he reflects on his four years of Tempe, he can't help but feel a great sense of accomplishment for him personally and for the team.

"From where I was before to where I am now, there has been so much progress," he said. "It's a good feeling."

Conversely, the forward was feeling sorrow about not being part of the team anymore. "Those are my boys and I'm gonna miss them," he said. "But that's all right. I'll come back and kick it with them. I see myself going into the Hall of Fame thingy, have my picture up there, and once we get the practice facility my name will somewhere up there."

Jeff Pendergraph court? "Why not? Anything is possible," he replied with a smile.

Pendergraph believes that the future of the Sun Devil program is in good hands because: "Coach Sendek has the recipe," he said. "Give him time, he's only been here three years. Look where he got us in three years. As the years go on, our seed (in the tournament) will get higher and we will be one of those powerhouses.

"Coach Sendek is such a great teacher. Look at me. If guys want to get better and be good college players and looking for that college experience they need to come to coach Sendek."

When jokingly asked if he would be disappointed with the projection having him selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 29th pick in the first round he replied enthusiastically: "Heck No!...but I also like to be picked top 10. I'll take Luke Walton's spot and have Lamar Odom teach me some stuff."

He also agreed that if the projection concerning James Harden comes true, and hat he would be selected in the top five by the Clippers, that he would have the better end of the deal than the sophomore.

Should I stay or should I go?

Just as it is a given that James Harden will enter the NBA draft this year, it was just as expected for him not to declare his intentions concerning his junior year less than 30 minutes after the Syracuse game.

"We're still in the season," he said. "We had a game today. So that was the furthest thing from my mind. I still won't think about it. It's something I'll think about later with my coaches and my family."

Harden added that he expected to consult his coaches and family the next couple of weeks before making a decision.

The sophomore claimed that donning the maroon and gold next year, isn't far as fetched as some may think.

"Why wouldn't I want to come back?" he asked. "We have something good at Arizona State. Great coaches, great players. Obviously Jeff is laving and he was a great senior, but we still have some good pieces here."

Just like the Temple game, Harden didn't drive in the first half to the basket to create scoring opportunities for himself. It is something that he naturally regrets.

"My teammates talked to me in the locker room," he recalled. "They said they needed me. I shouldn't have waited until the second half. I should have been aggressive in the first half as I was in the second half. But I was trying to be more aggressive, create more open shots in the middle of the zone. You know, that was basically it.

"Obviously I wasn't (aggressive) and I didn't knock down open threes like I should of. But that shouldn't stop me from being more aggressive.

In the second half there was an emphasis on feeing the ball to Harden in the high post, to allow him to drive to the basket, as opposed to the first half where he was trying to slash more to the basket and create shots for his teammates.

The Syracuse players felt that if any of their opponents attempts a bevy of three point shots, that their defense is doing their job and will lead them to victory. Harden didn't necessarily think that the 35 three-point shot attempts by ASU were that much out of character for the Sun Devils.

"We shoot a lot of threes so I don't think it was all because of their defense," Harden claimed. "We shoot a lot of threes every game and we have great shooters on this team. We had a lot of open shots that we should have knocked down today."

"I don't think except for at the end," said Derek Glasser, "we didn't take really any bad threes, maybe one or two here or there, but except for the end I think all the shots we put up were good shots."

Harden, even though his Achilles wasn't 100% and did have a sinus infection, didn't fall back on his physical health as an excuse for his performance in the NCAA Tournament.

"I felt great and I just had one, two games where my shot didn't fall," he said. "I wish it would have fallen because it's a crucial part of the season – if you lose you go home. My teammates did a great job in the first half stepping up for me, and today was overall a bad day."

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