Jan 31, 2013, 11:49 AM EDT
Jahii Carson and Ben McLemore are two very different players.
Carson is a cocksure point guard, a playmaker that thrives when the ball is in his hands and has the confidence — both in himself and from head coach Herb Sendek — to take a tough shot or make a risky pass. No one questions his ability, certainly not Carson himself.
McLemore, on the other hand, is an off-guard that with one of the nation’s purest shooting strokes that, when combined with his off-the-charts athleticism and defensive ability, has scouts drooling over his potential. He could end up being the No. 1 pick in the draft, even if he still, at times, needs convincing that he’s the No. 1 option for Kansas.
Both are freshmen that entered college as consensus top 50 recruits. Both are putting up all-american caliber numbers. Neither was more than a member of the scout team last season, as they were both forced into redshirt years by the NCAA as a result of academic question marks coming out of high school.
And as it turns out, it may have been the best thing for both player’s careers.
McLemore’s story has been well-publicized, as he’s become the leading scorer for the team currently sitting at the top of the Coaches Poll. But few believe that McLemore could have had this kind of an impact if he had played his first year on campus. Throughout much of his career at the prep level, in both high school and AAU ball, McLemore was a complimentary player. He played AAU ball with Bradley Beal and Roosevelt Jones. His Oak Hill team included Quinn Cook, Jordan Adams, AJ Hammons and a handful of other high-major recruits.
McLemore never needed to be the star, which was perfect for him. He’s an introvert, a kid that’s still learning just how talented he truly is. He wasn’t ready for this stage last year; he needed the redshirt. “He’s going to have to get confidence,” Bill Self said of McLemore before the season, “There are a lot of things that he’s going to have to do, but he can run, he can jump and he can shoot. That’s a pretty good combination for a wing.”
And while McLemore is on everyone’s short list for potential first-team all-americans, he’s still nothing more than a piece in the Kansas system. Outside of the overtime win over Iowa State and the December victory at Ohio State, there aren’t many games where McLemore simply took over.
That’s not true for Carson, who has been the centerpiece for one of this season’s most improbable turnarounds.
Coming off of a 10-21 season, with a handful of important pieces transferring out during the offseason and two members of the coaching staff jumping ship weeks before the season was to begin, little was expected of the Sun Devils coming into the year. But Herb Sendek’s team has jumped out to a 16-4 record and a 5-2 mark in the Pac-12, good for a tie for second-place in the conference. That includes a win over Colorado and an 18 point shellacking of UCLA on Saturday.
The difference has been Carson.
“Last year, one our great challenges was that we didn’t have a true point guard in out program,” said Sendek, who sped up his team’s glacial pace from a year ago to fit with the skill-set of the uber-athletic Carson. “And that’s like trying to play without a quarterback in football. So having Jahii at that position this year has made an unquantifiable difference.”
Carson is averaging 17.3 points, 5.5 assists and 3.4 boards heading into Thursday night’s game at Washington State. He’s played at least 38 minutes in all but one of ASU’s Pac-12 games. But even Carson will admit that he wouldn’t have had this kind of an impact in his first season on campus.
“I would like to think so, but when it comes down to all reality I don’t htink I would have had this much of an impact,” Carson, a noted gym-rat, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. According to Carson, his days during his redshirt season were made up of workouts, class time, practice, workouts and, well, workouts. “I worked on my speed, my agility, my vertical, my quickness, so that’s what helped me a lot. I jump a lot higher. I was 155 out of high school, I’m 180 now. I’m able to get to the basket a lot easier than I would have coming out of high school.”
“I worked on my floater. In high school, I was able to get to the basket and dunk on pretty much every body in Arizona because most of the centers were 6-foot-5. I knew at the next level, I wouldn’t be able to attack the rim like that. I learned how to shoot the floater before I got to the big man and worked on my mid-range jumper.”
