Q&A with ASU Hoops Analyst Brad Nahra

As the Sun Devils enter Pac-10 play this week, Devils Digest caught up with former ASU basketball player and color analyst for the Sun Devil network's radio broadcast, Brad Nahra, to get his take on the 10-3 Sun Devils.

Devils Digest: Brad, with the non-conference portion behind us can you give your current assessment of the basketball team?

Brad Nahra: "If you look at the body of work for the first 13 games you have to be encouraged with what you have seen. Coming into the season, I think everybody would have been thrilled if you told them that the team would be 10-3 going into Pac-10 play. They looked great at times, they looked mediocre at times, but we've seen even last year that they can go on spurts like that.

"At the end of the day they have put themselves in position to make a run at the NCAA tournament. Their record is as such where if they win enough games in the Pac-10 they'll get a look at March."

DD: What one team aspect has really surprised you so far?

BN: "They are a couple of guys that have surprised me in a good way. One is Taylor Rohde. They have gotten great production from him and I don't think anybody expected that from him. Everybody thought that he would be a guy that would come in for a couple minutes at a time to give Eric (Boateng)a break. The offensive production he provided…he's very good on the pick and roll. He's active on both ends of the court and is always in the right spot on defense. I think the contributions you are getting from him are a real positive.

"Trent Lockett has slowed down in December, but the production you got from him early showed you the flashes of brilliance that he will potentially possess. If he can get back to that November form in January he will be a tremendous player for ASU."

DD: Defense obviously hasn't changed from last year, but how different is the offense now without James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph?

BN: "It's a more collective effort and they are getting different contributions from different players every game. The one thing that does concern me about their offense is that they are too reliant on the three-point shot. We've seen at times in the non-conference games that if they're not hitting from the perimeter, they don't have much offense going and tend to get stagnant. Conversely, when they do hit from the perimeter they look like world beaters. They're eventually going to need to find other ways to score."

DD: The all-time assist record aside, you have to be impressed with the play of Derek Glasser who has stepped up this season just like everybody expected him to do with the departures of Harden and Pendergraph…

BN: "People have doubted Derek every single year and even I thought when he came in that he wouldn't be a starter for this team. Going into last year, I thought Jamelle (McMillan) would be the starter at the beginning of the season. Derek just continues to prove me and everyone else wrong and keeps on getting better. Those people that thought that he would have a down year because James and Jeff are gone – his assist per game this year is higher than last year and that's pretty unbelievable.

"On top of that, he's actually developed into a reliable scoring option. It's so impressive to see what he has done in four years. That's the cool thing about college basketball – you get to see guys progress from their freshman, sophomore year into their senior year and Derek has turned into a phenomenal college basketball player."

DD: You mentioned Jamelle earlier and he may be somewhat a surprise how much better he's playing compared to last year…

BN: "He's such a stat sheet filler. It's almost comical to look at the stat sheet every game and see him have four steals, six rebounds, 12 points…every single category he's producing. He's the kind of the guy that leads with his actions, his play on the court and his work ethic. Derek is the vocal leader and Jamelle is the spiritual leader, if you will. You look at the way he prepares for games and the way he goes about his business in a game, you can't help but respect him. I think the guys feed off that.

"He's that constant in the lineup along with Derek. And if you get those two guys on the court at the same time, to have two calming forces like that – it's so valuable and it's something you don't see too often."

DD: One player that unfortunately hasn't been consistent so far is Eric Boateng. What's your take on his play in the non-conference portion of the schedule?

BN: "I think statistically he has been better than people expected him to be this year. Unfortunately he has struggled against taller players. Well, the good news is that the Pac-10 doesn't have a lot of dominant post players. There's no Jon Brockman or Jordan Hill. So, he in a lot of Pac-10 games he will have the size and strength advantage, and his scoring and rebounding will go up. He has good moves down low and is a pretty good defender with his body. So I think his production has been a pleasant surprise.

"You'd be fooling yourself thinking that he would be getting 20 points and 12 rebounds every night. He's just not that type of player. But with the emergence of Taylor to come onto the court and contribute, you get to sub both of those guys in and out, and now you have a pretty formidable tandem down there."

DD: Can you talk about some of the younger players like Victor Rudd and Demetrius Walker who aren't seeing that much playing time so far…

BN: "I've been impressed with what I've seen from Victor. He's obviously a tremendous athlete and he's not shy about anything. He comes in and he's ready to fire it up as soon as that ball hits his hands. I kind of like that about him, having that swagger that you need to be a very good player at this level. I think once he starts to figure things out a little bit more, he'll get more and more playing time. He obviously has the setback missing a lot of practice time, but eventually he will be a good player for this team.

"Demetrius is another incredibly gifted athlete. He's just needs to figure out how to play at this level. He probably has had the most trouble making the transition from the high school game to the college one. But I expect him to figure it out. It's a difficult thing to come into an Herb Sendek system and have everything click right away. Fortunately, Trent Lockett got it right away and it shows you just how special of a player he is. Demetrius is a little slower in his development but both he and Victor are going to be good contributors for four years."

DD: It's been well documented this season how much of a beating the Pac-10 has taken as a whole in non-conference play. On the flip side, it also means that the league can be very competitive. You probably rank Cal and Washington at the top, and after that it's hard to slot the rest of the teams…

BN: "When you look at the records of all the Pac-10 teams, the only teams aside from ASU that have really set themselves apart as far as records are concerned are Washington State and Washington. Washington State hasn't really played anybody. Washington is probably a legitimate team and the cream of the crop in the Pac-10.

"You look at Cal and they lost every big game they played, so they haven't exactly beaten anybody either. But they have the three guys (Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle and Theo Robertson) and as Arizona proved last year you only need three good players, so they'll be good.

"The middle of the Pac-10 is so jumbled and that's why I think ASU has a great opportunity in front of them to finish in one of those top three spots in the Pac-10."

DD: If you had a to-do list for ASU to have a successful Pac-10 season, what would that list consist of?

BN: "One thing is to get Ty (Abbott) and Rik (Rihards Kuksiks) shooting the ball consistently. It seems that this has been an issue for this team, getting both of them to play at the highest level at the same time. If you can get both of those guys on the wing knocking down shots consistently it's a very dangerous team.

"Like I said earlier, they have to find a way to score other than the three-point shot. Whether it's driving to the basket or posting up Eric, they have to figure other ways to get the ball in the basket. They will have cold shooting nights. You go up to Pullman and it's 10 degrees outside and 40 degrees in the gym, so you might not shoot 45 percent from three-point range."

"Those two things are the biggest issues I see. The defense has been phenomenal this year. It's almost crazy to say this, but I think the defense has improved this year even with James and Jeff not on the court."


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