Before the 2012-13 season began Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils were picked to finish 11th, with few buying the preseason claims that the team would play faster thanks in large part to the addition of redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson.
In Sendek’s six prior seasons at the school his “fastest-playing” team was the 2010-11 edition, which averaged 63.9 possessions per 40 minutes (ranking 296th in the country that season). So of course the idea of Arizona State playing at a higher tempo was met with much skepticism.
In the end Sendek and his program did play faster in 2012-13, and while their jump to 65.8 possessions/40 minutes didn’t reach “run and gun” status the addition of Carson (and the improvement of veterans Jordan Bachynski and Carrick Felix, to name two) kept Arizona State in the NCAA tournament at-large discussion until late-February.
So what will Arizona State look to do in 2013-14? They want to play even faster, with three key numbers being their focus during the offseason according to Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com.
Three: seconds to get across midcourt.
Twelve: the number of seconds in which he’d like his team to shoot the ball.
Twenty-four: the number of seconds on the shot clock that will help accelerate Arizona State’s new offense, the one designed to get your attention and maximize the talents of sophomore Jahii Carson.
In working towards this goal, Sendek will have the team practicing with a 24-second shot clock when workouts begin in the fall. Also helpful in this process is the presence of assistant coach Eric Musselman, who has been both an assistant and head coach at the NBA level.
But despite those tools, there’s one very important reason why Sendek can push his team to play faster than any prior Arizona State squad during his tenure in Tempe: Carson.
“A few years ago, people thought I actually wanted to play a slow-down offense,” Sendek told Bickley. “I did it because it was our only chance to compete. And now people think I’ve had an epiphany. No, I have the fastest point guard in college basketball.”
Carson hit the ground running after being forced to sit out the 2011-12 season as a partial qualifier, averaging 18.5 points (47.3% FG) and 5.1 assists per game and sharing Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. And with the amount of talent that has left the conference since the end of the season, Carson could very well be the player picked to be Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year come November.
How much faster Arizona State plays next season remains to be seen, but it’s a lot easier to make such plans when armed with one of college basketball’s quickest players.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.