Pressure To Win Still Continues For ASU

Following a home sweep of the Oregon schools, the Sun Devils have in essence move themselves off the bubble, and into the NCAA tournament. Thus, one would assume that the team would be worry free entering a Pac-10 tournament that can only improve seeding for the big dance, rather than buy a ticket to this prestigious event. Coach Rob Evans begs to differ on this issue.

"I feel pressure all the time to win basketball games." Says Evans who faces an Oregon team that needs a victory to secure their spot in post-season play. "It's a matter of respect for me. That's they way I was brought up, you give respect and you demand respect. The only way you can demand respect in a ball game is to compete hard and win a ball game. That's what we're gonna do. It's our next assignment, and we have to make sure we live up to the standards that we set for ourselves."

Evans says that the fact ASU played Oregon just last week, can both be a positive and a negative when preparing for an opponent who you are very familiar with, but is also very familiar with you. Nevertheless, the ASU coach feels good about his chances because of the way his team has been playing in their last four games. "Our guys are playing well, and that's all that I gage everything on. Sometimes you win basketball games when you don't play well, and that's a concern. Sometimes you lose games and you play well. We played well against Cal and Stanford on the road, we just ran into teams that played a little better than we did. Our last two game we fought hard through adversity to win. I'm extremely pleased with the way these guys are playing."

As mentioned, every win that the Devils can manage in the conference tournament can help with the team's seeding in the NCAA tournament. The importance of that seeding is can only go so far says Evans. "Anytime you get a higher seeding, you should have less of an uphill battle. But anytime you get to the tournament, all the teams you're going to play are good. If we get the tournament, we want to make sure that we're prepared for it. The Pac-10 tournament certainly prepares you for that. We've done everything we could to prepare these guys by going into Maui…we've played top 25 competition all through the season. I wanted to do that with a senior laden ball club. No matter who we play in the tournament, we have to play extremely hard and I like how my team is playing right now." Regardless of how important the seeding may or not be, the ASU coach would like focus on the matters that he's responsible for. "Anytime we're playing a basketball game we're playing to win. That's all we have control over. I don't worry about things I don't have control over."

Rob Evans was brought to Tempe five years ago, to turn around a program that was in shambles. When looking back at the situation he came into, Evans said that he couldn't have imagined a harder task to accomplish. "It's been very challenging to say the least. I knew that coming in we had a lot of challenges, but I really got to see what we were up against once we came here. There were a lot more issues here than I thought there were. I thought the Mississippi job was the toughest challenge anybody could have, but I don't agree with that anymore. I don't think most programs had to battle with what we had to."

Renovating a basketball program sometimes requires taking less talented players, for the sake of having upstanding citizens. It may be a road that doesn't ensure overnight success, but the ASU coach knows that it is the price one must pay. "We have a game plan when you rebuild a program. When you first come to a troubled program, you have to get solid people. That's just like in any business. Sometimes you sacrifice a little talent to establish your program, and that's what we did. They were probably better athletes we could have signed, but they didn't have the type of character we wanted. As you go on and get those type of people, then you try to get better talent with the same character. When you take shortcuts you put the school in danger, and I won't do that."

The support he has received from the school hasn't gone unnoticed by Evans, and was essential to the turnaround the team has experienced. "I'm blessed with an administration that understands that it is a challenge, and saw fit to give me time to go at my own pace. We're blessed that we've come along as quickly as we have. Looking back, I would say that it would take us a little bit longer. Hopefully it's the beginning of some good things happening at Arizona State University."

When it comes to the Sun Devil program the progress that the team has enjoyed thus far, can be a springboard to promising future. "We know our program is moving forward," says Evans, "and it's gonna be a lot of fun keeping on pushing it forward and keep battling. We have other things we want to accomplish here, and we have a good chance accomplishing them."

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