Jahii will be back; ASU basketball lives to fight another day

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                </div>Exhale, Herb.  The kid’s coming back. Arizona State’s head basketball coach, Herb Sendek, won’t lose his young stud to the NBA draft – not yet, anyway.  Jahii Carson, the Pac-12 […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Exhale, Herb.  The kid’s coming back.

Arizona State’s head basketball coach, Herb Sendek, won’t lose his young stud to the NBA draft – not yet, anyway.  Jahii Carson, the Pac-12 co-Freshman of the Year and the nation’s leading freshman scorer, announced at last night’s press conference that he has decided to return to ASU for his sophomore season.

And smooth ol’ Herb, in his usual under-stated manner, offered his reaction:

“Jahii is a special player and a special person.  He was excellent in everything he did and is not only fun to watch, but a joy to coach, and we look forward to continuing to work with him in 2013-14.”

C’mon, Herb.  That’s all you’ve got…”we look forward to continuing to work with him…”?!  That’s hardly something you can scream at the top of your lungs while turning cartwheels the full length of the court in Wells Fargo Arena.

And that’s gotta be what you must have felt like doing.

The youngster from Mesa High School sat out his first season on campus after the NCAA ruled him ineligible as the 2011-12 season began, an issue arising from a summer online course Carson took at a junior college.  While he sat, the Sun Devils went into a tailspin without a quality point guard on the floor, finishing the schedule with just 10 wins.

This year, Carson led ASU to 22 wins and a berth in the NIT after being passed over for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.  They lost by three points to Baylor in the second round.

Now it looks like Carson will return to take care of the unfinished business of getting the program a ticket to the Big Dance next March.

He’s already proven he can put the team on his back and carry the load.  He averaged 18.5 points and five assists a game in his first rodeo at the college level, which is second in program history only to Ike Diagu‘s 19 points and just ahead of James Harden, who averaged 17.8.  Both of them moved on to the NBA.

His 177 assists set a new school record and also put him at No. 6 on the Pac-12 Conference all-time list.  He became the first freshman at ASU to both start and play in 35 games, and set another school record by playing 37.2 minutes a game.

It will be interesting to see what he accomplishes next season.

“At this time, it is in my best interest to continue my career at Arizona State,” Carson said in announcing his decision to stay another year.  “ASU has been very good to me and I enjoy my teammates and coaching staff, and that was a big part of my decision.  The option to try the NBA was there, but all my energy is now invested in being the best Sun Devil I can be and lead our team to a great season.”

That last part about the NBA alludes to the fact that just about a week ago he and his family requested an evaluation from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee, which offers college players considering jumping into the draft early an idea of what their draft potential is.

Evidently, the evaluation wasn’t encouraging enough to declare for this year’s draft.  Thus, the youngster has decided another year of seasoning is in order.

And that’s a huge relief for Sendek, who received a contract extension midway through the 2011-12 season that will take him to 2016.  He’d love to have Carson around to journey with him through the remainder of that contract.  But that won’t happen with all the money awaiting Carson at the pro level.

Ride your young thoroughbred hard next season, Herb.  It’s the last one he’s going to give you.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)