Trio of seniors exemplify resiliency

The college careers of Derek Glasser, Jerren Shipp and Eric Boateng didn't start exactly begin with resounding success. As freshmen Glasser and Shipp experienced the growing pains of the program, while Boateng played scarcely during his first three seasons at the collegiate level. As they close out their Sun Devil tenures all three have played a vital part in their squad's recent success.

By his own admission, Jerren Shipp has "been through a lot" in his four years and coincidentally toady when facing the media he had five stitches above his eye, as a result of an accident where he slipped and banged his head.

"I've been through a lot my four years," reflected Shipp, "with these guys, Eric and Derek, to see it all come to an end is pretty sad. I've been happy that I spent it with these two guys. It's pretty amazing…my freshman year and what our record was (8-22) to having 25 wins to where we are right now. It's pretty amazing what we have been through.

"It's great to know that we are the guys that built this program and helped turned it around."

As a freshman the guard averaged 30 minutes a game, and started in 22 contests that year. Currently, he averages 14.3 minutes and has been in the starting lineup just twice this season, and will get the nod again on senior day this Saturday.

As the curtain closes on Shipp's maroon and gold tenure, he stands to be ranked second only to Glasser in most ASU career games played. In his 125th game last Saturday, he led his team with 14 points in a loss to Cal and in the last five games he has proven to be a vital contributor off the bench averaging 8.2 points each contest.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged that thoughts of transferring did enter in mind earlier in his career, yet he never acted on them.

"It was hard for me," commented Shipp. "I was thinking about leaving. But I never wanted to quit on the program. I've been through a lot with these guys and I didn't want to leave them, even though my individual (performance) wasn't going right.

"I wanted to stick with these guys for four years. That was the biggest thing."

Shipp stated that he's not necessarily pleased with his entire senior season, but is content with the way he is ending his career at ASU. "I think I'm finishing off pretty strong," remarked Shipp. "In my last couple of games I want to keep the momentum that I have going. I want to play to the best my ability and play as hard as I played all year.

"I'm going to leave it all on the floor."

No one has to remind Eric Boateng that patience is a virtue. As a McDonald's All-American, the center was probably anticipating a thriving collegiate career at national powerhouse Duke, whom he signed with out of high school.

Alas, he played in just 20 games his freshman season and averaged just 2.5 minutes per contest. The obvious frustration with playing time led Boateng to seek a transfer. Sendek who recruited the center while coaching at ACC rival North Carolina State, already had an established relationship with Boateng which ultimately led him to Tempe.

After sitting out the 2006-07 season due to his transfer, Boateng was hoping to make an impact on the court. However, with the emergence of Jeff Pendergraph, Boateng averaged just 3.9 ppg playing just 11.6 minutes per contest and started just one game – the season opener of that campaign.

His junior year, his numbers in both of those categories decreased ever more. He did however seize his moment when Pendergraph exhausted his eligibility, and in his last go-around in the maroon and gold he's averaging 8.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg this season.

"It's been more of a journey," said Boateng. "So much you learn from your experiences and it makes you even hungrier for something. It makes you realize what you really want out of something, and I think that what it has done for me. It has made me really dig deeper in term of being a player and a person."

Boateng confessed that he didn't expect his path at Arizona State to be a bumpy one, so to speak.

"You never really prepared to what is going to happen," remarked Boateng.

The center said that he wasn't even sure if his Pac-10 record tying 11-11 from the field performance last week against Stanford was even his best performance of his career. He added that he's not consumed with statistics.

"The way I play is important to me," explained Boateng. "How I play will take care of the rest. The numbers will show for it. If I'm playing well and the numbers aren't showing – then that is what it is. I feel that the coaches' voices are the most important and getting their feedback." The center said that he's "immersed in the present" and has not thought of his plans for the future.

"It's an important week for us," said Boateng. "It's very important that we perform well and finish off strong." An emotional week too?

"Yeah, it will be," declared Boateng. "But I haven't really looked that far. I haven't been too reflective yet. I‘m sure I will be at the end of the weekend. So now I'm just really excited and focused on USC and UCLA."

No player in the Sendek era at ASU had made as dramatic of an improvement as Derek Glasser. This season, the point guard broke the school record for assists (currently he has 529) and with just nine more points he will be the first Sun Devil player to record 1,000 points and 500 assists in their career.

Glasser also holds the school record in games played (127) and career free throw shooting (.843). He also paces the Pac-10 in assists per game (4.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).

Out of high school the point guard was set to walk-on to USC, ASU's next opponent, and acknowledged that he still has several friends on the Trojans squad. This could be one reason why the contests between both teams do carry a certain "edge" and Glasser naturally expects more of the same on Thursday.

"They really gave it to us for the most part since I've been here," said Glasser. "It seems that they win every big game. They won both Pac-10 tournament games and the only place I never won at was USC.

"We are fully expecting them to come in here and play their best game of the year."

The Trojans have self-imposed a post-season ban, and thus Glasser was asked if he ever wonders what would have happen if he followed his original plan to play for his hometown team?

"No," he said with a smile.

What he does think about, despite his best efforts not to ponder it, is senior day.

"I know it's going to be such an emotional day," admitted Glasser. "The roller coaster ride has had its ups and downs. It's just going to be a tough day…but I'm just trying to think about USC right now and just wait until Saturday and give it (senior day) five minutes then."

Roller coaster may be an understatement to what Glasser has endured here, but he does take satisfaction in the fact that the program is in a better state than when he first arrived in Tempe four years ago.

"I think Coach Sendek has done a phenomenal job changing the culture of the program," commented Glasser. "When I first got here and we lost my freshman year it was like ‘well, we're supposed to lose. It's OK. We'll come and play the next game and maybe we'll win, maybe we won't.'

"Now if we lose, guys are disappointed, crying in the locker room. It's not OK to lose now and that is the big difference in this team. You come here to win a Pac-10 championship and not just to be in the Pac-10."

The guard realizes that he had to "pay his dues" in a trying freshman season to be where he is at now – one of the best point guards to ever don the maroon and gold and one that will hold several school records.

"As a freshman, I came in and didn't know what to expect," remarked Glasser. "I obviously wasn't ready to be a starting point guard in the Pac-10 when I got here. But I think all the experience I have gained through the games…it helps you grow as a player.

Glasser is a model of perseverance in his own right, and he sees his fellow seniors in that same manner.

"For those two guys," said Glasser. "It's just such a testament to their character. Eric sat out like four years without playing consistent basketball and then to come in this year…he's the hardest working player I have ever meet in my entire life. He's in the gym more than anybody I ever met. He works so hard, it was only a matter of time until it paid off. Like all of us he has had his ups and downs and he's the reason why we started playing so well.

"Likewise, Jerren is playing the best basketball I have ever seen him play. He has had a stretch since the U of A game where he has just stepped it up, hitting big shots and just playing very well for us. That's what we need especially coming down the home stretch here.

"For them just to stay strong, stay focused on the team and what is at stake is just awesome to see."


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