ASU moves on without miscast King
TEMPE, Ariz. – Recalcitrant guard Keala King’s departure from Arizona State was simple, really.
King was forced by circumstances to play point guard this season.
He did not want to.
”I don’t want to try to dissect it," ASU coach Herb Sendek said Tuesday when meeting the media for the first time since King was removed from the program Sunday "I think Keala and everybody else involved would say that, all things being equal, it would have been to his benefit to not be playing point guard. Sometimes when you are part of a team, you have to make sacrifices and play positions than maybe aren’t ideal,”
King, as 6-foot-5 sophomore, was ASU’s leading scorer, averaging 13.69 points a game. Recruited as an off guard, things changed when freshman recruit Jahii Carson could not gain his eligibility.
“It is never an easy decision when you are wrestling with a young man’s future," Sendek said. 'It’s an agonizing process. Being as close to the situation I was on a daily basis, it became clear to me that it would benefit our program and just as importantly would benefit Keala to have a new beginning. Standards and expectations are important for us, and they are also important for him.”
ASU is helping King try to find a landing spot. Like former Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High teammate Gary Franklin, who was California's starting point guard last year before transferring to Baylor at almost exactly the same point last season, King left his program as a regular, averaging 34.6 minutes a game.
The team is moving on, said junior Trent Lockett, who moved from wing to point last weekend.
“I have to focus on what I have to do better and come to practice with a good attitude, and I’m sure that’s what all my teammates are focused on, too,” Lockett said.
Freshman Jonathan Gilling, a 6-foot-7 wing from Denmark, and sophomore Chanse Creekmur started in the absences of King and Cain last week, and Sendek said this week’s starters will be determined in practice.
Gilling had a breakout series in Los Angeles, with consecutive scoring highs of 12 and 17 points in his first two career starts. Gilling looked polished and composed, and he made seven 3-pointers over the weekend, five at UCLA on Saturday. He remains the only Sun Devil with fewer assists than turnovers.
“As he has learned more about how to play defense in our system and he’s gotten more comfortable, his talent is shining through,” Sendek said.
Lockett will continue to get a “significant amount of minutes” at point guard moving forward, Sendek said, with Colvin as a backup and walk-on Max Heller chipping in.
“I didn’t volunteer. It just kind of happened by default,” Lockett said of moving from a wing position.
The offense Lockett is running is quite different from the open-court style Sendek installed in the anticipation that Carson would be available this season. It is not quite the Princeton high post offense that Sendek played at North Carolina State, but it is much slower and more controlled. It was not unusual to see that shot clock dip into single digits last weekend.
It is reminiscent of the transformation in 2008, when the Sendek changed their offense after a tough trip in Los Angeles.
“We’re running more sets. That’s to help our guys with some of their decision-making, and to account from some of the adjustments we’ve had to make at point guard,” Sendek said.
“I really enjoy what we are doing right now. It’s a fun offense to coach. I think that is one of the great things about coaching … depending on your players, trying to put them in the best position to play to their strengths.”
ASU's new backcourt will face a different challenge this week. While Arizona, USC and UCLA played man-to-man defense almost exclusively, Oregon will use multiple zones and press more.
“It puts a lot of heavy lifting on the mental,” Sendek said.
Whatever happens, ASU appears to be in a good place moving forward. Sendek said he liked the vibe he felt last weekend.
“Chemistry is always important. Anyone who participates wants to enjoy the process. We spend a lot of time together. If people are getting along, it makes it an enjoyable process,” he said.
“Our guys did a great job of coming together, talking to each other. Those are values that we espouse and emphasize all the time. It wasn’t like we flipped the switch for the weekend. Those are our expectations. Those are our values. That’s what we are all about at Arizona State basketball. Some teams capture it better than others. It’s not something you can force-feed on others.”