When Evan Gordon suddenly left the Arizona State basketball program in early May to move back to Indiana to be closer to family, it left a team already thin in the front court now considerably weakened on the perimeter.
Gordon, who averaged about 32 minutes a game last year in his only season as a Sun Devil, was considered the likely starter in the No. 2 guard spot. His playing time fell off toward the end of the season and he contributed just 7.6 points off the bench for the final 10 games, but his upside was there and he was expected to improve over the summer.
Now that potential shifts to the Hoosiers as Gordon was added to the Indiana roster after he enrolled in IU graduate school. That makes it three teams in a career after Gordon, brother of NBA guard Eric Gordon, played for Liberty University before transferring to ASU.
The impact from the unexpected loss of Gordon was magnified by the graduation of Carrick Felix, generally regarded as the heart and soul of a 2012-13 team that won 20 games and went to the NIT Tournament, exceeding most pre-season projections. Felix was a second-team All Pac-12 selection last season and was also named to the conference All-Defensive Team.
But head coach Herb Sendek has helped plug the gaping hole left with the departure of Felix and, at the same time, added more scoring to the slot left open by Gordon – all with the addition of one junior-college transfer.
The acquisition of Shaquielle McKissic, announced yesterday, rounds out the 15-man roster and gives the Devils some immediate help on the perimeter from a college-seasoned player.
And also adds an impact player on defense.
McKissic, a 6’5″ high-scoring guard from Washington, graduated from high school back in 2009 and has just one season of college eligibility left. But right now, that’s all that Sendek may need to get back to the NCAA Tournament – something he hasn’t been able to do in the last four years.
A highly-recruited player out of high school, McKissic played just one season at Edmonds Community College. He sat out the next two years following the death of a close friend.
McKissic returned to Edmonds last year and averaged 22.5 points a game, second in the league in scoring. And he could pour on the scoring, posting three games over 30 points, another of 40, and still another of 46 – the highest single-game performance of any player in the Northwest Atlantic conference last year.
But he does more than score. He averaged 10 rebounds – including games with 17 and 19 boards – and four assists per game. On defense, he ranked second in the conference with 3.2 steals per game.
That gives Sendek an experienced shooting guard that can score consistently and often, one of the best point guards in the country in sophomore Jahii Carson, and a 7-foot center in senior Jordan Bachynski that shot almost 60 percent from the field last year and set a Pac-12 record with 120 blocked shots.
He also has two assistant coaches with NBA experience on the bench in Eric Musselman and Larry Greer.
What’s not to like about ASU’s chances this season?
If someone on this roster will ratchet up his game this season and be able to step into the other spot in the front court next to returning forward Jonathan Gilling, and there’s enough depth on the bench to get over the rough spots in the schedule, the Sun Devils have a legitimate shot to get to the post-season.
And Sendek’s seat on the ASU bench will cool down a little.