It's hard not to root for a player like Shaquielle McKissic. He's been homeless and arrested for armed robbery but got his life back on track and started for the Arizona State basketball team last season. Now he's fighting again. This time, it's for one more year of eligibility.
Arizona State has filed a waiver request to the NCAA on behalf of McKissic asking the governing body to grant him another year of playing time.
The Sun Devils could certainly use his services as well. McKissic's leaping ability and athleticism led to some eye-opening dunks and fast breaks last season. He averaged 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 32 games last season.
"You have five years to play four but because of some extenuating circumstances he's only been able to play three years in five and because of those circumstances we've asked the NCAA to look at their guidelines and consider allowing him to play his fourth season," head coach Herb Sendek said.
Arizona State also wants to continue its uptempo style of play that Sendek installed specifically to take advantage of Jahii Carson's skill set. The team averaged 75 points per game last season, good for 72nd in the country.
"We want to play faster. I don't think we've pushed it nearly hard enough, I don't think we've pushed it nearly hard enough yet so we'd like to play even faster," Sendek said.
The Sun Devils try and get up a shot in 12 seconds or less every time the court and push the ball in fast break consistently. Although Arizona State was much improved in the half-court offense this past season the slow pace of play still clearly bothered the team.
"To do it consistently is really hard," Sendek said. "It's easy to talk about but we would love to strike in transition off a miss, a turnover or even a made shot."
The hiring of Barret Peery as an assistant coach after the departure of Eric Musselman is yet another sign that the Sun Devils want to keep pushing toward a blistering pace of play. Peery coached a team that averaged 97.9 points a game in 2012-13 at Indian Hills Community College, which scored over 100 points 14 times that season.
A smaller and quicker lineup with the departure of Jordan Bachynski could help Arizona State's efforts as well. The Sun Devils will look to use some newfound athleticism in recruits as well with the additions of Gerry Blakes, Roosevelt Scott, Connor MacDougall and Tra Holder.
"We're running a fast breaking uptempo style and then we empty into our flow game it really allows our guys to attack. I think it's a really fun style of play that offers a tremendous amount of freedom so that's how we're going to do it," Sendek said.