Arizona State made history with a fast start and a somewhat sustained finish that saw the Sun Devils manage to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Bobby Hurley is ready to build on it.
“People like stories where [teams] kind of come out of nowhere,” Hurley told azcentral.com’s Doug Haller. “It’s like, ‘Whoa, where’d they come from?’ That’s where we were last year. Where we were projected was nowhere near the level we were playing at for the first eight weeks of the season.
“It was a big unexpected media surge with how we were doing it, with the swagger the guys were playing with and how we were scoring. We just weren’t getting lucky; we were pretty dominant in some big games. It definitely opened doors and now we can have different conversations about where we’re headed and how this is just the beginning.”
That run ended with Hurley and his players jumping into his backyard swimming pool upon learning of their bid to the NCAA Tournament. We could say it ended how it really did — a First Four loss to Syracuse — but we’ll choose to remember the happier times as the Sun Devils bid adieu to a veteran senior class.
Arizona State returns a good amount of talent, led by guard Remy Martin. Hurley’s staff also signed three 4-star recruits and has a hard commitment from another, No. 36 player in the nation (per 247Sports) Taeshon Cherry. In a short amount of time, Hurley has built a Pac-12 (and possibly national) contender.
It’s a surprise, considering the other Arizona school has long assumed such a role. But Hurley knows all the factors that go into recruiting kids these days and has practiced his sales pitch, even to the kids with serious NBA aspirations.
“If we know that’s a priority in a kid’s recruitment, we’ll talk about our style of play and our pace of play, our conference and how attractive it is for the possibility of getting to the next level,” Hurley said. “We talk about our nonconference schedule and how we schedule high-profile games. And then just the platform of being in a major market. I think Phoenix is like the fifth major market [in the country]. We try to hit all those messages, how we’ll put them into an environment to get to the next level.
“I’ll talk about player development, which is something I take a lot of pride in. I don’t miss any [player] workouts. I might have missed one practice in the last three years because of recruiting. They get a head coach that is hands on.”
Hands on and willing to add staffers who are just as involved, even at the lower levels, which can often become murky (as the FBI-driven scandal last season showed us). Hurley was open when asked about the role of sports apparel and shoe company adidas’ role in the rise of his program.
“The biggest thing, [assistant coach] Anthony Coleman is doing a very good job. Anthony worked in the grassroots [for adidas] and got to know a lot of those players and coaches,” Hurley said. “He immediately has been able to make an impact through that.
“[Top 30 signee] Luguentz Dort would be a good example. He spent a lot of time with Lu prior to coming to ASU in different events he was always around. That was part of the reason Anthony was brought in, his ability to connect with kids. The highest-level guys over the last couple years have spent time with Anthony at some of these adidas events. There’s an advantage, for sure, to having Anthony on board.”
It’s not all that often you hear a coach talk openly about coaches’ involvement in recruiting at the grassroots, apparel company-driven level. As Hurley has shown, he’s not here to do it in exactly a traditional way. We’ll see if the results continue to surpass expectation.