With one of the quickest backcourts in the nation last year, Arizona State used the services of Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall to go faster than any of their opponents on the offensive end of the court. And while both of those players are gone now, the up-tempo mindset still remains.
"Let's do it," said head coach Herb Sendek at last week's media day when asked if "3-12-24" was still the plan on offense. "I think we are going to be faster. I think we have a team that is built to go quick on offense."
The 3-12-24 plan, implemented last year, refers to having three seconds to get the ball across the half-court line; 12 seconds to get a quality shot; and 24 seconds, the time on the shot clock used in practice, instead of the normal 35.
Players like Bo Barnes, Chance Murray, and Tra Holder will be tasked with keeping the pace up. Neither Barnes nor Murray played more than 14 minutes per game last season, and Holder is a freshman who chose Arizona State over teams like USC, Florida State, and Rutgers, among others. Other players who could see time in the backcourt are newcomers Gerry Blakes and Kodi Justice.
Justice is an intriguing true freshman coming out of nearby Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona. He looks to be one of the smoothest outside shooters on a team that will be needing to replace a lot of lost points from last season.
"I started calling him Pistol Pete because he has a little flash to him," said Sendek. Justice has taken the nickname to heart, choosing to wear number 44 this season since Pete Maravich averaged 44 points per game while playing at LSU. "Hopefully he averages 44 a game and we'll let him keep that number," Sendek joked.
While the losses of Carson and Marshall were somewhat expected, no one saw three other guards (ranging from the one, two, and three variety) transferring out of the program earlier this year. But that's exactly what happened as Brandan Kearney left for Detroit, Calaen Robinson ended up at Portland State, and Egor Koulechov found a home at Rice. The loss of those three will hurt, especially early this season when a flurry of newcomers will be learning the ropes on offense.
Thankfully, Sendek and his staff have done a good job of recognizing talent and adjusting their rosters year to year as players transfer in and out. They brought in Marshall and Shaquielle McKissic last year after learning Evan Gordon left, and those moves resulted in a run to the big dance.
Roles and a depth chart are still being developed with the season opener still more than over a month away.
"We haven't practiced much yet so it would not be fair to name someone a starter right now," said Sendek. "All the spots are open."
While the roster might lack experience and developed skill sets, it is evident that there is a lot of raw, young talent. Arizona State will have a lot of flexibility and Sendek should be able to experiment with multiple different looks. The key for this team will come with its speed.
Quickness can be the ultimate equalizer, especially in a conference like the Pac-12, and the Sun Devils should be able to surprise this season if they utilize it properly. Sendek has said that this team is actually faster and more athletic than any of his others at Arizona State, a fact that should frighten opposing coaches a little.
The bottom line, of course, is just how much this team will fall without the services of Carson.
"He's a special player," Murray said. "All of the guards have to come together and do whatever it takes to fill that role."
The team may have a totally different look than last season, but that might not be a bad thing. Change can be good, and the maroon and gold will have three games against low and mid-majors to work out the kinks of an even faster offense before the challenging part of the nonconference slate begins.
They have contests against Maryland, UNLV, Texas A&M, Marquette, and Harvard already scheduled, with one more against either Alabama or Iowa State. "I'm really looking forward to the tournament in Kansas City," said Murray, "That will be a good test for us because there are three other good teams to play in a short amount of time." The championship rounds of the CBE Classic will be played Nov. 24-25 and can be seen on the ESPN family of networks.
However, seniors Jonathan Gilling and Bo Barnes had a different answer. "I'm looking forward to Marquette," said Gilling. "It is going to be fun to go back to Milwaukee and hopefully get a win like we did last year." Barnes added that he is looking forward to playing a Big East team on the road. That game will be played Dec. 16 on FOX Sports 1
Arizona State started its official practices on Monday in preparation for its season opener against Chicago State on November 14. The team will hold an open practice Saturday morning at the Weatherup Center, beginning at 11 a.m.