TEMPE, Ariz. – Fresh off of a two year contract extension, coach Bobby Hurley headed into the summer workout sessions with fresh optimism. After a successful 23-win season with the Sun Devils but falling in close fashion in the second round of the Men’s NCAA Tournament, Hurley’s Sun Devils welcome a slew of new players to bolster a talented roster with plenty of chemistry already building.
In order for the team to gel into a cohesive unit, Hurley and the Sun Devils will travel across the globe to three European destinations for a 10-day excursion. ASU will be abroad for the first time since 2019, when the Pac-12 Global Initiative Program sent over the Sun Devils and the Buffaloes of Colorado to play in an exhibition game.
Back in 2017, Hurley took the team to Barcelona and Rome in order to explore and gain invaluable experiences as a team. That team began the regular season with a 12-0 record and got all the way to No. 3 in the country. Hurley credited that trip with kickstarting the chemistry and gaining the trust and buy-in from the entire program that year.
“Anytime you can travel and spend time together like we will be able to do on this type of trip, it’s really a once in a lifetime experience,” Hurley said.
The team will be in Paris from July 24-29, Athens from July 29-31 and Mykonos from July 31-Aug. 1. The team will also play a total of three games against various European teams consisting of college players and professionals.
“It’s bigger than just the basketball piece,” said Hurley “I think the games will be beneficial, playing the three games, but it’s more about just the team bonding, the time that we’ll be able to see these sights, the dinners we’ll have and all the ways we can kind of accelerate the process and bringing together a new group of people.”
While in Paris, ASU men’s basketball will visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and many more rich cultural regions of the city. The trip will extend to Athens where the Sun Devils will take in the sight and rich history of the Parthenon and Ancient Greece. While in Mykonos, the Greek Island will provide a relaxing beach for the players and staff to enjoy and cap off the summer basketball program.
The foreign tour will be in honor of Ellie Ziegler, an Arizona State alum and proud supporter of the Arizona State basketball programs. Her philanthropic efforts are commemorated in the trip as well as a street outside of Desert Financial Arena named in her honor.
As the Sun Devils are excited for their upcoming trip, the work has been plentiful in the summer gym sessions, with more team oriented work than ever before taking place this summer according to Hurley. In an effort to stimulate the chemistry among teammates and the scheduling of the foreign tour, Hurley and his staff have been hard at work in preparing the team by practicing earlier in the year.
“The additional practices have been great and we’ve taken full advantage of those,” Hurley said. “I feel like we’ve done a lot more team oriented stuff this summer than any other year. So, I think we’re pretty far along in terms of just where we need to be on the court.”
Jamiya Neal, a seemingly veteran player, joked about being ‘a ten year vet nowadays’ and will enter his junior year after he emerged late in the year last year. In his final eight games, Neal averaged 8.2 points per game including a 16-point performance in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Tournament against Nevada. Neal felt the difference in schedule and credited the new transfers coming in and willing to put in the work with intent.
“This is my third year here and we’ve never had to start (with) this fast of a pace,” Neal said. “We’re already having to do a lot more stuff than usual because of this trip. So, I salute the guys that have come in and worked, try to get better everyday, learn the plays and learn the system at a faster rate than the transfers that had to before.”
Nine new faces will suit up for ASU on what is projected to be another competitive year in the Pac-12. Last season, the Sun Devils went 6-4 in the Pac-12, the programs best conference record since the 1980-81 season.
With many new transfers to the program, Hurley has taken an inquisitive approach to communication with new players, learning about different program’s summer schedules and what the new players liked and disliked about their prior experiences. Again, because of the current state of men’s college basketball, the turnover from team to team is tremendous, with players coming from all sectors and Hurley understands the value of a diverse bunch.
“There’s a lot of value in bringing in transfers that have been through it,” said Hurley. “We have some junior college guys, we have high school guys so our roster is pretty diverse with people with a lot of different experiences.”
As a transfer last year from University of Michigan, sophomore guard Frankie Collins was tasked with fitting into a new system and program out in the desert. Collins appeared in 34 games, starting in 33 and having a role as primary ball handler. Collins credited some of the veteran players for introducing him to the system the Sun Devils ran and helping him be comfortable in a new environment. Collins, now a junior and one of the few returners, will be in a guiding role for incoming transfers.
“I was in that position that they’re in now,” said Collins. “I’m able to put them through it, let them know what to do, the what’s and what not’s with coach (Hurley) and things around campus they can enjoy themselves doing.”
Ahead of the trip, the players understand the value of traveling can have with each other. According to Hurley, the players seem to already have a strong bond and it’s been evident with the competitive practices and effective workout in the summer.
“I think for us, it’s (foreign tour trip) more so about creating this bond with our new teammates,” said Collins. “We’re going to play basketball, but sometimes you’ve got to put basketball aside. It’s the bigger picture, it’s building the relationships, the bonds that will last forever.”