Men's Hoops Notes, Quotes And Anecdotes From Down Under
May 31, 2001
A wrap-up of the Arizona State men's basketball team's trip to Australia, May 15-26, as the team played five games in nine Australian days and went 5-0. A total of 13 players made the trip, which consisted of eight plane flights totaling 40 hours and about 20 bus trips.
EVANS AND STAFF ACCOMPLISH WHAT THEY WANT: Heading to Australia, Rob Evans and his staff said they had five main goals for the trip.
*They wanted each player to get better individually, which was accentuated with the quality minutes played by everyone as well as the impressive play of last year's redshirts Tanner Shell and Justin Allen. 'I think every single player got better, not just from the 11 days of the trip but the 10 days of practice before we left,' says Evans, who will enter his fourth year at Arizona State next year. 'It really showed in guys like Tanner and Justin. It was great to have Tanner's competitiveness out there, he never lets up. And Justin knows that he can compete and help us over the summer. Also, I thought Donnell was coming along very well until he got hurt but he still got tough and helped us in that last game. And Tommy has unbelievable potential. There were times when he simply took over a game.'
*He wanted the team to get better, which was important not only during the trip but also during the 10 days of practice before they left. 'I know we got a lot better. When we came here in the spring of 1998 we started putting this trip together knowing this would be the best year to do it. Most teams take at least one graduated player with them, but we had all underclassmen and this helped bring Tanner and Justin back into competition. The 10 days of practice were great, the one thing about this group is they understand the value of practice. That happens with experience. We also were tied or in a close game every game at halftime, but the kids got a killer instinct and put teams away. We won a couple of close games and different guys had to take big shots. You can't teach those things in May during a normal year.'
*He wanted the team to have a great experience on the court learning to play in different environments with different rules. 'It was fun to walk into a cold gym one night and a humid one the next. It helps teaches guys that you have to be ready to play. We played four games in the first five nights and played a game the same day that we traveled. We played a game after a two-hour bus ride, which none of these guys have done since high school. The team was tired, but our depth was very important and the guys know that with a lot of depth they don't have to hold back. Kyle (Dodd) came in the locker room at halftime of our final game and told the guys to not let up, that they could sleep on the way home. That tells me he has confidence in his teammates.'
*He wanted the team to have a great cultural experience, as ASU visited three cities (Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns) and was constantly going from one place to the next. 'We really had a lot of fun and did a lot of great things. I have been around the world and have also been to Australia, so someone older like myself has experienced this before. But to almost all the guys, it was something new. I think things like the Australian Rules football game, the bridge climb and going to the Great Barrier Reef are in their minds for the rest of their lives.'
*They wanted to win five games, and compete like it was Pac-10 season. 'Not a lot of teams come over here and go 5-0. Cairns beat Dayton right before we came out. Every game was close at the half and we played against several players who were older and more experienced than our guys. I was satisfied that we not only won all five games but did it with basically a 10-man rotation during the games. We wore teams down with those 10 guys.'
PROFESSIONAL TRAVELLERS: Chad Prewitt and Brad Nahra have been with ASU for three years and have their suitcases full of stickers. Both of them have been to Maui, Puerto Rico, Australia, Utah, Texas, San Diego, North Carolina three times and all the usual Pac-10 sites. In addition, Prewitt also went to China last summer with a Pac-10 travelling team.
A BUSINESS TRIP: While Evans and his staff certainly let the team do what they wanted off the court and had late curfews so the players could enjoy the cities, they certainly did not let hoops fall from their minds at any time. After playing four games in the first five days ASU did not have a game until its final night, so it would have two full days off before playing at 8 p.m. on the third day in Cairns. After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, the staff let the team enjoy the tropical city before practicing from 9-10:30 p.m. The team went five-on-five for a solid 45 minutes and worked up a solid sweat in the steamy gymnasium, and also did some interviews for the local television station and newspaper.
KANGAROO BURGER: One player who went to the extremes of getting a cultural experience in the food department was walkon Brandon Goldman, who tried a kangaroo burger while in Cairns. When asked if he liked it, Goldman was pretty non-descript. 'Yeah, it was okay, I guess...I don't know, it was alright.'
SO WHAT DID THEY DO?: Basketball Travelers and ASU assistant coach Dan O'Dowd set up a busy schedule for the Sun Devils. While in Melbourne for three days, ASU toured the Old Melbourne Gaol (jail), the Melbourne Observation Tower and visited the Victorian Market before attending an Australian Rules football game with the Hawthorne Hawks, which the team has now adopted as its favorite, so much the players are going to check websites to follow them. In Sydney, the team toured the famous Opera House, did the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, visited Manly Beach and toured Olympic Park. In Cairns, the team snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef and visited the Wildlife Park, where it watched a crocodile feeding and also fed kangaroos.
