Jahii Carson

Arizona State aims to play even faster in 2013-14

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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.

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
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Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.

“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”

The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.

What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.

The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.