At the beginning of the season, this was looking like a crossroads year for coach Herb Sendek in the desert. His mark at ASU sat around .500 with only one NCAA appearance and a 22-40 record in the last two seasons. Arizona State has taken advantage of a relatively easy schedule and used an impressive 83-68 victory over Arkansas to hoist themselves into conversations about their potential to compete steadily in the Pac-12 plus the possibilities of NCAA play in March.
The Sun Devils, in improving to 9-3, have used a defense that has locked those opponents down to 39% along with steady inside-outside play of Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix to put themselves in position to compete right away.
Carson, a freshman, leads ASU in scoring and is the fourth highest scoring freshman in the nation at 17.9 ppg. In his 30-point effort against Creighton, he became only the fourth Arizona State freshman to eclipse 30 points and, upon further review, has played a role either by basket or by assist in 41% of the Sun Devils’ scoring.
Sendek has noted that Carson’s on-the-ball defense has improved since the beginning of a season as he is maturing physically and going through the growth process. Carson seems to have picked up the nuances of the college game quickly. He has even grown into a leadership role in helping transfer Evan Gordon transition from playing at Liberty to a major college program at Arizona State.
“He doesn’t care if he scores 20 points or seven points,” explained Carson, “But he definitely has a presence on defense, which helps us out. He takes pressure off of me when I’m on the ball, as well as Carrix Felix on the wings on the star players he normally guards.”
In addition, Felix, a senior, has been a major influence on the team with his 57.9% field goal percentage and 15.1 ppg. and 7.5 apg. Jordan Bachynski, beside him in the post, has turned it up on both ends as he recorded the first triple-double in Arizona State history with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 blocks in a win over Cal State-Northridge.
Sendek acknowledges that Felix brings lots of energy and effort to the floor and the other players seem to feed off of it as they did in Saturday’s 61-42 win over Dartmouth.
“ He comes down with a double-double; 14 rebounds, five blocks, four steals,” said Sendek of Felix, “He’s a stat sheet stuffer. I was really pleased with the way he played.”
Felix understands his role and invariably doesn’t step out of it. He plays with discipline both inside and out and he does a good job in a leadership role that has allowed him to thrive so far.
“I always come through in the clutch time,” said Felix, “By me putting in the work during the summer and my teammates giving me confidence and courage to play my game. I have Jahii Carson, Even Gordon, and Jordan Bachynski always in my ear with this great energy just knowing that, I just go out there and play hard.
Arizona State has dates against Texas Tech and Coppin State before Utah and Colorado come to Tempe to open Pac 12 play.
“Every day is going to be a constant grind, as every game is going to be a battle,” noted Felix, “I think we need to be more aware that we can’t start off slow and let the other team punch us first.”
- Ken Cross
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