Go big or go home. So say the college basketball analysts.
Last season, Bobby Hurley‘s Arizona State basketball team went home after concluding their season with a quarterfinal loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament.
In that final game, which Oregon won handily 80-57, the Ducks dominated on the boards, finishing with a 48-29 advantage.
Next season the Sun Devil second-year head coach is ‘going big’ to try to remedy that deficiency. And the addition of De’Quon Lake, a 6’10”, 235-pound center puts an exclamation point on a 2017-18 roster that will be anchored by five post players that average better than 6’8″ tall.
In addition to Lake, the group includes 6’9″ Vitaliy Shibel; Romello White and Kenny Wooten, both 6’8″; and 6’7″ Mickey Mitchell.
Wooten is part of the 2017 recruiting class, while Mitchell, White and Shibel sat out last season and will be ready to contribute in November.
Last season, ASU was at a rebounding disadvantage throughout the season, giving up 7.1 boards a game. The result was a 15-18 finish, the same number of wins in Hurley’s first season. While the Devils beat pre-season projections of 11th place in the conference by finishing eighth (7-6), and won their first Pac-12 Tournament game since 2013, Hurley is still trying to assemble a roster that will mirror the kind of physical intensity he displayed while winning a pair of national titles as Duke’s point guard.
Lake may become the catalyst for that physical presence Hurley needs on the floor. He brings athleticism and size that will be welcome on both offense and defense. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Iowa Western. A powerful post-up player who scores well with his back to the basket, he used that inside game to post a 67.6 shooting percentage from the field.
And, in addition to rebounding, he does a good job of defending the rim.
If there was any question whether he could make the adjustment from a community college to a power 5 conference program, there didn’t seem to be much doubt among the schools that were bidding for his services. They included major programs like Kansas, Kansas State, UNLV, Oregon State, and Missouri. But, in an official visit to Tempe four weeks ago, Hurley and his staff were able to close the deal.
Lake’s addition will only improve a 2017 recruiting class that had already been ranked No. 15 by 247 Sports. Last year’s class earned a top-20 ranking, the first time in 15 years an ASU recruiting class has been ranked that high.
Hurley won a conference championship in just two years as the head coach at Buffalo. This new challenge in the rugged Pac-12 is going to take a little longer.
Tomorrow marks exactly two years to the day that Hurley was announced as the new head coach to replace the fired Herb Sendek. In two seasons, he has won 30 games. Down the road, Sean Miller has won 32 games at University of Arizona – in just the last season.
That’s the yardstick by which ASU fans will measure the Sun Devils each year. There’s nothing Hurley can do about that. It’s the curse for any coach who takes on the ASU job.
The Wildcats will have a couple of 7-footers again next season, but the size that Hurley is beginning to add to his roster should begin narrowing that disadvantage under the basket.
Now he just has to find a new scoring leader to replace the 18.6 points a game that graduating Torian Graham provided this past season.