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ASU Basketball: 5 takeaways from the maroon and gold scrimmage

There was a lot to see Friday as the Sun Devils played their first scrimmage of the season, one week before their first game

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Camp Fargo wrapped around the outside of Wells Fargo Arena Friday night as students waited for tickets to Saturday's football game between Arizona State and Notre Dame. A different sport, however, was taking place inside as the Sun Devil men's basketball team held their annual maroon and gold scrimmage. Here is what we learned about the team:

1. Savon Goodman is physical

He won't be available until the matchup with Marquette on Dec. 16, but he will certainly help the Sun Devils once he takes the floor. He led all scorers with 18 points and seven rebounds. He also dunked with ease and plays like a power forward at 6-foot-6. There were multiple times where he got rebounds after the ball had been tipped around three or four times around the rim, showcasing an impressive second jump ability.

"He's an undersized front court player who when he plays to his strengths, you know defends, rebounds, takes it off the dribble, does things like that he can be a really effective player," head coach Herb Sendek said.

He just doesn't seem to stop when he's around the basket and has an ability to move well without the ball in the painted area in order to make room for himself. Even as a four, Goodman also has terrific speed on the fast break and in transition.

"Savon is a unique player for us, we haven't had a guy like him in a long time," Sendek said. "I thought it was one of his better scrimmages here tonight."

2. Gerry Blakes is like Jahii Carson...sort of

His handles aren't quite as impressive and he's not quite as shifty, but his playing style is very similar to Carson. He's not afraid to sacrifice and use his body while driving the lane and can also change speeds and directions quickly in a way that will remind you of Carson. He also packed his stat line with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists.

"I thought Gerry showed his ability to score tonight," Sendek said. "One thing we've done with him to help him get comfortable and simplify it is we've kind of said ‘hey you're going to play two guard, you're going to play off the ball' and I think that really helped him tonight to do what he does best and that's score the basketball."

Blakes also took a few unnecessary and unwarranted shots, which Carson also did a few times last season, but that also comes with the territory of being a scorer. Blakes pulled up a few times when the lane was open and missed the shot off the dribble instead of trying to take it to the rim. Sendek admitted he was somewhat frustrated by that aspect of his game Friday night.

3. Freshmen Kodi Justice and Connor MacDougall will have some kind of role

Justice impressed with his shooting ability and wasn't afraid to shoot the ball. MacDougall had eight points very early in the contest but just returned to practice yesterday after a bike accident too so he probably wasn't at completely full mental strength. Justice is somewhat similar to senior Jon Gilling in that what he lacks in strength, he makes up for in shooting ability.

"Kodi has been so impressive early on here, his basketball IQ is terrific," Sendek said. "He has incredible spunk, the guy is absolutely fearless. He's one of those guys, when he shoots the ball, I'm surprised when it doesn't go in."

MacDougall meanwhile will have to add height to an understaffed front court. He has a very soft touch around the rim and junior college transfer Willie Atwood proved himself to be more of a 'tweener' in the scrimmage and less of a true four, so the Sun Devils will need even more players with height to attack the boards and that includes MacDougall.

"We're not that deep on the front court, that's the one thing when you look at this team, we're going to have to stay out of foul trouble. We're going to have to really be solid," Sendek said.

4. The rotation is far from set

Almost every player saw the floor tonight, which shows what we already knew in that this will be a tough team to set a rotation for early on. Expect nothing to be in stone before conference play. Even then, the Sun Devils may be messing around with the lineups a little bit.

"It's challenging right now and one reason is there isn't a lot of separation between players," Sendek said. "The other reason is as we've gone through the early days of practice, one day you think you have everything in mind and then the next day comes and guys play differently and you're like ‘wait a minute, that's not what I saw yesterday,' so we've kind of gone through that a little bit here early on."

A lot of new players have to be sorted through, but Sendek added the returners have been the most consistent players in practice too. He should be able to lean on them early in the non-conference season as the newcomers continually get their feet wet. Each junior college transfer in Goodman, Blakes, Atwood and Scott showed flashes of potential Friday, so Sendek still has his work cut out for him.

5. Shaq knows his stuff

Shaquielle McKissic started off sluggish Friday night, only managing one point through the first 15 minutes of play before he hit a buzzer beating three before halftime. This gave him some momentum going into the second half and he finished with 15 points with three rebounds on the night and had a much improved second frame. His overall game has improved too according to Sendek.

"I don't worry about Shaq, on our list of things to worry about that can't be too high," Sendek said. "He has really shot the ball well all through the fall, he is an improved shooter right now."

McKissic, a senior, will be looked upon as a leader of this team. Sendek added that he has made tremendous strides in his game since a year ago and is now fully familiar with the system and he's confident in his leadership abilities. The first name out of Sendek's mouth, however, was a freshman in Tra Holder whom Sendek complimented on his ability to set up teammates to score. While he had a few freshman moments, he showed his ability to drive and dish early on.

"Tra Holder as freshman has been terrific for us," Sendek said.

Sendek also had a word of warning that everything up to this point should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the Sun Devils haven't played a real game against an actual opponent yet.

"First as a team I thought we were much better tonight than we were last Friday," Sendek said. "Hopefully we can say the same thing a week from now but obviously it's still really early."

Notes:

  • Jon Gilling didn't participate in the scrimmage with a foot injury. Sendek said it has been irritated all fall and he got kicked in that spot yesterday at practice (pointing to his ankle). The soreness prevented Gilling from running on it.
  • The Sun Devils open up their season next Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena with an 8p.m. tip off against Chicago State
  • Other stats: 20/30 from the free throw line as a team (66%). 9/27 from three point range as a team (33%) The team shot 35/58 from two-point range (60%).