Remy’s return makes ASU basketball a Pac-12 favorite

Who’s the happiest person on the planet since Remy Martin decided to return to the Arizona State basketball team?  That would have to be the head coach, Bobby Hurley.

So, who’s the unhappiest?  That would probably be the University of Arizona basketball team.

Since Martin’s sophomore season, the Wildcats have been unable to find a way to put a lid on the California import who just withdrew his name from NBA draft consideration to return to ASU for his senior season.  The three-time All-Pac 12 point guard averaged 27 points over the Sun Devils’ three wins out of the last four games against Arizona.

As the month of March closed out, Martin announced his plans to declare for the next NBA draft, skipping his final year of eligibility.  He was coming off a season in which he averaged 19 points and four assists a game, finishing as second-highest scorer in the conference.

If his past progress as a top player in the conference is any indicator, this season should be impressive.  As a freshman, he was named the Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year.  He broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore, leading the conference in assists.  And last year he earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors.

Martin had become one of the most popular players in Tempe in a long time and was considered the face of the program last season.  His departure was a huge disappointment to the fan base.

He was one of three ASU players who declared for the draft and took advantage of being able to get an evaluation from an NCAA advisory committee before making a final decision to turn pro.

Players had until Aug. 3 to withdraw their names and return to school.  Martin made it just under the wire.

Now that he’s back, he will likely be considered the favorite to win the Pac-12 Player of the Year award in his final season.  And ASU should be a top-25 team when the season opens, pegged as a favorite to win the conference title this season.  Early in the off-season, Jon Rothstein at CBS Sports had ASU ranked at No. 10 in his preseason projections.

The Sun Devils finished the 2019-20 season 20-11 overall and were preparing for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance before the pandemic cancelled the postseason.

In addition to Martin, ASU has five other players, either starters or significant contributors off the bench, who are returning this season.  They include Alonzo Verge, Jr., another of the trio who declared and then decided to return to school.  The 6’3″ senior guard from Chicago averaged 16.8 points off the bench — best in the nation — and was awarded the Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year last season.

Add to the returners an impressive recruiting class that included Josh Christopher, a five-star guard from Lakewood, Calif., who has a good chance at being in the starting lineup when the season starts.  Christopher, who was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 10 prospect in the country, is the highest-rated recruit in ASU history.

Hurley has also added some seasoned depth to the squad with the addition of a couple of D-I transfers.

With Martin returning as part of an experienced squad, Verge moving into the starting lineup, and Christopher injecting a major dose of talent into the back-court play, ASU could go deep into the postseason.

That still depends, of course, on whether we have a college basketball season.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)