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April 10, 2013It was a party held in Jahii Carson's honor but it's doubtful anyone was in a more celebratory mood than Arizona State coach Herb Sendek.
With a disc jockey playing contemporary hits and a raucous student group turning the normally calm Dutson Theater into something that more closely resembled a game at Wells Fargo Arena, Carson, the nation's leading scorer among freshmen, announced he would return to ASU for his sophomore season.
"I like the way I feel when I step on campus and hang out with everybody here at Arizona State," Carson said, explaining his decision. "I just think it's the best thing for me to do, to continue to try to build a legacy here and be the best Sun Devil I can be."
Carson, a 5-foot-10 point guard, considered entering the NBA Draft and requested a draft projection from the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee. He learned he would have likely been drafted, most likely in the second round with a chance of sneaking into the late first round.
"It was really more my decision," Carson said. "I had positive feedback. I was happy with everything. I just feel like it was the best thing for me to come back and try to continue something here at Arizona State that I started. I try to keep my circle close and keep my family and friends and coaching staff involved because I feel that they have my best interests at heart and those are the people I wanted to consult with."
A sophomore academically who had to sit out the 2011-12 season due to academics, Carson was Co-Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12 and a first-team all-league selection. He finished second in the conference with 18.5 points and third with 5.1 assists. He also made the all-tournament team in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 Tournament, when he played brilliantly on a big stage and scored a Tournament record 34 points by a freshman in a win over Stanford.
Sendek probably won't have a bigger win in 2013. Carson's return gives him a strong contender for not just Player of the Year in the Pac-12, but All-American honors. The Sun Devils would have likely been forecast to again be near the bottom of the conference had he departed, but will now likely remain very competitive.
"I would never even try to put a ceiling on any player let alone Jahii," Sendek said. "He really improved this year and he did something that was hard. He didn't play at all the year before and he hit the floor running with a lot of expectations and I think back to our games in November and then our games in February and March, he really improved. The one thing guys have typically done in our program is get better and as he follows that trajectory I'm really excited about the possibilities."
Carson's mother said she felt her son was only starting to peak as the season ended.
"I thought the team certainly exceeded expectations," Vanae Carson said. "I think that Jahii had such success before he got here that expectations were really high for him and he met that. I think that he really just started to come into his own again in the second half of the season so it's scary what we might have to look forward to in the year ahead."
The Sun Devils will lose one of the league's better all-around players, Carrick Felix and rotation players Ruslan Pateev and Chris Colvin, but should remain very competitive Carson believes.
"I think we're going to be a bit grittier, not take things for granted, and just build on the positive chemistry and the positive energy we had this year," Carson said. "I know we lose Carrick Felix, but a lot of people forget that Carrick wasn't the same player [two years ago] that he was (last season). He worked extremely hard. We're going to try to take a page out of his book and just continue to try to work hard and build something here."
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