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ASU Basketball: Hurley, Sun Devils continue to search for answers in the frontcourt against Cal Poly

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ASU still doesn’t have a solution down low, but they may have gotten a little bit closer Sunday night

Arizona v Arizona State Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

If the Sun Devils are to compete for a spot higher than 11th in the Pac-12 this season, they’re going to have to find an answer in the frontcourt.

ASU head coach Bobby Hurley continued to experiment Sunday night against Cal Poly, playing five different players down low in the Sun Devils’ victory over the Mustangs.

Here’s what we saw from the Sun Devil big men:

Jethro Tshisumpa

The 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman could not only play nearly any position on Keith Patterson’s defense, he may just be the Sun Devils’ best option down low. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t look to be ready this season. The physical presence is obviously there, Tshisumpa was able to back down just about any Mustang defender that came into the post but looked just a bit behind when it came time to make a play on the ball.

In his five minutes, Tshisumpa only recorded one rebound, missed both of his free throws, and was extremely slow in transition. If given meaningful minutes Hurley could definitely mold Tshisumpa into a worthy talent down low, but we’ll see if this is the season the second year head coach decides to take on that project.

After the game, Hurley said he expects growth out of the freshman, saying as he develops “we can get more conventional and we will play a more conventional lineup.”

Ramon Vila

When the game stayed closer than Hurley and many Sun Devils fans would have liked down the stretch, it was Vila getting minutes in the post. The 6-foot-9 Spanish freshman delivered by far the most complete performance for the Sun Devils at the five, scoring 4 points, going 2 of 2 from the free-throw line and providing constant defensive pressure in the post and perimeter.

After the game, Hurley praised the big man stating that he had “good positioning, good rebounding” and acknowledged his ability on offense by adding “he hit a good jumper on the baseline.”

From what we saw tonight out of Vila, he seems to be the guy for the Sun Devils moving forward. However, fans should expect a good amount of parity in the next few games as Hurley looks to finalize his lineup before conference play and ensure he makes the right decision.

Obinna Oleka

Oleka played major minutes down the stretch in this game for the Sun Devils, and a decent amount of them came at the five.

The 6-foot-8 junior was extremely productive against Cal Poly, tallying 17 points, 13 rebounds and 2 assists for the Maroon and Gold. Even with these numbers though, it seems like Oleka was held back by his role against the Mustangs. By having to sit down at the post, where he is usually undersized, Oleka wasn’t able sprint around the perimeter and take threes (he only attempted two on the night), and was unable to drive in the paint and kick the ball out and create open looks for Shannon Evans II and Sam Cunliffe. Hurley was vocal about his desire to move him, stating after the game that he “wants to get Oleka reps at the four”, and will likely avoid giving him too many minutes in a position he’s not suited for.

Maurice O’Field & Andre Adams

Recovering from multiple torn ACL injuries, Adams wore a knee brace for all five of his minutes on the court against Cal Poly. While he is still working on being 100 percent, what we saw from the Avondale, Ariz. native was promising. He didn’t grab a board or score, but remained a usable body on the court, and was able to maneuver both in the post and down the floor in transition. Don’t expect Adams to have a large role this season, but his movement on the court tonight was definitely a good sign of things to come.

O’Field rotated in at the five, but at only 6-foot-5, the Midland Junior College (Texas) transfer is not being considered as a serious option down low. O’Field should remain at the bottom of the depth chart as of now, but if Hurley’s hand is forced to place Oleka down low, he could see some minutes behind Cunliffe off the bench.