Hurley trying to make the pieces fit at ASU
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley faces the same dilemma as most first-year coaches: Trying to change the team’s style of play with a roster full of players recruited by another coach.
His task may be a little more difficult because of the changes he wants to make. He wants the Sun Devils to play fast, faster than they’ve ever played before.
That will likely take a little time to ingrain.
"More likely than not, our offense will be behind the defense, even heading into the season," Hurley said. "It’s a lot for the guys to pick up."
Arizona State returns four starters from a team that finished 18-16 and lost in the second round of the NIT, so there is some talent still on the roster.
The key will be getting them ready to run.
Hurley had success with his up-tempo style at Buffalo, leading the Bulls to their first conference title and NCAA Tournament.
Herb Sendek, Hurley’s predecessor at Arizona State, tried to get the Sun Devils to play at a faster pace last season but they were still more defensive based. Arizona State was 113th nationally with 69.4 points per game in 2014-15.
Hurley spent the offseason preaching tempo in everything the Sun Devils do and changed the conditioning program to get them ready for the rigors of running up and down the floor.
"They’re trying to bring in a different culture, a different vibe and we all are trying to get acclimated to it," said senior guard Gerry Blakes, who is expected to take on more of a leadership role after averaging 11.1 points per game last season.
We don’t waste a lot of time and I think it teaches them to play under those (up-tempo) conditions. You’ve got to think when you’re tired, you’ve got to react when you’re tired. I think that’s what basketball is.
Hurley’s methodology comes at a time when college basketball has been criticized for bogging down and becoming too micromanaged. Scores have reached all-time lows in recent seasons and the NCAA has come up with a slew of rule changes in order to make the game more flowing and higher scoring.
That won’t be a problem with Hurley’s teams. He liked to play up-tempo when he was at Duke and the NBA, and wants to see his players do the same.
"We’re talking about playing more of a quicker tempo, which is going to get more possessions of offense for the guys," Hurley said. "I think it’s what players like to do and they’ve been terrific with the transition. They’ve never resisted what we’re trying to teach these guys."
It certainly will require Arizona State’s players to get in better shape.
All the players have attacked their offseason workouts, particularly center Eric Jacobsen.
He’s primarily been a back-to-the-basket player his first three seasons, but realized he will need to get out and run a little more under Hurley’s system. The 6-foot-10 Jacobsen spent the summer shedding weight — through diet and workouts — and has dropped more than 20 pounds after playing at 260 last season.
"Hurley’s (style) is a lot more up and down, so I knew I had to lose some weight to keep up," Jacobsen said. "I feel definitely more agile, quicker, my vertical has gone up."
The Sun Devils can expect the tempo to pick up even more once practice starts this weekend. Hurley and his staff will be pushing the players at every step, getting them ready for Sacramento State on Nov. 13 and the rest of what figures to be a fast-paced season.
"We don’t waste a lot of time and I think it teaches them to play under those (up-tempo) conditions," Hurley said. "You’ve got to think when you’re tired, you’ve got to react when you’re tired. I think that’s what basketball is."
- Arizona State Sun Devils
- Eric Jacobsen
- FOX Sports Arizona
- FOX Sports Arizona - ASU Sun Devils
- Gerry Blakes