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June 9, 2010Arizona State basketball coach Herb Sendek isn't one to make bold predictions so it was eyebrow raising at the very least to get his unprompted view of what games at Wells Fargo Arena will be like in coming seasons.
"I'm completely confident that in the very near future you will have a difficult time, if not an impossible time, getting a ticket (to home games)," Sendek told reporters Tuesday in a lunchtime meeting ostensibly to discuss his program's 2010 recruiting haul.
There was no punch line. Perhaps more surprising, there was no laughter at the lack of a punch line.
That singular comment, more than anything Sendek had to say specifically about his seven man class -- which could grown to eight depending on what happens with highly esteemed Remi Barry, who is expected to visit Tempe this weekend -- speaks volumes about the coach's confidence in where his program is now at, and where it could be headed.
After winning 20-plus games three seasons in a row for the first time at ASU since 1960-63, the Sun Devils, Sendek seemed to hint, could be poised to take another step up the ladder of college basketball prominence with the players he's now bringing into the fold.
"If you look at the athletic quotient of our team across the board we have made progress in that area," Sendek said.
Athletic. It's a word Sendek used no fewer than a half dozen times when discussing the recruiting class, a marked contrast to the terms used by the coach to describe previous classes at ASU, including the one that featured Derek Glasser and Jerren Shipp and played a large part in the Sun Devils' second place finish in the Pac-10 last season.
After seeing four younger, lightly contributing members of the roster transfer this spring, Sendek's staff rebounded by signing two of the most heavily recruited recruits still available following the conclusion of the April signing period.
Kyle Cain, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Chicago who took an extra year at New Hampton Prep in Hew Hampshire, had offers from Alabama, Illinois and West Virginia, among others, after receiving a release of his letter of intent with Rohde Island.
Carrick Felix, a 6-foot-6 College of Southern Idaho wing forward, appeared headed to being Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's first junior college addition ever, before electing to instead re-open his recruitment. Felix received over 30 offers in a single day according to his coach, but the Goodyear Millennium product tripped only to ASU before reaching a decision.
"It was just the convergence of a lot of circumstances that made them available at a later date than usual," Sendek said. "We were fortunate to be in a position where we could recruit them and land them. Both of those guys bring length, athleticism and versatility."
With the decision of Rihards Kuksiks to return to ASU for his senior season, the Sun Devils will have no fewer than 12 scholarship spots accounted for less than a week after it appeared they may be two or three spots under the maximum 13.
"We are very excited about our team going into next year," Sendek said. "We have a cast of returning players who have experience and who have continued to get better every step of the way. So we look forward to their continued progress. And then we have an injection of talent into our program with a really important recruiting class for us. I think we have a group of guys who have tremendous character. I think we have made our team more athletic and I'm really looking forward to working with this group."
Sendek had the following to say about the seven-man signing class, the largest of his head coaching career and the first to include multiple junior college players:
Corey Hawkins -- "He's a guard and notably, as everyone in our area knows, broke Mike Bibby's all-time scoring state record."
Keala King -- "A very versatile player that had an outstanding senior year."
Jordan Bachynski -- "He's over seven feet tall and really has grace and fluidity. He has tremendous hands and a nice touch. He hasn't played basketball in two years so it will obviously take him some time to get his basketball legs back under him, so to speak."
Chanse Creekmur -- "He's an outstanding three-point shooter. A tough hardnosed competitor who played quarterback on his high school team."
Brandon Dunson -- "He's an explosive elite athlete. He sets the mark high with his quickness and his jumping ability."
Kyle Cain -- "A great competitor who plays hard, with a great motor and high energy."
Carrick Felix -- "An athletic, versatile player."
Style of play
ASU has run a different primary offense in each of the last three seasons -- going from flex to pro sets to motion -- and Sendek has proven willing to pair his system to talent on hand. This off-season he'll again look at tweaking things to best take advantage of the players he'll have on the roster in 2010-11.
"I think we have to be willing to put a lot of different considerations on the table," Sendek said. "But not unlike any other year we always try to determine who we have and how do we best have to play to take advantage of their strengths. I think this year that is definitely necessary. We are going to take a step back, both offensively and defensively, and we're going to try and put those guys in a position to be successful."
The recently released 2010-11 schedule appears on its face to be more challenging for Arizona State than in recent years, with fewer games against traditionally low RPI opponents. ASU opens at New Mexico, which went 30-5 last season and had success in the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils also play five other 20-plus game winners in the non-conference portion of their schedule (UAB, Baylor, Richmond, Nevada and Tulsa).
"I'm sure we will be wondering what we did come November and December," Sendek said. "We play a very challenging schedule especially for the team that we have. Every single game we will have to play at our best to have a chance to win. Instead of being accused of not having a strong enough schedule, maybe we'll be accused of insanity.
"It's what our program needs now to continue to elevate our stature, to create a mindset with our Sun Devil community and our own players. It's what we need now. It may not have been what we needed last year or two years ago, but as we have gone through this evolution together I think it's what the Arizona State program needs right now. We need to be in the company of a really good schedule. Looking at the decisions the selection committee makes playing a tough schedule is the way to go. But you still have to win a lot of games."
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