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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils embracing new staff and style of play

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The ASU basketball team is embracing Bobby Hurley and the way he wants to play basketball. After a good summer, the team is excited about starting practice on Friday.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The media got their first look at the 2015 Arizona State men's basketball team Tuesday, with Bobby Hurley at the helm.

Hurley, former head coach at Buffalo, played for five years in the NBA and won two NCAA championships as a player at Duke.

The Sun Devils take his past as a token of credibility toward their future. Senior Guard Gerry Blakes said it gives he and his teammates the drive to compete harder and embrace the new system Hurley is creating in order to find the vindication Hurley found 24 years ago.

"It excites us," Blakes said. "It gives us that extra inspiration to go harder and put our foot on the pedal because he's done some things that we all dream to do here which is win a national championship and he did it twice so the level of intensity and details, the intelligence, knowing the game, all just bring the best out of us knowing we can be that way to accomplish the same."

Junior Forward Savon Goodman said that Hurley and his staff have created a family atmosphere among both the newcomers and returners. Both Goodman and Blakes spoke to the new culture that is being cultivated in practice; a new vibe that both players and coaches are welcoming.

"I just think these guys are very push-button and that's always comforting," Hurley said.  "I always get positive energy when I walk in the gym with them. I feel like they want to be here and they're embracing the work that we're putting in and I like the balance that our team has, I think we have a solid core of frontcourt players that I feel great about. And then we have good depth around the perimeter. So, it's a really great balance and I trust all nine guys really to have a good roll on our team right now."

Senior center Eric Jacobsen and Goodman both praised Hurley's competitive nature and leadership that they said he is instilling in each of them. His success has forged a realm of trust between both Hurley and his players as well as the players with each other, creating an environment ideal for building a championship caliber-regime.

"Oh man this is really neat because he knows exactly what it takes to get to the national championship level and the Final Four level," Goodman said.  "It's not every day that you can come in here and think about taking it all the way but we do because our coach knows what it takes."

Ushering in a New Regime

Hurley and his 2015 team have turned the page on ASU's old system and are working to usher in a new system that Hurley thinks will fit the skill set of each of its talented pieces.

However, change takes time.

"It's a process and it's a journey and the last thing I want to do is play a game tomorrow because for all the stuff we've done and how good I feel about each guy individually we have a lot of work ahead of us," Hurley said. "Focusing on defensive rebounding, things we were good at out at Buffalo that we need to take a real blue-collar approach to. Because I want us to take pride in playing that end of the floor and just putting in a whole system is going to take time for these guys to learn what we're doing offensively."

The biggest change that seemed to be the common thread that weaved its way through almost every player's observance of this change was the new pace that Hurley brings.

"As a guard I definitely think the pace," Blakes said. "The pace is always something that he preaches and that he did well so I think that's something that him and I connect on both being guards."

Jacobsen also notices the change in pace, which also lends itself to harder, more efficient conditioning. The center enjoys the ability to gain reps in skills he normally wouldn't spend time on.

"The pace is a lot faster in our workouts," Jacobsen said. "We get a lot of our conditioning out of the workouts. Coach Hurley is really big on skill development offensively and that's what we've been working on a lot over the summer. It's fun too. I've really enjoyed his approach to coaching and his philosophies. In the workouts the energy and he kind of let's us play through different things. Like he allows us bigs to go through some guard dribbling drills and do shooting and stuff which is fun for all of us."

Hurley took no time to identify his players' strengths and weaknesses.

Goodman, he said, has an outstanding motor but has to knock down free throws. Jacobsen has been all over the offensive glass but needs to work on his jump shot.

Sophomore guard Kodi Justice has a great shot and moves quickly off the bounce while sophomore guard Tra Holder is great with the pick-and-roll but needs to assume control of the offense. All of these facets, combined with the fresh talent he recruited as well as brought from Buffalo, will allow the team to play at the pace Hurley is aiming for.

"They're in great physical condition," Hurley said. "I think we can play at the type of pace that I look to play as long as we can take care of the ball and learn to do that and those other things successfully.

This, the players said, has allowed him to turn up the intensity in different areas.

"It's definitely intense," Blakes said. "This conditioning style is different. He emphasizes details, he gets after us and makes sure that we're doing what it takes to do some of the things that he's done in college."

Tough Non-Conference Schedule

ASU will face some difficult compeition in the non-conference schedule this year, including road contests against UNLV and Kentucky. However, this go-for-gold mentality is one that Hurley tries to preach to his players because he said it is another lesson that lends itself to attaining the ultimate goal of playing at an elevated level.

"I think as competitors and as guys that want to play at the next level you want to play the best and we want to challenge ourselves," Hurley said. "We feel like the NCAA Tournament Committee respects teams that play the best possible opponents and I think it helps you positively when you go to Pac-12 play just testing yourself the way we're going to test ourselves in the non-conference play."

The players are now ready to implement this new regime onto the court and moreover, for the challenge it will bring.

"They're big teams," Blakes said. "They're teams that expect you to lay down and roll over for so I think we have a bunch of guys that are not just going to roll over."