Devils prosper in less structured offense

While the ASU's defense is once again shinning this season, the offense on the other hand has been a flickering light. An all-time low offensive output at USC two weeks ago prompted the coaching staff to change the offensive scheme to a wider open system and the move has been paying dividends ever since.

"There's no right or wrong move," said guard Jamelle McMillan of the new scheme. "If you want to cut, go ahead and cut. If you want to screen, go ahead and screen. Guys are having fun. As long as you keep the floor spaced and have movement…

"Sometime we hold the ball and just stand and that causes us to fail. If we are able to move the ball and everyone is going hard it's a fun way to play."

McMillan admitted that when first implementing the new scheme the team did lack the discipline to run it.

"Eyes lit up and it was chaos," McMillan recalled. "but once we were able to see different options, what's able to work and see how it plays out with a defense in a competitive atmosphere, guys realized if you set a screen and cut hard you'll get open, instead of playing 1-on-1 against five guys. It's something we had to see first.

"We did definitely start off one-against-the-world type deal. As we move along, it's coming together pretty well. With the guys we have we able to get some things done if we are able to work together and be smart about it."

The junior added that having the core of the team comprised of upperclassmen certainly helps to transition to a different type offense this late in the season. Nonetheless, newcomers such as Trent Lockett have been able to benefit from this change.

Lockett has averaged 11.5 points in ASU's first two conference wins this past weekend against the Washington schools. The crux of the freshman's offensive strengths is driving to a basket; an aspect that is being emphasized even more is this newly employed scheme.

"I'm definitely more of a penetrating guard," Lockett stated. "This style of offense caters to my style of playing a little more. It was a good switch for me and the team. It's giving people a little more freedom, but we can't abuse our freedom. We need to give coach confidence in us.

"When we first put it in everyone was a little clustered and we didn't know what to do in each situation. The spacing is a lot better now and we are making our reads. We definitely felt good before the Washington game that we can execute it."

"I've been very pleased with the way guys have picked it up," said Head Coach Herb Sendek. "We have some very fast learners. So many of the concepts we were already using. We didn't reinvent the wheel. A lot of things we're doing now we were doing before. It's not a complete change. Many teaching principles are exactly the same."

The Sun devil skipper claimed that this scheme didn't exactly arrive from left field, and has been evolving for a while.

"Like any offense, you have to play together," Sendek said. "It's true of any offense. I wouldn't rush to put this in some special category. It's still going to come down to the basics. It's not a panacea, it's not a trick. It doesn't fit into any brilliant category. It's just what we needed now."

Are Sendek's players surprised that their normally calculated coach has dramatically loosened the reins on offense?

"Yes and no," McMillan replied. "I feel that because he spends so much time trying to come up with different schemes, the more he watches us this is what he comes up with. It's personnel driven. Guys like Ty (Abbott) and Trent are putting the ball on the floor a lot more, being aggressive. You got guys like Demetrius (Walker), Victor (Rudd) who attack the basket.

"He realized that playing that way is a little faster pace and guys like that. They are buying into that a little bit more than what we have done in the past. I guess they were bugging him in recruiting about that. He's catering to the players and that's what he's all about."

"Guys always want to know how fast you are going to play," Sendek said in regards to conversations with recruiting prospects. "But then the reality sets in that if you want to play fast you better run really hard and be in great shape. So I challenge them to run faster and push harder. I have no problem with that at all."

Locking it down

Lockett's quick start in November, took a significant dip the following month. The guard attributes that roller coaster like performance to freshman inconsistency.

"I think I'm learning what it takes to compete at this level as we go here on the fly as a true freshman," Lockett explained. "My energy and effort wasn't where it needed to be. I learned from my mistakes and I'm definitely ready to contribute now. I'm not going to play if I don't bring what I need to to the table."

"I got my confidence back and I'm able to attack the rim with confidence. I'm back attacking the boards. I'm now back on track."

Lockett's display against Duke, where he scored 13 points on 5-6 shooting from the field, was easily his breakout performance of the season. It's a showing that his family and friends back in Minnesota still talk about these days. Yet, the guard knows he has to keep matters in perspective.

"It's pretty irrelevant to me now," Lockett said of that November 25th contest. "That was a while ago and you're only as good as what you bring to the table last. We need to focus on these two Oregon teams and come out with two wins."

Getting a taste of their own medicine

Oregon has already shown this year that they will mix up their defense showing both man to man and zone looks. McMillan acknowledged that even the Sun Devils who exclusively play zone defense, do struggle at times playing against that very same scheme.

"Guys want to sand there and cast the ball from the outside," McMillan admitted. "The key is movement, guys cutting in from behind the zone. We know what screws us up, like ball screens. So if we are able to take what we know, from playing against ourselves, and apply it to different teams we should be highly effective."

One last Mac Court memory

In all likelihood Thursday's game versus Oregon should be ASU's last game at McArthur Court in Eugene. The 1926 building is one of the oldest college basketball courts in the country, and will give way to the new Matthew Knight Arena scheduled to open in time for the 2010-11 campaign.

Having said that, don't expect some of the ASU veterans to be nostalgic.

"Not at all," McMillan replied when asked if he would miss not playing again the historic venue. "Going down 50 stairs to the basement and it's like 200 degrees down there and it's green."

"I love the old buildings," Sendek remarked. "I love places like the Palestra, those places have so much tradition and history. They smell like gyms. I'm always partial to those kinds of venues. They add a lot to the sport."

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