At first, it looked like Bobby Hurley didn’t really leave New York behind when he accepted the job in early April as the new men’s head basketball coach at Arizona State. He was just bringing the East Coast with him to the desert.
The former Duke standout and NBA player was announced as the new head coach to succeed Herb Sendek on April 9, leaving the University of Buffalo to take the job. Two weeks later, he added his first recruit, a point guard from his Buffalo team named Shannon Evans.
Despite the fact that Hurley already had three point guards on the roster, it was a big catch. Evans averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 assists a game last season and was named to the All-Mid-American Conference second team. He will have to sit out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but that will give him time to get to know his new team.
More recently, Hurley added another guard from his Buffalo team when Torian Graham signed with ASU in the opening days of June. The 22-year-old was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 12 shooting guard in the country when he graduated from high school.
He, too, may have to sit this coming season after transferring. However, he’s appealing to the NCAA for the right to play immediately because he sat out last season to satisfy transfer rules and never got to play for the coaches who recruited him, Hurley and his assistant, Levi Watkins.
Which brings us to another East Coast addition to the ASU program, Watkins, who was his first coaching hire in Tempe. Watkins was Hurley’s assistant during both of his years at Buffalo, helping to guide the Bulls to their first MAC Championship and first NCAA Tournament berth. Hurley hired him away from NC State, where he was the Director of Basketball Operations for eight years.
And his final addition to the coaching staff also has New York-area ties. Rashon Burno, who was hired just three days ago, was a former player at legendary St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey – where Hurley’s father has built a national reputation for his work at that school.
Rashon served as an assistant at Florida for three years before accepting a similar position at Nebraska just six weeks ago. But when Hurley called with a job offer with the Sun Devils, Burno says he couldn’t turn down someone he considered ‘family.’
In between those hires, Hurley added Brian Merritt to his staff and now has a full contingent of coaches on board. Merritt, the only one without East Coast ties, got his start as a graduate assistant at Louisville, working under Rick Pittino, and then made a couple more college stops as an assistant before joining John Lucas Enterprises in Houston in 2010, where he worked as the Director of Scouting/Recruiting until getting the call from Hurley.
Merritt helped develop the high-profile Lucas development camps, working with high school, college, and NBA players. He has been opening new recruiting contacts around the country since joining Hurley in May.
The other recruits for Hurley’s inaugural season aren’t from New York, but hail from different parts of the country – which helps balance out a roster that is unusually heavy with local talent.
Seven spots on the 2015-16 roster are being occupied by players from within the state. Even the Northern Arizona men’s team, which is normally a landing spot for local players who don’t get offered from out-of-state programs, has only one in-state player on its roster.
That attention to recruiting heavily at home is just one reason Hurley is being so warmly received by Sun Devil Nation. And it helps keep the positive buzz around the program alive.
However, it’s still going to come down to what kind of a product the new coach with the famous name can put on the floor.
Only that will put fannies in the seats in Wells Fargo Arena.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)