Back in early October Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek removed any doubt as to what would happen at the end of the 2013-14 season with regards to point guard Jahii Carson, revealing that the sophomore would be entering the 2014 NBA Draft. Wednesday afternoon the school made the news official via press release, with the 5-foot-10 floor general moving on to the professional ranks after playing two years in Tempe.
“After discussing all my options with my family, teammates and coaches, I have decided to enter the 2014 NBA Draft,” Carson said in the release. “My time at ASU has helped me mature as a student, athlete and person and has prepared me to take this next step in my career. I cannot thank Coach Sendek enough for allowing me to be a part of such an incredible Sun Devils community and I look forward to cheering on my teammates and all their future success.”
MORE: The entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft
Carson, who shared Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad last season, averaged 18.6 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game in helping lead the Sun Devils to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. Carson failed to reach double figures in scoring just four times this past season, with his best performance being a 40-point outing in a win at UNLV in November.
Carson was a first team All-Pac-12 selection in each of his two seasons as a Sun Devil. As a freshman, Carson averaged 18.5 points and 5.1 assists per contest.
Arizona State has six incoming recruits for the 2014-15 season, a large recruiting class which underscores that the Pac-12 squad would probably have some turnover during the offseason, but it is debatable whether coach Herb Sendek thought the scholarships would free up on the same day. Richie Edwards will head to New Zealand to play professionally (Edwards had exhausted his eligibility), Bo Barnes announced he would transfer Friday morning, and Calaen Robinson will also leave the Pac-12 program after his inaugural season.
Other than those three Sun Devils, Sendek will also be without Jahii Carson, Jordan Bachynski, Jermaine Marshall, and potentially Shaquielle McKissic — the team is reportedly going to petition for an extra year for the wing.
There will be a plethora of fresh faces greeting Sendek and the coaching staff during fall practices, and the coaches are clearly not finished recruiting. Arizona State is one of a handful of teams competing to land Bryce Dejean-Jones as well as Willie Atwood, a juco big who is being pursued by squads who need frontcourt depth.
Nine days ago the Arizona State Sun Devils earned a signature victory for their resume, beating then-No. 2 Arizona 69-66 in overtime. Conventional wisdom had Herb Sendek’s team well on its way to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, and with contributors such as guards Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall and center Jordan Bachynski Arizona State has the look of a team capable of winning once there.
But just as important as picking up quality wins at this point in the season is building on the momentum gained from such results. And it’s safe to say that on their trip to Colorado and Utah, Arizona State did not get the job done. After getting beat decisively on the glass in a 61-52 loss at Colorado on Wednesday night, things got even worse for the Sun Devils in Salt Lake City.
After scoring the first two points of the game Arizona State struggled mightily against a Utah team looking to rebound from a tough overtime loss to Arizona, trailing by as much as 27 in the first half. Utah would win 86-63, resulting in an 0-2 road swing for an Arizona State team that while well-positioned to reach the NCAA tournament can’t afford to get too comfortable. Neither the effort nor the execution were there for Sendek’s Sun Devils, and by the time they flipped the switch and cut the margin to 13 points in the second half the hole was too deep to climb out of.
Shaquielle McKissic (16 points, five rebounds) and Egor Koulechov (11 points, eight rebounds) showed up ready to play, but the same can’t be said for most of their teammates. Arizona State’s three most important players combined to shoot 7-for-29 from the field and as a team the Sun Devils shot just 31% from the field. By comparison Utah made 54% of its shots, with Delon Wright putting on a clinic in all-around guard play.
Wright made all seven of his shots from the field, finishing the game with 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson may be one of the frontrunners for Pac-12 Player of the Year, but from a versatility standpoint Wright isn’t far behind. With the weakness of their non-conference schedule Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes likely need the automatic bid to reach the NCAA tournament, but with players such as Wright and Jordan Loveridge this program has taken steps in the right direction. And given their youth, 2014-15 could be a really good year for Utah.
As for Arizona State, upcoming home games against Stanford and California become more important on the heels of Sunday’s poor performance. With a ticket to the NCAA tournament well within their reach, Arizona State has to play with greater urgency than they displayed this weekend.