KIND OF EERIE: If you think Rob Evans getting ejected from a game on a foreign tour was intriguing, consider this: when he took his Ole Miss team to Australia in 1997, the same event occurred. Evans felt his team was being subjected to unfair officiating and was tossed from a game where the Rebels were down by 18 but came back to win. ASU fell behind by as many as 11 early to Cairns as the Marlins went to the free throw line 38 times in the first half. But as Evans watched from the hallway, ASU came back to win an exciting 96-92 game to conclude the trip.
QUALITY TIME: When the team went to climb the Sydney Bridge, Donnell Knight could not accompany them as he had suffered a concussion the night before. So while the team toured the Opera House and did the Bridge Climb, Coach Evans stayed back and spent the day with Donnell. 'Donnell talked a lot about what is expected of him the next two years,' said Evans. 'He's a good kid who has trust in the coaching staff.'
MARK OF AN EXPERIENCED TEAM: With ASU fighting foul trouble in its final game of the tour against the Cairns Marlins, assistant coach Russ Pennell asked the team during a timeout if they remembered the concepts of the teams 2-1-2 and 1-3-1 zones from last season, despite the fact the team had hardly practiced it before going on the trip. They said they did remember it, and the zone worked as ASU forced the Marlins into several turnovers and some bad shots, as Cairns took 31 three-pointers and made just nine. Much of that had to do with ASU having three seniors-to-be on the court in Brad Nahra, Chad Prewitt and Awvee Storey. This will mark the first time Evans has had three seniors on a team for a whole season. In his first year Evans had Bobby Lazor, former walk-on Ron DuBois and Mike Batiste, but Batiste was not eligible until late December. In his second year the lone senior was Eddie House while last year the lone senior was Alton Mason.
LOTS OF PLAYERS, LOTS OF MINUTES: ASU took 13 players on the trip and settled on a 10-man rotation by the end of the trip. ASU also played 48 minutes (four 12-minute quarters) in its final two games and played under the six-foul rule that is common internationally.
A REMINDER HOW MUCH HE WAS MISSED: Tanner Shell, a 6-6 swingman who gives ASU a three-point threat, redshirted all of last season while recovering from back problems and then a broken hand. Shell played extensively as a freshman, including a 24-point game at USC that is the second-best scoring road game by an ASU freshman since the beginning of the 1989-90 season. Not only was it good to see him in uniform, but Shell played a lot of minutes on the trip and also was knocked down several times by the foreign players in physical games but showed no signs of any injury problems. Many people have forgotten that Shell averaged 9.1 points per game in Pac-10 games in his freshman season, which was third on the team. Shell hit seven three-pointers on the trip, including a key one late in the Cairns game when the Marlins took their first lead of the game since the first half, 76-74 with just over six minutes left. On the next possession, Shell buried a three-pointer to give ASU a 77-76 it would not relinquish.
GREAT TO SEE HIM OUT THERE: The comeback of Justin Allen went into fast-forward on the Australian trip. Allen, who missed all of last year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease in September, finished his radiation treatments in mid-May and made an big impact on the tour. Allen led the team with 11 three-pointers and averaged 8.3 points per game, posting double digits in three of the games. And while you don't want to compare the foreign tour games with the regular season, here's a stat for anyone who is thinking about three pointers and ASU: Allen made 11 in five games, last year Donnell Knight was second on the team with 19 in 29 games.
THINK ABOUT THIS: Just how long was the trip back from Australia for the ASU men's hoops team? When the team boarded its bus in Cairns for its first of three plane flights to get back to the United States, the team was wondering how the baseball team was doing in its first game against Texas Tech in the NCAA regional action, which was Friday afternoon, as the game was in the middle innings. When the team got back to Sky Harbor Airport, ASU's second game against Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon was just starting. And Kyle Dodd had an even longer day, as he left the team in Los Angeles and went straight to his sister's wedding that evening.
POINT GUARD: ASU may have found itself another point guard on the trip. Jonathan Howard played the back-up point guard slot for the two weeks of practice prior to the tour and then on the tour in the five games. With Alton Mason graduating, ASU needed one more point guard on the tour so Howard made the switch and played well, considering he was learning a new position. ASU will have Kyle Dodd, with 61 games of experience, at the point along with incoming freshman Jason Braxton. Also, Kenny Crandall will return from his Mormon Mission and at 6-4 can play the point, as he did in high school. So Howard will compete for playing time at both the point guard and off guard.
SOLID PICK-UP GAMES: Evans and his staff expect many of the players to be on campus this summer as most of the local players will be working out at ASU and the out-of-state players will be around at least one semester. In addition, Kenny Crandall returns from his Mormon Mission in mid-June and Evans expects incoming recruits Curtis Millage, Jason Braxton and Chris Osborne to enroll in summer school in July.
