Point-guard miseries pile up for Sun Devils

Point-guard miseries pile up for Sun Devils

Published Jan. 17, 2012 5:05 p.m. ET

TEMPE, Ariz. – Point guard has become an endangered species at Arizona State.

Trent Lockett, the fourth player to start at the position for the Sun Devils this year, will miss the Sun Devils’ Pac-12 weekend games at Colorado and Utah, coach Herb Sendek said Tuesday. Lockett took over for Keala King, who replaced Chris Colvin, who got the job in the first place when Jahii Carson could not gain his eligibility.

“It’s almost uncanny,” said Sendek, who is down to seven scholarship players, one guard.

Lockett suffered a sprained right ankle when he landed awkwardly under the Oregon State basket with 10:11 remaining in Saturday's 76-66 victory, and he is wearing a boot and walking with the help of crutches.

The Sun Devils’ leading scorer at 13.9 points game, Lockett will accompany the team on the trip to help provide leadership.

It is almost soap opera-esque the way the point position has played out this season. While Lockett, a small forward, is the least experienced point guard the Sun Devils have used, he has been the best fit, taking over after King was first suspended and then dismissed from the team in the last two weeks.

Lockett understood that his role was to get everyone involved in ASU’s structured offense – new sets were put in late November, when it became apparent that Carson would not join the team – and the effects were immediate.

ASU (6-11, 2-3) has made 55.1 percent of its field goal attempts and 50 percent of its 3-pointers while splitting the last four games. Sophomore wing Chanse Creekmur, whose position on the floor also changed when Lockett moved to the point, has been a prime beneficiary, making 16 of 25 shots, 12 of 20 from 3-point range.

“We take our time on possessions and try to get the best shot. We grind them out,” Creekmur said.

“We’re getting more valuable shots. We’re going inside. We’re looking backside. Basically, we’re playing smart.”

Creekmur and freshman Jonathan Gilling are often the “backside” looks, the players spotting up for open jump shots on the opposite side of the floor. Gilling has scored 38 points in the last four games while making 10 of 20 3-point attempts. Post man Ruslan Pateev has made the most of his touches, making 13 of 15 shots. Lockett is shooting 61 percent since the move, even though he was asked to handle the ball much more.

It goes directly to the quality of shots ASU is getting within the flow of the offense, a concept King had trouble grasping.

“Absolutely. People look at shooting percentages and sometimes trivialize it to the shooter. But when shots come in rhythm, within the framework of the offense … when they are shots that you practice, they have a much higher percentage of going in,” Sendek said.

“Ball movement. We’re really doing a much better job of sharing and moving the basketball. I’m very pleased with our improvement. Fifty-five percent (shooting) against the quality of defenses we’ve played is impressive. Fifty percent from 'three’ is astounding.”

Colvin will be back as the starting point guard this week, with 5-foot-9 freshman walkon Max Heller in reserve. Colvin, a junior college transfer, struggled with turnovers while trying to make things happen in ASU’s up-tempo offense and lost his job to King, a converted off guard.

Along with King and forward Kyle Cain, Colvin was suspended for the Los Angeles trip two weeks ago before being reinstated last week. He played only 30 seconds in Thursday's loss to Oregon before stepping up while filling in for Lockett on Saturday. Colvin had six points, six assists and three rebounds against Oregon State, with all his points and five of his assists in the final 10 minutes as ASU maintained control.

ASU will need more positive minutes from Colvin until Lockett is able to return to the point.

“It’s been hard. If you want to over-simplify things and try to put a succinct understanding on this season’s journey, it might begin and end with that,” Sendek said of the revolving point guard situation.

“Let’s face it, that’s arguably the most vital position on the court because it impacts the other positions so much. It just has been one thing after another, and It has forced everybody to have to adjust. I think it has been our single greatest challenge, not that we don’t have others. But in a lot of ways, everything is kind of connected to that.

"Everybody has to go into this weekend knowing that they have to carry an extra bucket of water. It’s going to be a great challenge for our team.”