Under the direction of Bobby Hurley, Arizona State men’s basketball has taken on the moniker of ‘Guard U’ with an emphasis on coaching guards to play with freedom and intensity.
The Bobby Hurley style of guard is one that incessantly attacks the defense. He can run sets, but mostly he is called upon to use his own initiative to run the offense. He will slash and cut, kick out to open shooters, or dump off to a big man on the low block. He will play like Remy Martin, Marreon Jackson, and Alonzo Verge Jr. have played under Hurley.
For the most part, they have not been Desmond Cambridge Jr., the incoming transfer from Nevada. Cambridge has more size, plays off the ball more frequently, and cuts more than the average Hurley guard. But the All-Mountain West player might be exactly the kind of guard the Sun Devils have missed during the last two seasons.
Forget everything y’all have seen from ASU for the past 2 years.We got a new team, winning culture, and and a different mindset. Promise y’all we tourney bound. Don’t jump on the too late pic.twitter.com/QefXi503eu— Devan Cambridge (@DevanCambridge) June 4, 2022
The fifth-year senior has an effortless 3-point stroke, and weaponized it to lead the Wolfpack in 3-pointers in 2021-22 with 87 made on 37 percent shooting. The Sun Devils have lacked in recent seasons with their guards on defense. Outside of Jackson, many have been a sieve, allowing drives to the basket from outside the key with little resistance.
Cambridge, in contrast, has been a solid defender throughout his collegiate career. Last season, he ranked in the top-15 in the Mountain West Conference in steals (third) and blocks (fifth), both categories in which he led the Wolfpack.
Paired with the equally elastic and versatile Marcus Bagley, the Sun Devils have given themselves a much better chance to defend the athletic slashing wings that are indispensable in the modern game. In doing so, the Sun Devils can keep their big men out of foul trouble, a major issue of the past few seasons.
During the 2021-22 season with Nevada, Cambridge averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists on 43.5/37.0/71.2 shooting. Throughout his career, he has never averaged under 15 point per game or shot under 70 percent from the free-throw line.
His versatility and consistency is matched by his dazzling displays of athleticism. Check out this ridiculous dunk from Cambridge during his days at Brown, where he played his first two seasons of college ball.
THAT'S A 360 DUNK - @BrownBasketball 's Desmond Cambridge is making it look easy #RoadToIvyMadness #IvyHoops pic.twitter.com/R7jWdxZa1l— Brown Bears Video (@BrownBearsVideo) February 11, 2018
Hurley has gone after a variety of qualities in the transfer portal era, but one he has never made a concession on is playing experience. Not only is Desmond Cambridge joining the Sun Devils, his brother, Devan, will be in maroon and gold as well this winter.
Factoring in the addition of Desmond’s Nevada teammate in Warren Washington, and Hurley has added around 10 years of collegiate playing experience with guys who won’t have the growing pains the guard quartet of Luther Muhammed, DJ Horne, Jay Heath and Jackson needed last year.
It should be noted that Jackson also entered with a high pedigree last season as the 2020-21 MAC Player of the Year at Toledo. The increased level of competition across the board led to Jackson having his worst statistical year of his career, although he came on strong in the season’s final weeks.
Correlation may not equal causation with Cambridge. Just because he is transferring into a more competitive conference does not guarantee he will struggle, but a slight dip in numbers has been the general average for players transferring vertically in college basketball over the last few seasons.
Last season, Hurley was able to morph his team identity from a predication on offense into a stingy defensive-first style of play. That should allow Cambridge to stay on the floor in high-leverage minutes for the Sun Devils. He is the guy the team can rely to get a vital stop at one end, and a big-time bucket at the other.
Offense and defense. Very simple concept on the surface. But there has been a paucity of two-way players for Arizona State during the last two seasons. Desmond Cambridge Jr. may be the missing link.