The Arizona St. Sun Devils basketball team dismissed its leading scorer, guard Keala King, on Sunday. Though the exact reason for his departure still remains unclear, coach Herb Sendek provided some comments about the situation (courtesy of SB Nation Arizona) during a press conference:
"I just think that regardless of circumstances we maintain certain standards and expectations...Sometimes when you're part of a team you have to make sacrifices and play positions that maybe aren't ideal."
The last comment in particular seems to suggest that King was not satisfied with the his role as point guard on the team. This is surprising, however, because it is this very set-up that provided King the opportunity to walk the ball up the floor and create his own shot on his way to a 13.7 ppg average. Whatever the conflict, it was enough for Sendek to completely cut ties with King.
ASU sits at 1-2 in the Pac-12 with home games against the two Oregon schools (the Oregon Ducks and Oregon St. Beavers) coming up in the next four days. This next two-game stretch will be vital for ASU's season. A couple of wins would give the Sun Devils a 3-2 edge and momentum heading into road games against the Colorado Buffaloes and Utah Utes. A couple of losses would give ASU a seemingly insurmountable 1-4 deficit. A split would give ASU a manageable 2-3 conference record with a chance to make a move against the Buffaloes and Utes next week.
All three scenarios have the potential to significantly affect the team's psyche in the wake of King's loss. ASU can ensure that the change in mentality is an overwhelmingly positive one with back-to-back victories. Given the team's recent inconsistent play and its struggle to score the basketball, a two-game winning streak right now could do wonders for the squad's performance over the course of the remaining regular season. And that, of course, will only manifest itself in more wins down the stretch.
For these next two games, everyone will have to step up and perform to make up for King's absence. Look for Trent Lockett and Carrick Felix in particular to respond and energize this team offensively.