2017-18 ASU Men’s Basketball Preview
By Andrew Bell and TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writers for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, AZ After exceeding expectations in Bobby Hurley’s second year at the helm of ASU basketball, ASU looks to build off of last year’s team that went 15-18 (7-11) and was plagued by depth issues and a lack of size.
Coming into this season, the Sun Devils have addressed those issues.
In the backcourt, ASU returns two of the top-five returning scorers in the PAC-12 in senior Tra Holder (16.2 ppg) and senior Shannon Evans II (15.0) despite losing their leading scorer from last year Torian Graham(18.6 ppg) to graduation.
Evans has already made some noise this preseason with a 50-point outing against Arizona Christian in the Devils’ final exhibition game, while Holder has put up two 20-point outings in the three exhibition games.
Senior Kodi Justice also returns for coach Hurley’s team, after averaging 9.2 points as a junior last season.
Freshman guard Remy Martin looks to make a solid contribution this season as well, as it has been hard for coach Hurley to keep him off the court, especially with the defensive presence that he brings.
“He (Martin) brings a whole new dimension on defense that we can use,” Hurley said. “Everyone gets excited watching him do what he does.”
Martin has recorded at least one steal in every exhibition game. The freshman out of Chatsworth, Calif. had his best exhibition game against USD, where he recorded 25 points on 7-10 shooting, 3-5 on threes, six rebounds, four blocks and a steal.
“He (Martin) does it every day,” said Shannon Evans. “He brings energy and passion to us, he’s been great.”
Martin was ranked No. 77 by Scout.com’s Top-100 rankings and No. 85 by ESPN’s Top-100 rankings, joining fellow Sun Devil freshman forward Kimani Lawrence on the lists (No. 58 and 57 respectively).
Senior guard Austin Witherell will also return to action for ASU after logging 26 minutes as a junior last season.
As a whole, the backcourt is going to need to shoot better than they did last season, with neither of the returning leading scorers, Holder and Evans, shooting above 44 percent from the field. As a team, ASU shot 43.4% from the field, while allowing their opponents to shoot almost 48 percent. Not exactly a winning formula.
As for the frontcourt, the Sun Devils were outrebounded by 7.1 rebounds a game last season. This year, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley has brought in a few new faces to help that cause.
Redshirt freshman forward Romello White did not play last season, but this year, he will look to be a big factor in the inside for the Sun Devils.
White did not play in two of ASU’s exhibition games, but he did see action against San Diego on Nov. 1. In his first game action for the maroon and gold. White tallied 14 points and 10 rebounds.
In addition to White, ASU will bring another dimension to its game on the interior with the addition of Lawrence.
Lawrence was 7-8 from the field with 18 points in an efficient performance in ASU’s 115-69 exhibition victory over Arizona Christian.
ASU also supplemented their roster in the offseason by adding sophomore forward Mickey Mitchell, redshirt sophomore Carlton Bragg, and redshirt sophomore Zylan Cheatham.
Mitchell, Bragg and Cheatham are all transfers from big college basketball programs.
Mitchell transferred from Ohio State after averaging 22 minutes a game with the Buckeyes, but he will not see time in ASU’s first half of the season due to NCAA transfer rules. However, he will be eligible to take the court when conference play begins in January.
As for Bragg and Cheatham, the two forwards will have to sit out the entire 2017-18 season due to transfer rules.
Bragg transferred from Kansas after averaging 8.9 points for the Jayhawks last season, while Cheatham is a transfer from San Diego State. Both players will be eligible to play next season.
Aside from the three new forward transfers from large schools, there is also a junior college transfer who will look to make an impact right away for Hurley and the Sun Devils–junior forward De’Quon Lake.
Lake is a highly touted transfer from Iowa Western College, where he shot over 67 percent from the field last season.
“His head is still spinning just in terms of everything we are doing, and trying to adjust to a new situation, but he has got some upside with his ability to get off of his feet and finish,” Hurley said. “I do think we could eventually throw him the ball (in the post).”
Sophomore forward Ramon Vila and redshirt freshman forward Vitaliy Shibel will round out the list of players in the frontcourt for the Sun Devils.
Shibel missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he will return to the court this year. The left-handed big man could provide large dividends for ASU with his ability to stretch the floor and shoot from behind the arc.
Looking at ASU’s schedule, Bobby Hurley continues to schedule a tough out-of-conference slate to go along with the tough PAC-12 schedule.
After starting the season with four straight home games, including a matchup with San Diego State, the Sun Devils will head to Las Vegas for the Continental Tire Invitational where they will play Kansas State and either Xavier or George Washington, depending on who wins/loses.
After that, a quick break with a game against San Francisco is followed by a matchup against St. John’s in Los Angeles, and then a trip to Lawrence to face the fourth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, who were eliminated by Oregon in the elite eight last March.
Conference play opens up shortly after that with a trip down to Tucson to face the third-ranked University of Arizona Wildcats and one of the best players in the country, DeAndre Ayton.
ASU will face a full PAC-12 schedule, including matchups with 21st-ranked UCLA, and 10th-ranked USC. The Sun Devils will also face the Oregon Ducks, a team that represented the PAC-12 in the final four last year.
ASU’s third season in the Bobby Hurley era will begin at Wells Fargo Arena on Nov. 10 against Idaho State. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m with Killian McClatchey and Bo Wilkinson on the call on the Blaze Radio Mixlr account.
Andrew Bell and TJ Mathewson are the Blaze Sports beat writers for the the Men’s Basketball team. You can reach out to them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow them on Twitter @AndrewBell7 and @tjm5518.