There is a new addition to the living room of Bobby Hurley’s Scottsdale home, one he admits wasn’t exactly what wife Lesley had in mind and one that clashes with the decor.
The new addition is a whiteboard on which the Arizona State men’s basketball coach is keeping tabs on high school recruits he is talking to, potential transfers as well as candidates for his coaching staff
So yes, even when he’s not on campus he’s thinking basketball. The Sun Devils’ showing last season left a bitter taste and he’s determined to change the narrative. The Sun Devils were picked second in the preseason Pac-12 poll and were in most national rankings, only to finish 11-14 overall, eighth in the conference standings
“I’m so motivated and hungry,” Hurley said on Thursday in his first session with the media since the season ended. “Last season just left a sour taste in my mouth. I’ve worked as hard as I probably worked in an off-season that I can remember in terms of not wanting it to end when it did, and trying to do something about that so we’re not in this situation again. My goal is to never go through a season like that again.”
It has indeed been the busiest off-season of Hurley’s career. Five players hit the transfer portal, two declared for the NBA draft (as expected) and others graduated, leaving a lot of voids to fill. In all there will be 10 players donning the maroon and gold for the first time.
“We knew this year there was going to be change especially with the new one-year transfer being implemented nationally. You’re seeing it nationwide, not just at Arizona State,” Hurley said.
“It did feel like ‘Survivor’ at times,” he quipped. “I’m wondering if I’m going to be the last guy left on the island.”
Hurley said the disappointing season made him reevaluate several things, most importantly how to put together the right roster and what attributes he was looking for in newcomers. He had honest discussions with all of his players, both the returning ones and those that eventually opted to leave the program and said he wishes nothing but the best for those that did decide to go elsewhere.
But Hurley is happy with what he has salvaged and thinks his team will bounce back from a season sidetracked by multiple stoppages due to COVID-19 as well as injuries.
The list of newcomers is headed by Division I transfers in guards Marreon Jackson (Toledo), Jay Heath (Boston College) and D.J. Horne (Illinois State) and forward A.J. Brahma (Robert Morris). Three of those four were the leading scorers at their respective schools, with Jackson earning player of the year honors in the Mid-American Conference.
The Sun Devils’ lack of frontcourt depth has been well documented but Hurley addressed that issue and will go into the coming season with more depth there than he has had any year of his ASU tenure. That’s where the 6-foot-7 Brahma is expected to contribute in a major way.
Adding to the depth there will be five-star recruit Enoch Boakye, a 6-10, 240-pound center out of George Harris Prep in Canada. Hurley says he has the same humility, worth ethic and tough mentality as his last Canadian import, Luguentz Dort, now a standout with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I hope Canada is as good to me as it was when it gave me Lu Dort,” Hurley said.
The frontcourt will also feature one of just three returners who played last season in sophomore Jalen Graham, who improved tremendously late in the season after being sidelined with mononucleosis. Hurley added that the addition of Boakye will enable Graham to expand his range and play further from the basket.
Then late Wednesday word came that senior forward Kimani Lawrence was returning for a fifth year, taking advantage of the extra season granted by the NCAA to seniors due to the circumstances presented by the global health pandemic. He was arguably ASU’s best player down the stretch with his season highlighted by a 22-point, 21-rebound game against Washington. He’ll give the Sun Devils a much-needed veteran presence.
The roster is near completion with one scholarship left if freshman forward Marcus Bagley doesn’t remove himself from the NBA draft. But that doesn’t mean Hurley thinks his work is over. Far from it.
“The whiteboard isn’t going anywhere,” he said.
New coaches added
Not only is there player turnover at ASU, there have been changes on the coaching staff as well with three leaving Hurley’s staff, including associate head coach Rashon Burno, who took the head coaching job at Northern Illinois.
Former Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus is reportedly joining Hurley’s staff after seven years with the Wildcats, five as an assistant after serving as director of analytics. After being elevated to coach he became the lead recruiter of many top prospects including Bam Adebayo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, Johnny Juzang and Brandon Boston.
The other newcomer is Jermaine Kimbrough, previously an assistant at Loyola-Chicago the last two seasons under Porter Moser.
Hurley did not want to comment on the new additions until human resources finalizes the hires.