ASU Basketball Finds Success In Ever-Changing Landscape

The landscape in College Basketball is constantly evolving.

Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek would be among the first to tell you all about it. The key, is finding your place in this evolution and making the most of it.

For the Sun Devils over the last few seasons, they have rode the success of the marquee prospects they have signed out of high school like James Harden and Jahii Carson. But what has made them top-to-bottom a deeper team and a more consistent presence in the Pac-12 during the Sendek-era, has been the play of some junior college transfers.

Carrick Felix spent his first year at the JUCO level out of Millennium High School in Goodyear before transferring to ASU for three years of eligibility and ultimately becoming a leader and one of the top performers for the Sun Devils. It led him to being selected in the 2nd round of the NBA Draft in 2013. 

Shaquille McKissic was one of the best stories for the Sun Devils last season who seemingly came out of no where to become a player Sendek himself said he couldn’t keep off the floor. He is now the face of this Sun Devils team going into the 2014-15 season. 

The play of Felix and McKissic has set a tone within this program that has built success for their program both on and off the floor.

“We are in position to attract the best junior college players in the country to Arizona State,” said Herb Sendek. “We have had some good success. Most notably Carrick Felix and Shaquille McKissic. And now we have a group of guys that we are really excited about as well.”

“I am thankful to have this opportunity seeing as Carrick Felix and Shaquille McKissic have paved the way for us,” mentioned ASU JUCO transfer Gerry Blakes. “The opportunity is great and I think over the course of time that we will be a great team.”

Blakes is a 6-4, 195 pound guard originally from Inglewood, CA who has spent the first two year of college at San Bernardino Valley College in California. He arrives in Tempe with first team All-Foothill Conference and first team All-California honors under his belt posting 1,052 points and 200 assists in his two seasons.

The next JUCO transfer is versatile 6-8, 210 forward Willie Atwood who comes to the Sun Devils from Connors State College. The Memphis native, averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game en route to third-team All-America honors and the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference and Region II Player of the Year last season.

“Coach believes in JUCO guys,” said Atwood of Sendek after seeing the success of players like Felix and McKissic. “He came and brought us here. I talk to Carrick a lot on Twitter and talked to Shaq a lot before I came. They told me to play comfortable and to be myself.”

The third JUCO transfer is 6-3, 180 pound guard Roosevelt Scott who may be the most heralded of the three coming in being ranked the eighth best JUCO player in the nation after last season. He led Indian Hills Community College in Iowa to a NJCAA Division I national tournament championship appearance where they just came up short. He was the leading scorer for an Indian Hills team that was 34-3 putting up 17.5 points per game.

Scott says that there is a particular mindset with JUCO players that leads some to success at the Division I level when given the opportunity.

“The JUCO guys have a sense of urgency that you know, we never really had anything and everything we’ve had, we had to work for,” Scott stated. “We have the hunger and we just have to stay humble.”

“To me I don’t think they have, as a rule of thumb, a feeling of entitlement,” mentioned Sendek. “I see our guys being very grateful for opportunities they have given to them. They are excited about being here, they love being Sun Devils. So, it’s not so much they have a chip on their shoulder but they have grateful hearts.”

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