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 CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate returns to school

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The nation’s most entertaining shot-blocker is back for another season.

Sagaba Konate, a 6-foot-9 center from Mali, will return to school for his junior season to anchor West Virginia’s defense for yet another season, according to ESPN.

Konate declared for the draft and went through the combine, and while his shot-blocking and intensity shined through there as it did throughout the season, he’s more of a mid-to-late second round pick than he is a first rounder at this point.

As a sophomore, Konate averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 boards and 3.2 blocks. He also shot 79 percent from the free throw line.

So let’s sit back and enjoy what we get to see for another year:

Luke Maye to return to North Carolina for senior season

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Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Luke Maye is returning to North Carolina for his senior season, meaning that the Tar Heels will have their preseason National Player of the Year candidate back in the fold.

Who saw that coming?

“I have had a great experience learning from the NBA process and growing as a basketball player during the past couple weeks,” Maye wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for all of their support. Through this process, I have decided that I am going to comeback to school to improve as a player and finish my college career. I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face and there is no better group to do it with than my teammates and the Carolina family! Time to finish the right way with two of the best players and leaders that I know! Let’s finish our legacy the right way!”

Maye, who averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 boards as a junior, declared for the draft last month, but he did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. The 6-foot-9 forward is a stretch four that will fit perfectly at the four for the Tar Heels this season, with Nassir Little, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams on the perimeter and a trio of sophomore bigs to handle the five.

Getting Maye back was key, but expected. UNC reaching their ceiling this season will depend on whether or not their point guard play is up to par. With Jalek Felton gone and Joel Berry II graduated, that is going to come down to whether or not Seventh Woods can handle the lead guard role or if Coby White can step in and start as a freshman.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.