But the year-off allowed Carson to grow off-the-court as well. He said the most challenging part of being away from the game was maintaining a positive mindset and spirituality about his situation. Carson is a local kid. Arizona State is his hometown team. He’s got a lot of friends and family in the area, and having them watch the Sun Devils struggle through last season while he couldn’t contribute wasn’t easy. “I was in a difficult mental state not being able to play,” he said. “It humbled me and made me more aware of my situation. Mentally, it made me stronger and I’m definitely more mature.”
It also allowed him to learn the game at the college level. Carson spent last season on the practice squad, teaming up with Liberty transfer Evan Gordon to give Arizona State’s starting five all they could handle every day in practice. He learned how to run a team. He learned how to be a point guard at the college level.
Given Arizona State’s glaring hole at the point last season, it’s fair to wonder how good they good have been if Carson wasn’t forced to sit out. As tough as the last year was, Carson’s moved on. He knows he can’t changed the past, turning his redshirt year into a blessing in disguise.
The only thing he’s concerned about now: proving the doubters wrong.
“It definitely feels good to put pie in people’s faces after they doubted us so much,” he said. “A lot of people upped and left and didn’t give us a chance to see how our team would be and mature throughout the year. Some coaching staff gave up on us. A lot of being written off [in the media] as well.”
“It just feels good to go out here and play at a high level and be a high level team and just show everybody that we can compete with the best.”
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
May 22, 2013, 10:04 PM EDT
As a recruiting class that has been hailed by some as the best in the history of college basketball, Kentucky’s incoming freshmen will receive a lot of attention throughout the 2013-14 campaign. And with the skills that players such as Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young possess a number of…
May 22, 2013, 8:29 PM EDT
A third player with eligibility remaining will not return to the BYU program next season, as it was reported that 6-8 forward Agustin Ambrosino will not be a member of the basketball program in 2013-14. Ambrosino, who played an average of 6.2 minutes in 31 games last season, joins Raul Delgado (transferring to Metro State)…
May 22, 2013, 7:07 PM EDT
One week ago UMKC announced the addition of a fourth player to the program, as 6-10 forward/center Isaac Kreuer will return to the Kansas City metropolitan area after spending last year at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas. According to the Kansas City Star, first-year head coach Kareem Richardson has filled out his coaching…
May 22, 2013, 5:55 PM EDT
With the loss of four institutions the Colonial Athletic Association has some work to do on the realignment front. Apparently the league has found a new member, as it was reported by the Wilmington Star-News that Elon will officially join the CAA on Thursday. Elon has announced a press conference for 2:00 p.m. EST Thursday…
May 22, 2013, 4:44 PM EDT
On Tuesday, the University of Washington announced plans for an alumni basketball game to be held on June 23. Returning for the game will be former Husky stars such as Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson and Jon Brockman among many. Festivities will begin at 1:00 p.m., with there also being three-point and slam dunk competitions for…
May 22, 2013, 3:10 PM EDT
Will Yeguete just cannot get healthy. The Florida forward missed the final nine games of his sophomore season with a broken foot and then had to sit out much of February after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee as a junior. He returned to play the final six games of the season. Yeguete underwent more…
May 22, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT
On Monday afternoon, former Memphis big man Tarik Black announced that he would transferring to Kansas where he’ll team up with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid to give Bill Self the nation’s best non-Kentucky recruiting class and a shot at a national title. Black, who will be eligible immediately, may never end up…
May 22, 2013, 1:37 PM EDT
USA Basketball has released a list of 24 players that will be attending training camp in Colorado Springs from June 14th-19th to try and earn a spot on Team USA for the U19 championships, which take place in Prague from June 27th-July 7th. While there is some solid talent on that roster, it’s not necessarily…
May 22, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT
It’s all-but official now: Mike Krzyzewski will be returning to coach Team USA in the 2014 World Championships in Madrid and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. That’s according to a report from Pete Thamel of SI, who reported over the weekend that Coach K was strongly considering returning to head up the stars…
