One of the first questions college basketball coaches get from blue-chip recruits: “Can you get me to the NBA?”
And right behind that: “Can you get me picked in an early round?” (Hey, if you’re gonna dream, dream big.)
Therein lies one of the biggest recruiting hurdles that Bobby Hurley has faced during his six years as the Arizona State men’s head coach. He’s had nothing to show that he’s capable of doing that.
The last first-rounder produced by the ASU program was James Harden, back in 2009. Hurley hasn’t popped out a first-round pick since he arrived in Tempe in April of 2015.
Until now, that is.
Last week, Josh Christopher went to the Houston Rockets as the 24th pick in this year’s NBA draft, sliding into the first round just six picks ahead of the close of the round.
Out of the nine ASU grads who have made it into the first round, going back to Joe Caldwell in1964, only one ranked lower than Christopher. That was Mario Bennett, who went to the Phoenix Suns as the 27th pick in the 1995 draft. The legendary Jumpin’ Joe, who got the ball rolling, went to the Detroit Pistons 57 years ago as the No. 2 pick.
But Christopher is a legitimate first-round pick. That’s all that matters.
Bobby knew when he recruited the 6’5″ shooting guard from California that the Sun Devils would likely have him for just one season, a brief stopover on his way to the pro game. The No. 10 high school prospect in the country, Christopher was one of the highest-rated recruits in the history of the ASU program.
For awhile, Hurley held out some hope that the four-star recruit might hang around for a second season in Tempe. After all, Christopher had missed 11 games of his freshman season due to injuries and issues with COVID-related protocols. And the team finished with a disappointing 11-14 record.
He averaged 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in the 15 games that he did play in last season, and in three of those games he put up 20+ points. He also scored in double digits in 13 of the first 14 games.
So, just three weeks after his final college game, a March 11 loss to Oregon, the youngster decided he had put on a strong enough performance to warrant a good shot at becoming a pro, and announced he was declaring for the NBA draft.
Looks like he was right.
Hurley hated to lose him, but on the plus side, his one season at ASU has turned out to be mutually beneficial to both men. They both got that first-round pick they were hoping for.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)