Carson expected to help Sun Devils improve
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
Almost every time something went wrong for Arizona State last season, and it happened a lot, the social media sites lit up with Jahii Carson's name.
The Sun Devils committed a turnover? Don't worry, that won't happen when Jahii starts playing. Shots not falling? Jahii will make them. Offense stagnating? Jahii will get it flowing again.
Popcorn stale? Jahii will be on it.
Jahii, Jahii, Jahii.
Well, Arizona State fans, you finally get your wish: Jahii is here and he's looking forward to living up to all that hype you've heaped on him.
Best part is, despite expectations that have reached nearly preposterous proportions over the past year, Carson might have the game to live up to them.
''Obviously like you, just like the community, we are excited about him being able to compete with us this year,'' Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. ''He is an extremely talented young man.''
Coming out of nearby Mesa High School, Carson was one of the top point guard prospects in the country.
For Sendek and his staff to convince him to play at Arizona State was a huge boost, boosting excitement around a program that had been mired in a run of mediocrity.
Then Carson got put on hold when he was declared academically ineligible last season, but all that did was further fuel the fervor.
In the year Carson was out, views of his highlight video on YouTube ballooned to nearly a half million and his Twitter followers climbed over 6,000. Arizona State fans saw him as a program savior.
Watch him play and it's easy to understand why.
A 5-foot-10 guard, he can play well above the rim, evidenced by the bounce-it-off-the-floor, behind-the-back, tomahawk dunk shown on his highlight video.
Carson is quick, blessed with a crossover dribble that turns ankles and has a deft eye for finding passing holes others can't see. He can also hit the 3 and has been working on a mid-range jumper.
Oh, yeah, he's got a little swagger to him, an I've-got-this calm in his voice, body language and game that doesn't have the hollow ring of false bravado.
Carson is good and he knows it.
''I definitely have a certain confidence and swagger about myself. I don't want to seem arrogant or cocky, but I definitely have a confidence about my game. I have a confidence about my teammate's game. I think that together, we can be something super,'' he said.
The Sun Devils certainly should be better.
Arizona State labored through it second straight losing season in 2011-12 and lost some key players from that team this year.
Leading scorer Trent Lockett transferred to Marquette to be closer to his ailing mother, sharpshooting guard Chanse Creekmur left to play football and forward Kyle Cain transferred to North Carolina-Greensboro.
Even without three players who accounted for more than 25 points per game, the Sun Devils expect to be better.
Joining Carson in the backcourt will be Evan Gordon, whose older brother, Eric, is a guard for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets. A 6-foot-1 junior who transferred from Liberty, Gordon was often the best shooter during practice last season and should give the Sun Devils a boost on the perimeter, not to mention one of the nation's best backcourts with Carson.
Arizona State also added Hawaii transfer Bo Barnes and returns Chris Colvin, a senior who can score and passes well at times, but needs to cut down on his turnovers.
Jordan Bachynski, a 7-foot-2 center, came on strong toward the end of the season, becoming more confident while scoring and snaring more rebounds.
Jonathan Gilling, a 6-7 forward from Denmark, was a nice surprise as a sophomore last season, dropping in 3-pointers and scoring in bunches, including a 21-point game against rival Arizona.
Sendek has indicated that he'll likely play more man-to-man defense this season and wants his team to push the pace as much as possible to take advantage of the athletes he has.
''I have said this all offseason, so it is not breaking news, but I would be surprised if anyone is able to push the ball any faster than Arizona State,'' Sendek said.
Out in front of the break with the ball will be Carson, the player Arizona State fans hope can live up to hype that's been building for over a year.