As he prepares to give college basketball one last shot, Arizona State gains a veteran leader in Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall.
Despite previously playing in the Big Ten, a league notorious for its defense, Marshall averaged 15.3 points per game last season and led the Nittany Lions in 3-pointers (59).
The addition should give the Sun Devils one of the top backcourts not only in the Pac-12, but perhaps the nation, as sophomore point guard Jahii Carson is the league's top returning scorer and a preseason All-American by numerous publications.
"He has already proven himself to be an excellent player at the highest level of college basketball," Sun Devil coach Herb Sendek said of Marshall.
Last season, the Nittany Lions lost their starting point guard for most of the year and the team, especially Marshall as the shooting guard, had to adapt to the change.
"It was big," Marshall said. "We had to make the adjustments and get a new point guard; guys had to buy into what our new point guard was doing and how he played and adjust to how he played so it took awhile."
Already knowing how to adjust to change will serve Marshall well as he makes the move to the Sun Devils this year.
To go along with Marshall's versatility and ability to consistently put the ball in the basket, Sendek recognizes Marshall's charisma and how it will help his transition this season.
"You find as you talk with him he's got a terrific personality, he has a great sense of humor," Sendek said. "Spending time with him and connecting with him is pretty easy to do. We're glad he's in Tempe and we look forward to having him with us this season."
Originally, Marshall had planned on bypassing his senior season and considering his pro options, but during the process, he determined that college was the best route to go, especially with the program at ASU.
"I think it's a great place in Tempe, and then you've got great coaches and you've got fun guys to be around," Marshall said. "On my visit, I got to hang out with the guys and hang out with the coaches and I got a great feel and my family did as well. I just felt like it was the fit for me."
According to Marshall, the transition has been great and the players have welcomed him with open arms.
"We think we'll have a great team," Marshall said. 'Got a lot of guys that can play great pieces."
Still, the departure from Penn State was tough for Marshall.
"I started my career there," he said. "They recruited me since I was a freshman in high school. I love Penn State to this day. No hard feelings. I just thought it was best to try to make a transition to Tempe."
While still adjusting to a new team, Marshall said he understands what his role is and needs to be, to make the season successful.
"Being a fifth year senior, I think just having to bring leadership, the ability to score and also to play defense too and just understanding the game at this level," Marshall said.
In addition to the coaching staff, Carson also influenced Marshall's decision.
"Jahii was big," Marshall said. "He's a great point guard and as a shooting guard you want to play with a guy that's already established. Talking to him through the process, he told me that they would love to have me, I would be a great addition and I feel the same way."
Sendek impressed with China trip
Recently back from their 10-day trip to China, the team came home with a tighter bond and an appreciation for the Chinese culture.
With only three games, and no practices while overseas, most of the trip was focused around bonding and connecting on all levels, on and off the basketball court.
Sendek was most impressed with the players' actions and attitudes on the trip.
"I was really proud of our guys because not one time did I hear even the slightest murmur," Sendek said. "Nobody whined, nobody complained. "They went into it with an open mind and experienced it all."
In addition to the experience of traveling to China and seeing the culture, what was particularly surprising to the team was the amount of people who recognized the ASU brand.
"Under (ASU president) Dr. (Michael) Crow's leadership, we have so many partnerships with China, whether its with other universities, whether its in research, there were people who would come up to us in the airport," Sendek said. "Our guys were a little bit like rockstars."
One of the greater benefits of the trip according to Sendek was the jump start newcomers received from travelling with the team.
Not only did the freshmen get an opportunity to bond with the team and some of the veterans, they were also able to be evaluated in actual games by their coaches.
"In particular, I was really impressed with our freshman class," Sendek said. "I thought those guys, for their first intercollegiate experience really showed well. I was tremendously encouraged by what I saw for those young men."
One of those men is redshirt freshman Calaen Robinson, whom Sendek described as really quick and fast and the ability to create his own shot.
Freshman Egor Koulechov and freshman Chance Murray were both said to have a good feel for the game, are physically mature players for their age, and rebound well for their respective positions.
Depth of the team
After getting a chance to see the players in China and the results from the previous season, Sendek anticipates this will be the deepest team the Sun Devils have had under his direction.
Last year, the Sun Devils were 22-13 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-12 conference.
With five players returning and eight newcomers, Sendek seems positive signs with several key veterans.
"(Senior center) Jordan (Bachynski) has continued to get stronger and that's helping him." Sendek said. "(Sophomore post player) Eric (Jacobsen) physically has really turned his corner."
Carson was as expected after missing the first game for precautionary reasons following a concussion.
"The first game back, he was just getting his feet wet," Sendek said. "The second game, he had 24 points in 24 minutes, so he did pretty good."
With so many new faces as well as all the different combinations available to the team, Sendek isn't in a hurry to figure out which position each player will be at.
"As you look at our team it's going to be really hard to split hairs with positions," he said. "We have a number of guys who are very versatile. It would almost be self-limiting for us to go and try to decipher what positions guys are. We are going to have a lot of flexibility."
Despite being pleased overall, Sendek still seems room for growth in certain key areas.
"We underperformed when it came to deflections," he said. "It's an area we are trying to continue to stress. Part of that is just a function of what guys are able to do."
Above all else, Sendek said he was impressed by the overall character and geniality of the group.
"They have personalities, they're gentlemen; that came through a lot," Sendek said. "We got a lot of really positive comments about our players, the way they conduct themselves, the way they communicate," Sendek said. "When you're with somebody that much every day there's nowhere to hide your real self comes out and our guys were just beautiful."
This year, Sendek has taken to giving nicknames for the freshmen. Robinson was tabbed "Spider" because of his long arms and legs and quickness; Koulechov is "Drago," presumably after the Russian character in "Rocky IV;" and Murray has been nicknamed "Biz" because he's all business.
Three players did not go on the China trip: Marshall, Michigan State guard transfer [db]Brandan Kearney (not eligible), and junior college wing transfer Shaquielle McKissic (was finishing his two-year degree).
There are two new walk-ons this year: Christian Pino from Michigan and DJ Henderson from Mesa High School.
Practices will start September 30th as NCAA rules now state teams can start practice 42 days before their first game.
Media Day for the team will be October 3rd and Pac-12 Media Day will be on October 17th.