May 22, 2013, 12:34 PM EDT
On Wednesday afternoon, five-star small forward Theo Pinson officially announced his intentions to stay in-state and attend North Carolina. The Greensboro, NC, native picked the Tar Heels over Indiana, Louisville, Georgetown and Duke. A 6-foot-6 athlete on the wing, Pinson is known for his ability to get up and down the floor and finish around…
May 22, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT
Back in March, former San Diego Torero Brandon Johnson, the school’s all-time leader in points and assists, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for his role in a point-shaving scheme during the 2009-2010 season back in March. Johnson was lucky; the state wanted to give him a year. He’ll begin serving his sentence…
May 22, 2013, 10:38 AM EDT
The last that we had heard about the AAC tournament, Mohegan Sun was planning on cobbling together an offer to get bring the ‘old Big East’ to Connecticut to play out their league championship. That does not look like it’s going to end up happening, however. According to a report from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s Kyle…
May 22, 2013, 9:47 AM EDT
Enosch Wolf’s suspension from the UConn basketball team has officially been lifted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the 7-foot-1 German will be returning to Storrs next season. Wolf was suspended back in February as a result of a domestic dispute where he refused to leave a women’s apartment, pushed her and knocked her glasses…
May 21, 2013, 9:52 PM EDT
Butler will begin play in the Big East next season with Hinkle Fieldhouse, its home floor for more than 80 years under renovations that will cost up to $34 million dollars. The university believes the renovations will be complete around November 2014. “The important role our athletic programs have had within Butler’s strategy and national…
May 21, 2013, 8:07 PM EDT
AMHERST, Mass. — In the Class of 2014, one player who should continue making a name for himself is 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu. He is fresh off his junior season at Fairfield College Preparatory School (Conn.), leading the Jesuits to the championship game of the Class LL. Chukwu is currently on the AAU circuit with Connecticut Basketball…
May 21, 2013, 6:47 PM EDT
After spending one year on the coaching staff at LSU, long-time assistant Robert Kirby is once again leaving the SEC, this time to join Josh Pastner and the Memphis Tigers. Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune reports that the first-year LSU assistant resigned as an assistant coach on Monday night in order to take a similar position…
May 21, 2013, 6:02 PM EDT
Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins wrapped up a great career with the Fighting Irish earlier this spring. Following her graduation from the University Notre Dame on Sunday, her sports agency, Roc Nation Sports — founded by Jay-Z — rewarded her with a Mercedes Benz. Got surprised with a new mercedes! Thanks so muchto Jay and…
May 21, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT
The Connecticut back court was already in good shape with the return of Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun. On Tuesday afternoon, Kevin Ollie added to his guard depth with George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah. This news came according to CBSSports.com, who confirmed the transfer through a source. Kromah is graduating from George Washington,…
May 21, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
The field for the Legends Classic has been announced. Pittsburgh highlights the field and will be joined by Stanford, Houston and Texas Tech. Each of the four teams will host a pair on games on campus prior to going to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the semifinals and the finals. The final two rounds…
May 21, 2013, 1:32 PM EDT
Montana announced on Tuesday that Washington transfer Martin Breunig would be transferring into the program. “We are very excited about signing Martin Breunig at the University of Montana,” head coach Wayne Tinkle said in a statement. “He’s a strong, athletic post player, and he really adds good size and strength to our front line.” “We…
- FBI: San Diego point-shaving scandal netted ‘more than $120,000′ 0
- Pressure mounting on Texas head coach Rick Barnes? 0
- Former Memphis forward Tarik Black will spend senior year at Kansas 2
- The bond between Rick Byrd and Casey Alexander crosses rivalry lines 1
- How did Bill Self learn about Andrew Wiggins’ commitment? Twitter 0
- LeBron stuns Pacers with OT winner in Game 1
- Pens overwhelm Sens, take 3-1 series lead
- Tiger calls Sergio's comments inappropriate, hurtful
- Bears great Urlacher announces retirement
- HBT: Canseco suspect in Vegas sexual assault
- Posnanski on Golf: Sergio shows disdain for Tiger
- OlyTalk: Coach K will lead Team USA in Rio Games