Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley spoke with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, discussing offseason workouts during the pandemic, the incoming freshmen class, and the return of his veteran backcourt after testing the waters of the NBA Draft.
College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein recently put ASU at No. 14 in his preseason top-45, and the Sun Devils are expected to be among Pac-12 favorites heading into 2020-21.
Here were a few talking points from Hurley’s media session:
The biggest news over the last few days with the men’s basketball program has been the return of senior guard Remy Martin.
The 2018-19 Pac-12 First Team selection led the team with 19.1 points, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season, and he’ll be returning along with Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year Alonzo Verge Jr.
Hurley kept in touch with Martin during the draft process, but also elaborated on letting his players go through the events on their own.
He explained the disadvantages that Martin faced during this particular draft year, including not being able to play in the postseason or doing individual workouts because of the pandemic.
“I want what’s best for Remy. He’s been terrific to me and the program,” Hurley said. “...I think that he realized the best way to enhance his own brand and personal value was to come back and there’s a lot of things he can accomplish individually...We really gave him space as a program and allowed him to go through the process and make the best decision for him.”
Hurley also mentioned how Martin can put his stamp on his final season, highlighting All-American, Player of the Year, and National Champion possibilities in addition to maybe going down as one of the best Sun Devil basketball players of all-time.
With Martin and Verge back, ASU can take some offensive stress off the shoulders of incoming freshmen Marcus Bagley and Josh Christopher.
Hurley said that Bagley has already wowed the Sun Devil coach with his offensive prowess in voluntary workouts.
Among other underclassmen, center Jalen Graham has grown another inch, and he’ll look to take on a bigger role in the frontcourt after the transfer of Romello White.
Add in veteran returners like Kimani Lawrence and Taeshon Cherry, and Hurley likes his team’s depth. Additionally, instead of Christopher being thrown into the fire immediately in the backcourt, he can ease his way in with the talent around him.
“Josh will find his niche within our offense without having to shoulder the burden,” Hurley said. “Josh last year, had two and three guys defending him at times in his high school games. I don’t think teams are going to have that luxury to do that with him (at ASU). He’s going to have plenty of opportunities to go out there and make plays for us.”
Targets on the back
2020-21 should be an interesting season for Hurley’s squad considering the anticipation that is coming with the season.
As opposed to year’s past where ASU might have not had high preseason expectations, the Sun Devils are expected to make noise entering this upcoming year.
While the excitement is accepted, it’s still another thing to carry with them as conference foes set their sights on taking down the Devils.
“I’ve always said everything gets settled on the floor,” said Hurley of preseason hype. “These preseason polls are exciting to see us projected in the 10-25 range...We’ve worked hard to get to this point and I think it makes sense that people would view us that way based on what we have returning and what we have coming into the program.
But teams will target us more. We aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. Anytime that we’ve played ranked opponents, we’ve treated it as an opportunity to enhance our resume and put a feather in our cap so to speak. We will be viewed like that every time we lace them up this year so we have to be aware that we are a marked game on our opponents schedule and prepare for that.”
All sports continue to exist in an unprecedented time. ASU’s basketball program is no exception, and players are currently participating in non-contact workouts with many protocols.
Among them, the Sun Devils have been in small groups while maintaining distance and wearing masks during shooting drills and in the weight room at the Weatherup practice facility.
Additionally, players have gone through weekly testing and have daily temperature and COVID-19 symptom check. Basketballs and the weight room are also sanitized after every small group workout.
As for the actual season, Hurley is optimistic that games will be played. Whether that is with fans or if anything changes over the coming months is still to be determined, but he does think college basketball will be played.
“With our sport being a winter sport, that gives me a lot more hope,” Hurley said. “That being said, I know we have a lot of smart people in the NCAA and the Pac-12 that behind the scenes, are planning for everything right now knowing that this is a fluid situation...I do have a lot of confidence that there will be a season.”
Cherry, Graham, Bagley and a few others are already participating in workouts on campus, and both Caleb and Josh Christopher will be returning in a few days from California, per Hurley.
They will be subject to a 10-day quarantine before starting up in workouts and undergoing testing and physicals.
For now, there’s happiness among players and coaches just being able to play the sport they love.
“It’s been a great feeling to get back in the gym and it’s given me more of a sense and purpose than I’ve had in quite a bit of time,” Hurley said. “Just seeing the guys light up and the enthusiasm to be back on campus to some kind of routine in the safest possible way, has been terrific.”