Arizona State fans have high hopes for point guard Jahii Carson

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The 2011-12 season was a bad one for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils won just 10 games and finished tenth in the Pac-12. A major issue for Herb Sendek was the fact that one of his two most talented players wasn’t cleared to play.

That would be point guard Jahii Carson, who did not qualify academically and was only allowed to practice. That left Trent Lockett, now at Marquette, without the sidekick expected to help Arizona State climb back to respectability.

Now that Carson is eligible, along with transfers Evan Gordon (Liberty) and Bo Barnes (Hawaii), and returnees such as Chris Colvin and Carrick Felix are coming off of solid seasons the Sun Devils are expected by their fans to be an improved team.

And with Sendek committed to playing a faster tempo, the big question for Arizona State is whether or not Carson is ready to lead the way. The Mesa native certainly doesn’t lack for confidence.

“I definitely have a certain confidence and swagger about myself,” said Carson in an interview with John Marshall of the Associated Press. “I don’t want to seem arrogant or cocky, but I definitely have a confidence about my game. I have a confidence about my teammate’s game. I think that together, we can be something super.”

Even with players such as Lockett and James Harden having played for Sendek during his time in Tempe he hasn’t had a point guard as electric as Carson, which should make for an interesting 2012-13 season.

“Jahii is an electrifying player.  He’s blessed with amazing athletic talent.  But for me, the joy in practice with Jahii is his eagerness to learn,” said Sendek at Pac-12 Media Day. “And he has been a complete and total team guy.

“So that’s the joy that I get from working with Jahii every day.  He’s very unselfish and he’s very eager to learn.  And that’s an awesome combination to have in a young player (courtesy of ASAP Sports).”

But will the addition of Carson truly result in Arizona State playing faster? That remains to be seen. According to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, the Sun Devils have never averaged more than 64 possessions/40 minutes during Sendek’s tenure in Tempe.

As noted above however, he hasn’t had a point guard like Carson before (although Derek Glasser was pretty good) and Sendek wants to play more man-to-man in an effort to push the tempo defensively.

“I have said this all offseason, so it is not breaking news, but I would be surprised if anyone is able to push the ball any faster than Arizona State,” Sendek said.

With Carson running the show it will be easier for Arizona State to carry that out. Now the question is whether or not they get it done.

Photo credit: Arizona State University

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.