"That was a good way to start the season; we were able to get our young guys some important minutes. To the extent we were able to do that here early in the season; I think that's good for us. I thought our veteran players really set the tone early and then the young guys kind of followed right in line. But a good team effort, very pleased with the effort."
Losing two very valuable players to the NBA, the Sun Devils have brought on a handful of talented newcomers to rebuild their team. A standout in the group was Demitrius Walker. The true freshman played with intensity throughout the entire game, proving his aggressiveness on the court.
"He played a very good second half," senior Derek Glasser said of his teammate. "He is very aggressive going to the basket and that's what he does when he's at his best. Defensively he was in his stance, he was everywhere, and he was going for rebounds, offensive and defensive. I thought he and Trent (Lockett) and Ruslan (Pateev), I thought everybody played pretty well tonight."
A very passionate player, Walker showed in his collegiate debut to Coach Sendek that the ability to be a difference for his team, even if his play was erratic at times, especially in the first half.
"Like of any of us, balance is good," Sendek commented. "I love the way that he attacks off the dribble and that may result in things happening that aren't always favorable but more often than not I think he's going to be able to get in the paint and help create offense for us."
Senior Eric Boateng had an impressive opener, finishing the game with 9 rebounds and 9 points to his name. Boateng also went 3-4 at the line, proving that during the offseason he worked to improve his free throw technique.
"[He worked] tremendously hard, he is definitely a better free throw shooter then he has been," Sendek noted. "The shot looks much better."
Another newly improved Sun Devil is senior Jerren Shipp, scoring eight points during his 21 minutes on the court. Shipp spent the offseason improving physically for his final season in Tempe and so far it has been playing dividends.
"What Jerren has done is, changed his body," Sendek explained. "He is a different person physically, he is in the best shape of his life. There is no question he is going to be in a better position to take advantage of his abilities given his conditioning and his changed body."
With the departure of former Sun Devil, Jeff Pendergraph, a leadership role on the team was left vacant. Consequently, Jamelle McMillan was ready and willing to take the role as his own. The junior was 4-5 from three-point range in the win.
"He has become one of the more vocal guys on the team," team captain Derek Glasser said. "Obviously, Demetrius is very vocal but Jamelle has kind of taken over Jeff's role in being the vocal leader, yelling and screaming in practice. He definitely brings that fire to practice every day and it helps us as a team."
"What you saw from Jamelle tonight, is what he has provided every single day in practice," Sendek Remarked. "I don't care if we're doing a lay-up drill at the beginning of practice…at any point of the middle of practice if you push ‘pause' he has consistently give amazing effort. He hasn't even come close to a speed bump. And that carried over tonight.
"I think the rest of the players see Jamelle do that, and hearing his voice day in and day out – that's helping them. It's important for guys like Demetrius and Trent to see what it looks like if you do it the right way and he is providing that for us right now."
Without a so-called star player this year, the Sun Devils know that they have to be fundamentally sound, playing aggressive defense and taking every opportunity possible to score.
"Yeah that's going to be how we're going to have to win," Glasser acknowledged. "We're not looking to run with Washington and score 90 or run with Oregon and score 90. We're going to want to slow the game down and run our offense and push when we have the chance, but defensively is how we're going to win games."
The Sun Devils seem to be on the right track, at least that's what their season opener would leave the nearly 9,000 fans in attendance to believe. Playing hard throughout the matchup, despite the wide margin on the scoreboard, the team knows they have the support of their fans, specifically the Arizona State students.
""We're making progress and I've been saying that people ought to get their tickets now because someday they won't be able to, I hope," Sendek said. "But I think most encouragingly was our students. What a great student turnout. I'm encouraging them all on Monday and Tuesday because we play so late (9:00 pm) to wear their pajamas to the game."
"I thought our students were terrific, we had a good opening night crowd and we're going to continue to build on it. These guys are easy to cheer for, their easy to get behind, and they are world class guys. They gave great effort, we don't have to sweep the floor tonight because guys were on the floor. If you love basketball and you love young people, win, lose or draw, it would just seem to me, to me anyways that's what I like to watch."