Hurley building 2021-22 roster without Josh Christopher

The vision for the immediate future of Bobby Hurley‘s Arizona State basketball program is beginning to come into focus.

But there are still a lot of moving parts.

Josh Christopher just declared for the NBA draft, a move that had been expected.  But there are several other pieces of the 2021-22 roster puzzle that are still up in the air.

The loss of Christopher (photo above) isn’t a small matter.  As the No. 10 high school prospect in the country, Christopher was one of the highest-rated recruits in the history of the Sun Devil program when he came on board last year.  He was expected to be a one-and-done, but since he missed 11 games last season, thanks to issues with COVID protocols and  nagging injuries, it was natural to hope that the four-star recruit might hang around another season to give NBA scouts a better look at what he could do at the college level.

He averaged 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in the 15 games that he did play, and obviously had the potential to be an impact player next season.  In three of those games, he put up 20+ points.

But now that he’s officially declared for the draft, Hurley has to wait to find out whether he will have a couple of other key pieces returning for one more year.

Remy Martin and Kimani Lawrence are at the top of that list.  Martin, one of the most popular players on the team the last couple of seasons, had announced he was turning pro and then came back for his senior season to lead the Pac-12 scorers with 21.4 points a game.  Lawrence, a 6’8″ senior forward was averaging eight points and five rebounds a game and playing at a high level as the season wound down.

Both of them could take advantage of the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA is granting to winter sports athletes and return for one more season.

ASU actually landed two top recruits last year.   In addition to Christopher, Marcus Bagley signed on for his freshman year, with the possibility that he, too, would be a one-and-done.  And, like Christopher, he had limited exposure last season, playing in just 11 games, due mostly to injuries.  He contributed 11 points and six rebounds a game.  He has yet to indicate whether he is leaving.

But Hurley hasn’t been sitting around waiting to find out who will be returning.  He’s picked up three players so far, two of which came to Tempe via the transfer portal, that could fit into the lineup right away.

The two transfers include junior Jay Heath, a guard from Boston College who was the Eagles’ top scorer the last two seasons, and AJ Bramah,  a 6’7″ junior post player who averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game last season at Robert Morris.

Add to those a 6’11” center right out of high school.  Enoch Boakye is the No. 20 overall prospect in this recruiting class and the No. 4 center, according to 247 Sports.  The five-star center comes from George Harris Prep in Canada and had originally committed to play at Michigan State.  Hurley scooped him up on the rebound by telling the big guy he would have the opportunity to step in right away and contribute.

It looks like Hurley is building the kind of roster he will need to recover from a disappointing season that ended with an 11-14 overall record and seven conference wins.

It was a season full of promise, with the Sun Devils projected in the preseason to finish second in the Pac-12.  But a schedule that was a stop-and-go roller coaster ride due to injuries and COVID issues kept the Devils from building any kind of momentum.

Over the course of the season, Hurley didn’t have a single game with his entire roster available to him.  A dozen players combined to miss a total of 63 games.

But a new day is about to dawn in Tempe.  And Hurley has begun stocking the cupboard for a chance to fulfill the expectations that were left unmet last season.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)