Bobby Hurley made the trek across the nation from Buffalo to Tempe last year with not only a different coaching strategy, but five prospects from the 2016 recruiting class along with two transfers.
None of them, however, have played a second of basketball for the Arizona State Sun Devils. This season, they finally hit the hardwood.
Hurley’s 2016 recruiting class, full of big names, has been ranked as high as No. 16 in the country. Romello White, one of the five recruits, has been ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, but there is still plenty of help on the way.
The four other prospects are Jethro Tshisumpa, Sam Cunliffe, Vitaliy Shibel, and Ramon Vila. Hurley’s two transfer players, both from Buffalo, are junior Shannon Evans and senior Torian Graham.
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C Jethro Tshisumpa
A Sun Devil team that lacked height last season will be very happy with the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Tshisumpa playing down low.
“Jethro Tshisumpa is a big body,” said Hurley when he met with the media on Wednesday morning. “I haven’t coached someone with his kind of raw athletic tools. He’s powerful, athletic, has ‘four’ perfect body fat. The guy is a physical specimen.”
The Dallas native signed with the Sun Devils in July of 2015 and finished 87th in the ESPN Top-100. Tshisumpa’s specialty is defense. He is big man and with his 7-foot-6 wingspan, he averaged 2.4 blocks per game in his senior year at Mountain Mission School.
PG Shannon Evans
“I just think it’s like a volcano that’s building up for him,” said Hurley. “That guy’s got so much passion and energy and it was all bottled up last year.”
Evans was the lone Buffalo Bull to travel with Hurley to Tempe last year, but he sat out the 2015-2016 season because of NCAA transfer rules.
“Shannon is as gifted as any player in our conference coming in to this year on the perimeter,” Hurley said. “When you see that guy work everyday and you see him make plays, whether it’s hitting the deep threes, getting in the lane, finding teammates, or playing the defensive end at a high level, the guy doesn’t get tired,” Hurley said.
Evans scored 15.4 points per game and had 4.6 assists per game in his sophomore year with Hurley, leading the Buffaloes to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in 2015. He is likely to share time on the court with junior Tra Holder and should be a serious Threat to opposing defenses.
SF Sam Cunliffe
The 6-foot-6 freshman is the No. 1 high school player to come out of the state of Washington this year and is the 41st best in the nation according to ESPN’s 100. Cunliffe is an extremely physical and athletic player. He will most likely be a two or three guard for the Sun Devils as he can repeatedly hit a mid range jumper no problem.
“He can elevate on his jump shots, so he’s going to be able to get to his spots and shoot over people,” said Hurley. “His passing has been a pleasant surprise.”
G Torian Graham
“Graham has had a great preseason,” Hurley said. “He’s a guy that was a top-50 player in high school at one point and hasn’t had a chance to play at this level, but has shown us a lot in the preseason.”
Many haven’t even heard of the 6-foot-4 senior from Durham, NC, but Sun Devil fans will get to know him very well in his final year of eligibility. Graham originally committed to NC State, then went to a Chipola College instead. After, he signed to play at a mid-major school in Texas, but then transferred to Buffalo. Finally, he is in Tempe.
Graham came out of high school in 2012 as the nation’s twelfth best shooting guard. He averaged 12.4 points per game and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc at Chipola College in his sophomore season. Graham will be a part of ASU’s perimeter that Hurley said he wouldn’t trade “with anyone in the country.”