Redshirt freshman Romello White made his long-awaited Arizona State basketball debut Tuesday night, a rousing success in a 90-68 win over San Diego State. 

The 6-8 redshirt freshman, a top-100 nationally ranked player out of high school in Suwanee, Ga., missed 2016-17 for academic reasons and also last week’s season opener for a team rules violation dating back to last season. 

White was impressive at times in debuting with a double-double (16 points/15 rebounds), particularly when on the floor at the same time with 6-9 junior college transfer De’Quon Lake.

“It was amazing. I’ve been waiting for a year to play,” White said. “It felt great. It was real difficult (sitting out), especially in the beginning. I was real down, in a bad place. But after a while, I talked to some guys on the team that had to redshirt and they told me to play hard and next year it will be worth it.

“I was doing good on the glass (early), but I missed a couple of easy ones. I just had to get in the groove, but the second half I came off way better.”

The new posts were central to ASU wiping out a nine-point deficit early in the second half to lead 71-52 with nine minutes still remaining at Wells Fargo Arena.

5 takeaways

– With White in the starting lineup, ASU coach Bobby Hurley opted to bring Lake off the bench even though the 6-9 Lake had 24 points in 28 minutes and 8 rebounds in his Sun Devils debut last week against Idaho State.

Vitaliy Shibel started in post tandem with White. Lake entered at 15:21 and made an immediate difference until going to the bench with his second foul at 7:57.

Hurley said White and Lake could start together after “more on the practice floor to make that happen.”

– During a wild six-minute stretch early in the first half, ASU went on an 18-5 run to lead 24-14. It included two blocks by Lake, one by White and one pinning the ball against the backboard by Kodi Justice, and finished with Lake jamming off a feed from Shannon Evans.

The first half turned over the final 10 minutes, with the Aztecs outscoring ASU 26-10 to lead 40-34. The Sun Devils missed Lake not being on the floor and played out of control at times. Plus Max Montana rained in all four of his 3-pointers for 12 first-half points, two behind teammate Trey Kell. San Diego State led 16-2 in first-half, fast-break points, but ASU cut that to 20-12 at the end. 

“We overdribbled some and stopped defending the way we had to get the lead,” Hurley said. “It was a great learning experience to come back from that adversity. We challenged the guys to just play better, to make better decisions on offense, to make some 3s when you’re open and shoot it with confidence.”

– ASU shrugged off a banked-in 3-pointer by Malik Pope to open the second half that extended San Diego State’s lead to 43-43. The Sun Devils laid a 17-4 run on the Aztecs that included a run-out jam by Shannon Evans and 3-pointers by Evans and Tra Holder to lead 51-47.

– In addition to White’s double-double, four other Sun Devils scored in double figures – Holder with 24 (4-of-9 from 3-point), Lake 15, Evans 14 and Remy Martin 12. Lake, also with 7 rebounds, fouled out with 5:46 left. Holder and Evans combined for 12 assists and 14 rebounds. 

“They make the job of the guards so much easier because they’re such a big presence,” Holder said of White and Lake. “A team has to honor them and make sure they’re not scoring. If it’s their night, we’re going to keep feeding them. If it’s our night, they’re going to have to come to us. They’re going to have and pick and choose which one they want to stop, and I’m just glad to play with them.”

ASU improved to 2-0 while San Diego State dropped to 1-1. San Diego State scored just 28 points in the second half. The Sun Devils led 42-36 on the boards and 42-34 in paint points. 

– ASU still has two more key pieces to add to Hurley’s third ASU roster: 6-7 forward Mickey Mitchell, a transfer from Ohio State, will be eligible to play starting Dec. 10 at Kansas. Kimani Lawrence, a highly rated 6-7 freshman forward, is out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his foot but is expected back for Pac-12 play, which starts Dec. 30 at Arizona.

Repeat performance

ASU won 74-63 at San Diego State last season when forward Zylan Cheatham of Phoenix still was playing for the Aztecs. The 6-8 Cheatham transferred to ASU after the season and has at least one year of eligibility (he could appeal for a second) after sitting out a transfer season.

Cheatham had 7 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes against the Sun Devils in December 2016.

Last word

“Both of those guys (Evans and Holder) are super determined to have a great season and have us win and have a chance for us to do something special this year as a team. Then individually, they’re just very gifted players and they can make plays off the dribble and with the deep shot.” – Bobby Hurley 

Up next

ASU remains at home against Northern Arizona (0-2) at 6 p.m. Friday in its first game in the Continental Tire Invitational. The Lumberjacks have lost to Arizona (101-67) and Embry-Riddle (80-72).

The Sun Devils also play UC Irvine in Tempe on Sunday before tourney play shifts to Las Vegas next week. 

ASU loses freshman forward Kimani Lawrence for 4-6 weeks

Arizona State basketball will be without a key player throughout the non-conference season, limiting coach Bobby Hurley’s bench.

Kimani Lawrence on Monday had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot, an injury that likely will keep the freshman forward out 4-6 weeks. A Top 100 high school recruit, the 6-foot-7 Lawrence was expected to start this season.

“It’s likely to keep him out, ball park is somewhere around Christmas, based on the time frame we’ve been given right now, but there’s no set date on his return,” Hurley said Monday. “It’s very encouraging that it looks like that we would, in a good-case scenario, have Kimani back for the entire Pac-12 (season). That’s our goal.”

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In the short term, this means ASU will have just seven scholarship players throughout a difficult non-conference season that continues with Tuesday’s home contest against San Diego State. ASU also plays Kansas State, St. John’s, Kansas and Vanderbilt over the next five weeks. 

One of those scholarship players, redshirt-freshman Romello White, could return Tuesday after missing two preseason exhibitions and ASU’s season opener because of a rules violation that occurred last season. The 6-8 forward is expected to play a big role. In addition, ASU next month will add sophomore forward Mickey Mitchell, who has to sit out the season’s first eight games as a mid-season transfer.

Until then, Hurley plans to lean heavily on senior guards Shannon Evans, Tra Holder and Kodi Justice, as well as freshman Remy Martin. Non-scholarship guard Austin Witherill also will get an opportunity. The senior from Gilbert played 13 minutes in ASU’s opening win over Idaho State and hit a 3-pointer.

“Having a short rotation is not something I’m unfamiliar with,” said Hurley, who had a short bench last season. “In that way it helps. Shannon could play every minute and not get that tired. It’s just how he’s wired. Tra’s used to playing big minutes. Kodi is. Now we have Remy to add to that rotation, and as you saw with Austin, as a walk-on, I don’t really even think he’s a walk-on, to be honest. He comes in and knows what he’s doing.”

– Doug Haller

Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at [email protected] Follow him at Download and subscribe to the ASU Pick Six Podcast, available on itunes.

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