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ASU Men’s Basketball: Hurley optimistic ahead of 2017-18 season

Bobby Hurley is positive that the senior leadership is key.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Arizona State David Kadlubowski-USA TODAY Sports

Amid a plethora of roster changes, Arizona State men’s basketball head coach Bobby Hurley remains confident that the Sun Devils can be a competitive Pac-12 team.

While Hurley is losing the likes of graduates such as guard Torian Graham and forward Obinna Oleka, both instrumental for ASU last season, he will welcome back redshirt freshmen forwards Romello White and Vitaliy Shibel.

White missed last season due to academic ineligibility and Shibel missed the campaign due to knee injury.

A focal aspect of the game the Sun Devils struggled with last season was playing in the paint. White, 6-foot-8, and Shibel, 6-foot-9, will be able to help out down low, especially on the glass.

“People are going to have to honor Romello around the basket,” Hurley said. “I don’t think teams really respected us as much around the hoop. I think that they’re going to have to pay attention to those guys.”

Hurley also mentioned that White is a natural-born rebounder, which is something that was lacking on teams past.

Another big discussion topic going into the next season for the Sun Devil basketball team is the trio of senior leadership that Hurley expects from guards Tra Holder, Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans II.

“Those guys are dynamite,” Hurley said. “They’re working hard and they feel like they have a lot to prove. Those three guys leading what we’re doing is exciting for me. I think their voice is going to be heard with mine throughout the year.”

Holder and Evans were second and third on the team in scoring last season, with averages of 16.2 and 15.0 points per game, respectively.

Justice will also look to play a key role next season.

“His body has really come together over the last year and a half,” Hurley said. “I still think there is a lot of room for him to improve and get better.”

With all of that said Hurley believes that over the next two seasons the Sun Devils have a chance to reach post-season basketball.

“I just feel like we’ve changed,” Hurley said. “We’ve gotten better in the frontcourt. We were one or two players away from being a much better team. As it stands today, we’re in a much stronger position. That’s why I’m very optimistic that the record is going to improve and we’re going to make a push over the next two years for postseason.”

The Sun Devils also welcome the addition of transfers junior forward Carlton Bragg from Kansas, junior forward Zylan Cheatham from San Diego State and junior guard Rob Edwards from Cleveland State.

All three players will have to sit out the 2017-18 season, but will be eligible for the 2018-19 season.

Hurley spoke highly of each of the players.

“The three guys sitting out will put us in a good position to step right in,” Hurley said. “Rob, one of the leading scorers in his conference. Zylan has put up great numbers and Carlton has great upside.”

Junior college transfer De’Quon Lake will be eligible to play this season and his size should also help the Sun Devils as well.

All-in-all the future seems to be looking up for the Sun Devil basketball program as they inch closer to becoming the type of team that Hurley wants to run. A team that can get up and down the floor and compete at a high level.