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April 24, 2014

ASU lands third-team NJCAA All-American

Arizona State has landed a commitment from third-team NJCAA All-American power forward Willie Atwood, who picked the program over Iowa and Florida State on Thursday.

"Florida State was pretty intense," Atwood said. "They wanted me. Iowa did a really good job recruiting me. I have a lot of respect for those guys. I just wanted to be a Sun Devil.

"It just came down to what I really want, what I really want to do. I'm close to coach (Herb) Sendek and coach (Stan) Johnson and coach (Barret) Peery and coach (Larry) Greer. All of them, really. We are close. I just kept talking to them and feeling great about it.

Atwood, a 6-foot-8 power forward at Connors State in Warner, Okla., averaged 20.8 points and 9.0 rebounds last season at the Division I junior college level.

"After [Wednesday] night after I got through praying, I just felt it was ASU, I called my mama, she was very excited, she was ready, and it was just, that's what I'm going to do," Atwood said. "She really wanted me to happy, that was the biggest thing.

"I'm happy now, I can focus on working and getting more of my school stuff complete so I can get in there at summer school at Arizona State. I'm going to my keep work ethic going. You don't get there by talking about it, you get there by working at it and I'm going to be staying in the gym."

Atwood was also reportedly offered scholarships by Auburn, Arkansas and Memphis, among others, and was recently evaluated by several prominent nationally elite programs, including Louisville.

A face up four man, Atwood earned his keep at the JUCO level by scoring off the catch and attacking the basket from mid-range, while also being able to score around the basket and off the offensive glass. He said he has a knack for getting to the foul line, including making 33 of 37 free throws in one game.

Atwood becomes the seventh anticipated newcomer for the Sun Devils in 2014-15, when the program will fill out more than half of its allotted 13 scholarships with fresh faces.

In addition to Atwood, ASU has already signed high-profile junior college guards Gerry Blakes out of San Bernardino Valley College in San Bernardino, Calif., and Roosevelt Scott out of Indiana Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Blakes, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, earned Player of the Year Honors in the California Community College Athletic Association. Scott, a 6-foot-4 wing guard, was a leading player for the nation's No. 1 ranked team through most of the season and into the NJCAA national title game, which it lost.

"They were just telling me it'll be one of the best JUCO classes ever if I go there with them and how if we're doing this we've got to win," Atwood said. "So we were just talking about winning and us JUCO guys are close guys and we're trying to win, you know, we're hungry. So we just wanted to come together and do this. Whatever I have to do to win, that's what I'm going to do, because we want to be first in the Pac-12, we gotta make the (NCAA) Tournament."

ASU started its class in November with the signing of three high school recruits including Rivals150 prospects Tra Holder and Connor MacDougall.

Holder, a 6-foot-0, 170 pound point guard, is the No. 132 overall recruit nationally out of Brentwood High School in Los Angeles, Calif. MacDougall, 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, is ranked No. 107 overall in the class out of Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils also signed 6-foot-5 wing Kodi Justice out of Dobson High School in Mesa, Ariz., in the fall.

More recently, ASU landed the services of former Rivals150 recruit and UNLV player Savon Goodman, a 6-foot-6 combo forward who is sitting out the year at Indian Hills Community College and will have three seasons of remaining eligibility.

ASU will have to replacing starting point guard and leading scorer Jahii Carson as well as 7-foot-2 center and the school's all-time shot block leader Jordan Bachynski and starting guard Jermaine Marshall.

Recently the Sun Devils received good news when the appeal for another season of eligibility by 6-foot-4 wing Shaquielle McKissic was granted, making him the leading returning scorer on the team. ASU also will return 6-foot-7 forward Jonathan Gilling, a player with a lot of starting experience, 6-foot-10 forward/center Eric Jacobsen, who often started as a sophomore last season, and 6-foot-4 wing Bo Barnes, who played a lot off the bench late in the year.

Arizona State NEWS


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