May 14, 2012, 4:36 PM EDT
Arizona State’s basketball program is not exactly thriving under Herb Sendek.
The Sun Devils are coming off of a 10-21 season in which they went 6-12 in a watered down Pac-12. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Sendek lost three of his most important players to transfers. Keala King, a former top 25 recruit, was kicked out of the program in February. Kyle Cain, along with Chance Creekmur, decided in March to transfer out of the program. Trent Lockett made the decision earlier this month to transfer closer to his ailing mother.
In other words, 2012-2013 doesn’t exactly look promising. Enter Jahii Carson. Carson was a top ten recruit back in the Class of 2011, but he was never cleared academically to play last season. Not only will next season be his first as a collegian, but he will be playing with the weight of the program on his shoulders. Making matters worse, Carson is a hometown kid, a native of Phoenix.
Being anointed the savior of a program as a freshman is tough enough. Doing it in such close proximity to your hometown — your friends and your family and everyone person that’s ever been in your ear about hoops — is even tougher. In an interview with Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, talks about this and about the advice he got from Memphis native and Memphis Tiger Joe Jackson:
“When I played with USA Basketball (last summer) I was roommates with Joe Jackson. And he played at Memphis and he’s from Memphis. And he was saying that when he had down games and he wasn’t at his best, the city kind of turned on him. Like, ‘It’s Joe’s fault. He should know what to do.’ If Will Barton didn’t hit the jump shot, it was Joe Jackson’s fault. That’s kind of what I’m afraid of. People just putting everything on my back. Putting everything on me. Expecting me to be prepared for every moment next year. Losing games. Winning games. Having off nights. Not seeing a teammate if he’s open. … Joe and I talked about that because he knew I was going to my home-town school. He said he had talked with Coach (Josh) Pastner beforehand about what he was going to have to deal with, but he said it was still hard.”
Arizona State doesn’t have the same kind of expectation as a basketball program as Memphis does. Memphis fills the FedEx Forum with 18,000 fans every night. It’s a basketball town, and they love their Tigers. When Jackson had a bad game, the city talked about how he was overrated or about how he wasn’t the savior.
Tempe? Phoenix? Arizona State?
At this point, they expect to lose. Every win that Carson creates and every good game he has will be celebrated. A loss won’t be a big deal. Plenty of them are expected this year as it is.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen Carson play, well, there’s a reason folks are excited:
Image via here.
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