It has been a season of many “firsts” for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
First time going 12-0 in program history? Check. First time ranked in the top-5 since 1980-81? Check. First time beating a top-5 team on the road since 1997-98? Check.
Through all the firsts, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley paused Wednesday’s practice to appreciate something: “Look, this is what you guys have done.”
Senior guard Kodi Justice and the rest of the Sun Devils caught first sight of the approximate 3,500 seats that were uncovered after Arizona State tore down its wall within Wells Fargo Arena, making room for more fans.
“We’re starting this, we’re doing this. It’s a great honor,” Justice said.
The 6-4, 180-pound Mesa, Arizona native was a 2014 graduate of Dobson High School. He signed to attend ASU in 2011. He’s seen the Sun Devils through a few of the worst and now the best of years.
The year he signed with ASU, the Sun Devils went 12-19, finished last in the Pac-12 and averaged just 6,772 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena.
At 13-2 this season, the Sun Devils have packed an average of 10,250 in their last three games against Vanderbilt, Longwood and Pacific.
“It’s great to be the reason why we have this crowd out here to be able to say we did this and to be the kid that’s from here,” Justice said. “I’ve seen so many up and down years. It was difficult, like when are we going to make the tournament? When are we going to win a conference game?”
Justice has meant a great deal to Arizona State’s success, averaging 13.8 points and shooting 46 percent from the field this season. He tied his career-high with 28 points against Kansas State, sealed a win with a clutch 3 over St. John’s and added to his own “firsts” in a win over Utah.
He had his first career dunk. Of course, it didn’t come without some smack talk.
“He doesn’t do it too often — Kodi’s going to be mad at me that I said that — but he’ll do anything to help you win. He’s a warrior,” Hurley said.
Senior guard Shannon Evans added: “With Kodi, he’s got sneaky bounce. I was kind of excited for him. He dunks all the time in warm ups, in practice he be dunking, but in a game, doesn’t really get a fast break or is he does he’s kind of tired because we play heavy minutes.”
Justice then explained the backstory.
“We joked around about it. Like me and Austin [Witherhill],” Justice said. ‘When you ever gonna get a dunk? Like you know you can dunk.’
“It’s not worth three points. I always joked about it and I never had an opportunity, so I was like alright, I guess I’ll dunk one.”
Now, Oregon is the Sun Devils’ agenda. Arizona State plays at home for the first time in 19 days. Hurley won’t take it for granted.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate having a lively, energetic, packed Wells Fargo. It was such an advantage against Vanderbilt and Pacific. And we look forward to carrying that over here into Pac-12.”