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Men’s Basketball’s Four to Flourish in 2021-22: Luther Muhammad

Finally getting to play

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NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

In this series, we have highlighted Arizona State men’s basketball players who are expected to be main characters in the Sun Devil game plan for the 2021-22 season.

A healthy Marcus Bagley last season would have been selected in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft. The upward trajectory in the game of Jalen Graham projects him as one of the top returning Pac-12 forwards. Marreon Jackson can set the hoop on fire from distance when he’s feeling it.

Luther Muhammad will enter this winter in Tempe with more collegiate playing experience than both of his teammates, but far less fanfare. Still, with his defense-first mentality and his acclaimed status as a ‘gym rat,’ he might be the type of player the Sun Devils lacked last season.

Muhammad started 56 games with Ohio State from the fall of 2018 until spring 2020. In his final season with the Buckeyes, he averaged 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists on 38.3/34.7/85.0 shooting splits, he also added one steal per game to his stat sheet.

As impressive as Muhammad was on the court, issues arose in early 2020 about his decision making outside it. In January of that year, the team suspended Muhammad and his teammate Duane Washington for one game due to “failure to meet program standards and expectations,” effectively ending his time with the Buckeyes.

But any major concerns about character would have turned off a coach like Bobby Hurley, who saw leadership skills in Muhammad that could drive his team forward.

After declaring his intention to transfer to Arizona State, Muhammad underwent surgery on both of his shoulders. He spent the season confined to the bench, but an impact on a basketball team can come in many different forms. Muhammad has been reported to be one of the most vocal presences in the Sun Devil locker room.

According to Doug Haller at The Athletic, Muhammad ripped into teammates after a sixth straight loss to Arizona last season. But none of his teammates saw his outburst as an affront to their egos as basketball players. Instead, they viewed it as a passionate display from a teammate who desperately wanted to be in the battle with them.

Muhammad is not going to light up the stat sheet like Bagley, Graham, or Jackson. He will light his team up with passion for the game. The new faces, five freshman and four transfers, know he speaks from a credible place as a Division-I starter in the Big Ten.

His presence will be felt just as strong off the court as it is when he is logging minutes on it, and that is a huge plus for this Sun Devil squad.