TEMPE, Ariz. – Years one and two were for building. Bobby Hurley needed time to set the foundation and standards at Arizona State, recruit the right players.
The third and fourth years were for taking the next step, winning more, establishing a tradition, reaching the NCAA Tournament.
The Sun Devils want the progression to continue this season, toward a Pac-12 title, a deeper NCAA run, possibly a Final Four.
“I feel like we’ve positioned ourselves well,” Hurley said. “No one in the Pac-12’s going to care that we’re the only Pac-12 school to go to the tournament the last two years. It’s a clean slate as far as I’m concerned, but I do take a lot of pride in that. It’s been a big climb. We have a bunch of guys in the locker room that know how to do that and expect to do that. That’s kind of the standard now.”
Hurley arrived in the desert after a quick turnaround at Buffalo, where he led the Bulls to the program’s first NCAA Tournament in his second season.
With players mostly recruited by previous coach Herb Sendek, Hurley led Arizona State to 15 wins in each of his first two seasons. The Sun Devils ended a three-year NCAA Tournament drought by earning a spot in the 2018 First Four and were back in Dayton last season after another anxious wait on Selection Sunday.
The Sun Devils won their first NCAA Tournament game in a decade by beating St. John’s in the First Four last season before losing to Hurley’s former team, Buffalo.
Now they want more.
“Even though we’ve done a good amount, I’m still not satisfied, I still want to make it further,” Arizona State junior guard Remy Martin said. “For those guys that left, they did great but we’re here now and we’ve got to figure out how to win.”
Hurley’s program building has put the Sun Devils in a good position to make a deeper run.
Arizona State lost Luguentz Dort and Zylan Cheatham, two of its best defenders and rebounders, but has a strong core coming back. Martin and Rob Edwards, who’s healthy after suffering back problems a year ago, anchor the backcourt. Romello White, Taeshon Cherry and Kimani Lawrence return in the frontcourt.
Hurley has complemented them with three top-level junior college recruits and a solid recruiting class headed by Jaelen House, son of former Arizona State star Eddie House.
The Sun Devils should be able to play multiple styles, whether it’s the high-scoring, up-tempo game of what was dubbed “Guard U” two seasons ago or working the ball inside when they need to like last year.
“We’re interchangeable, we have a lot of different ways we can go,” Hurley said. “That’s the one thing I’m noticing and I like. There’s a lot of different combinations.”
Arizona State will have a shorter practice window to pull everything together.
As part of the Pac-12 Global initiative, the Sun Devils will travel to China, where they’ll play an exhibition against a Chinese team and against Colorado in a non-Pac-12 game. Arizona State leaves on Nov. 1 and will spend a week in China, leaving the Sun Devils less time to prepare for the season.
“This is probably the shortest preseason I have had,” Hurley said. “We have done a great job of getting off to a fast start the last two years so I’m hopeful that we’re getting better every day.”
Hurley and the Sun Devils hope the trend of getting better every year continues, too.
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