This Arizona State basketball team has a lot of new faces who don't have too much film on them from the junior college ranks, so the fans aren't really sure what the team has to offer this upcoming season. The Sun Devil faithful got their first chance to try and decipher the maroon and gold on the hard court Saturday morning at the Weatherup Center during a practice open to fans and season ticket holders.
"We had a great turnout today, a lot of electricity in the Weatherup Center," Arizona State head coach Sendek said. "I think it was good for our guys to play in front of our fans. I think it was good for our fans to see our guys back and better than ever, and then some of our newcomers as well."
The players split up into maroon and gold teams and played four 15-minute quarters, hindered with frequent stoppages for teaching moments by the coaches. The team went through a couple out of bounds plays as well. For 6-foot-8 junior forward Willie Atwood, it was his first time performing in front of a Sun Devil crowd. Atwood is one of the bigger mysteries on the team. He's a stretch four who could play closer to a five, but also has some superior ball handing and shooting skills.
"Today I felt good, feel like I got after it, scored the ball well," Atwood said. "I made a few good passes and helped my maroon team to a victory. I feel like we're coming along great day-by-day."
The practice was followed up with a question and answer session with Sendek, an introduction of players and an opportunity for fans to get autographs and take pictures with the players. When asked exactly how many players would be in the rotation by a fan, Sendek answered that he didn't know and it would be dictated on how players perform in practice. He characterized the team as high-character, easy to root for and coachable.
"I think we have better overall quickness," Sendek said. "Obviously we had some quick players last year that we no longer have on the squad, but if you look at our team from top to bottom I think we're much quicker than we were."
That quickness was on display Saturday. It was abundantly clear that the Sun Devils intend on heightening the level of speed again this season. Where the team will need to work harder is in protecting the rim. 7-foot-2 big man Jordan Bachynski is gone, and the tallest player on the team is Eric Jacobsen at 6-foot-10. It's an adjustment the team is going to have to make, and Sendek added the team is already shifting around personnel to try and find the right formula.
"This time of year, unless you have the luxary of a majority of returners, it's always a work in progress," Sendek said.
- Shaquielle McKissic has clearly worked on his three point shooting technique in the offseason, it looks a lot smoother and quicker than it did last season.
- Maroon team: Tra Holder, Willie Atwood, Gerry Blakes, Eric Jacobsen, Jonathan Gilling, Shaquielle McKissic. Gold team: Kodi Justice, Roosevelt Scott, Chance Murray, Savon Goodman, Connor MacDougall, Sai Tummala, Austin Witherill, Cameron Gilbert
- Bo Barnes sat out practice with a sprained ankle which he suffered in practice Friday.
- The team is in the heat of preparation for the season, practicing for two and a half hours this morning and had another practice scheduled for 2:30 Saturday afternoon. The team already seems pretty conditioned, I didn't notice anyone bent over or hands on knees.
- Play of the day: Shaquielle McKissic (6-foot-5) dunked over 6-foot-8 freshman Connor MacDougall.