THREE-POINT SHOOTING: ASU's three-point shooting was drastically different than it was last season, when it was last in the league in three-point percentage and three-point field goals made. Although the three-point is further than the NCAA three-point stripe in international play, the Sun Devils took advantage of the stripe. Justin Allen was 11-of-24 (.458) from the stripe, while Chad Prewitt was 4-of-9 (.444). Although Tanner Shell was 7-of-26 (.269), he hit some big three-pointers in the two games that were the closest. Overall, ASU was 29-of-75 (.387) from the three-point stripe on the trip. It shot just 29.5 percent last season.
ONE OF THE BEST PARTS OF THE TRIP: Ask the players what they remember most about Melbourne and they will tell you the Australian Rules football game, but a close second might be the 'rainforest shower' at the Westin. The in-room showers released from the ceiling out of a circle about the size of a dinner plate, giving the effect of a rainforest. Several of the players made the most of it to start the day. 'I got up 20 minutes earlier just to take a longer shower,' said Kyle Dodd.
DIFFERENT RULES: ASU played under international rules, which included some of the following adjustments:
*A 24-second shot clock was used, as ASU in its first game simply did what the coaches wanted and made several passes but the shot clock ran out. After about a half of the first game, the team adjusted, and that role fell on the shoulders of the point guards, as Kyle Dodd and Jonathan Howard made sure ASU got a good shot off in every possession.
*Instead of the 10-second rule, a team only has eight seconds to get the ball across. Again, when ASU saw its first half-court trap, a couple of turnovers were caused. But after a few trips and seeing the pace it takes to get it across in eight seconds, the Sun Devils actually took advantage and had several easy baskets once they broke down the defense and attacked the basket.
*There are no five-second dribbling calls, which made one-on-one defense a challenge.
*On free throws, players are allowed in the lane once the ball leaves the hands of the shooter, and it seemed like ASU's opponents jumped in the lane even sooner, but seldom was a violation called.
*In its final game at Cairns, ASU had to battle the opposing team, the crowd, the referees on several occasions and the public address announcer, who actually was an injured player for the Marlins and chanted 'defense' and 'C'mon Marlins!!' into the microphone during the game, all while music was blaring. At least most of it was good music. They even had a little Jackson 5 playing.
*The Sun Devils had a good time with the international rule of the ball being alive on the rim. Chad Prewitt had two tip dunks, as timing was not as important since you can just go up and jump and not worry about being called for basket interference.
*Kyle Dodd can plead ignorant on one of his turnovers. ASU was taking the ball out of bounds just a second into its fourth game after the opposition knocked the ball out of bounds on the jump ball. Kyle caught the ball standing still on the throw in and was whistled for a backcourt violation. International rules don't allow the ball to be thrown in the other side of the halfcourt line.
*ASU also learned that if the ball flies over the backboard off a missed shot it is still in play as long as it does not hit any part (pipe, rope, shot clock) frame of the backcourt. A Knox player missed a shot in the second game and the ball bounced up and over. ASU players started walking down the court while the Knox player scrambled for the ball, but he could not save it.
A DIFFERENT VIEW: When ASU head coach Rob Evans was ejected in the second period of the final game of the tour, he watched the game from the hallway but could only see the ASU bench and what was happening at one end of the court. How did he know what was going on at the other end? He watched the bench's body language. Evans and his staff are planning to monitor the body language of their players and themselves, knowing it can be a positive for a team. 'I was real proud of the fact that as guys were being taken out, other guys were clapping for them and that the guy coming off the court was positive. And our coaching staff was upbeat. If one guy was down about a play another guy was positive. We have been talking amongst our staff that that is an area we want to improve (body language during a game). I didn't think I'd have a chance to witness it first-hand this soon, but it was real interesting and very encouraging.'
FREE THROWS: The trip was outstanding in several areas, but the only negative was the team's free throw shooting. However, Evans said that that simply was one thing that was had to be overlooked during the tour. 'We couldn't practice it that much. We were trying to get a lot of things in during those 10 days before and then once we went to Australia the only time guys could shoot them was during pregame. It was frustrating at times, but I know we will be a good free throw shooting team next year. I see a guy like Shawn Redhage struggle and I know some part of our preparation was not right. Guys didn't look comfortable shooting them, and that was because they were not practicing them on a regular basis. We aren't making excuses, because you need to step up and hit free throws, but our preparation was not focused on free throws.' ASU was just 57-of-118 (.483) from the free throw line in the five games. Shawn Redhage, who enters his junior season next year as the best free throw shooter in ASU history, was just 6-of-13 (.462). Redhage in his career is 139-of-169 (.822). Redhage averaged 11.6 points in the five games, including a 20-point effort against the Australian Institute of Sport and a 15-point effort against Cairns. In the final two games of the trip he was 17-of-28 (.607) from the floor.
JUSTIN'S STORY: How far-reaching is the internet? When ASU arrived in Cairns for its final game against the Cairns Marlins, the local newspaper did a story on Justin Allen's battle against cancer. The writer had read about Justin on the internet.