Hurley, Sun Devils ready to bounce back following COVID-19 related hiatus
After about three weeks off due to the holiday break and COVID-19 issues, Arizona State men’s basketball is set to resume its season on Thursday at home against UCLA at 8:30 MST.
Despite the Bruins losing leading rebounder Chris Smith for the season due to a torn ACL he suffered against Utah this past weekend, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley knows UCLA will still present a challenge.
“I think they really have a good identity as a team,” Hurley stated. “They reflect the personality of their head coach. I’ve watched UCLA, and I’ve watched Cincinnati, where coach (Mick) Cronin was prior for years. And they have that same intensity about how they play and a real focus group on rebounding and defending.”
Hurley praised Bruins’ guard Tyger Campbell, who is tied for eighth in the country with 7.2 assists per game, as well as guard Jaime Jaquez Jr., who leads the team with 13.3 points per game.
“Guys that stand out on film … Tyger Campbell, obviously, and the job that he’s done with his assist totals and running their team and his durability, and he plays heavy minutes and does a great job really leading that team,” Hurley said. “And Jaquez is another guy that when you’re watching them, he’s just making all kinds of winning plays. He’s really emerging as one of the better young players in the league.”
With COVID-19 issues in the ASU program being the reason the Sun Devils’ games last weekend were postponed; it begs the question of who ASU will and will not have as far as player and coach personnel for the UCLA game.
Hurley did not provide much intel into which players would play Thursday but did give an update on the status of his associate head coach Rashon Burno.
“I’m still not 100 percent certain on my roster, and I’ll be given more details on that tomorrow,” Hurley explained. “And as far as my staff goes, I’m pretty certain that coach Burno has been allowed to come back today, which will be great when we hit the practice floor here in a little bit. Just to have his presence back in practice.”
The holidays followed by the COVID-19 problems within the ASU program meant practice time has been scarce for the Sun Devils recently. Heading into the UCLA game Thursday, Hurley was concerned the missed practices could hurt his team’s chemistry and rhythm.
In ASU’s last game, a disappointing loss to UTEP in Tempe, the Sun Devils shot a season-low 40 percent from the field, and ASU senior guard Remy Martin is shooting a career-low 27.6 percent from three this season.
Hurley discussed his team’s shooting woes and Martin’s three-point struggles but said having Marcus Bagley back will help them get back on track.
“We were 1-18 from three (against UTEP),” Hurley remarked. “We need to make shots. Our roster is built with guys that can penetrate. And then guys who could hit the three, and I think getting a guy like Marcus Bagley back into the lineup is going to help in that regard. I think Remy has been focused on getting his teammates involved. He hasn’t been quite as aggressive as I want him to be. And we’ve talked about that. And I think that he’ll make adjustments.”
Hurley also spoke Thursday on the growing COVID-19 concerns within college basketball and the continuing postponements and cancellations of games, including games involving ASU. He said he thinks the season will be completed and thought the announcement earlier this week of March Madness being played in Indianapolis in a bubble-style environment means the NCAA is committed to completing the season despite the rise of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Hurley explained how the ups and downs of the season caused by COVID-19 were expected. He told reporters he and ASU women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne, who is dealing with virus issues within her own program, had a conference call to warn other coaches at ASU of what to expect when their seasons begin.
“We shared some comments, myself and Charli, on a head coaches’ call just talking about our situation up at Cal and then the last couple of weeks, what we’ve gone through,” Hurley stated. “Just to give our other head coaches here some preparation for what might be in front of them as they start their seasons to get back. But I still feel a great appreciation for the ability to be able to go to work, to practice, to train these guys to have a chance to compete. I feel fortunate. I have my health. And my family does. And there’s a lot of people that are in a lot worse shape than I am. So I’m trying to stay positive.”
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