Men's Hoops Media Day Allows For Introductions Of Newcomers

Oct. 15, 2003

By Brian GomezTheSunDevils.com

Most of the questions posed Tuesday afternoon to head coach Rob Evans duringthe Arizona State men's basketball team's annual meeting with the local mediacentered around whether his program could achieve as much success as itattained last year.

For the 35-year veteran of the college game who has coached nearly twice aslong as his players have been alive, the answer was simple.

'You always have to do better to feel like you've had a successful year,'Evans said. 'If we're progressing and moving along, if we're getting betterplayers and if we're doing a better job coaching, then I think that's better. Doesthat turn into 20 wins? You never know.'

Nobody can accurately predict what the future holds for the Sun Devils,especially after they lost six seniors from a team that advanced to the NCAATournament for only the second time in the last 12 years and for just the third timein the previous 22 seasons

At this time last year, did anyone think Ike Diogu would blossom into one ofthe Pac-10's most dominant post players? Did anyone think Diogu's name wouldsoon be branded on T-shirts that took the ASU campus by storm? Did anyoneenvision Diogu having to address his future in the NBA?

Probably not.

Then again, most people didn't anticipate that Evans would be capable ofturning a 'below ground' program into the class of the Southeastern Conferenceduring his final two years at Mississippi. That happened when Evans guided OleMiss to back-to-back SEC titles shortly before he came to Tempe.

Evans' two-year run to the top included an Ole Miss win at Kentucky for thefirst time in 50 years. His first 20-win season with the Rebels was capped byan SEC Coach of the Year award.

ASU's chances for success this season hinge not only on Diogu, but also on asolid core of returning players and on a plethora of newcomers who areexpected to make an immediate impact.

Like last year, Diogu will be the focal point of the Sun Devil offense, andhe'll also play an integral role on defense. Despite losing starters TommySmith, Shawn Redhage and Curtis Millage, ASU could have more playmakers to preventthe burden from falling squarely on Diogu's shoulders.

With ongoing battles at several positions, Evans has the luxury of mixinglineups to find one that best fits his team's needs. Diogu and junior point guardJason Braxton are mainstays in the starting lineup, but the rest of the spotsare up for grabs.

Freshman guard Tron Smith and senior forward Jamal Hill should receive ampleplaying time, as will junior guard Steve Moore, sophomore forward Allen Morilland freshmen forwards Keith Wooden and Wilfried Fameni. Freshmen Kevin Krugerand Chris Low and seniors Kenny Crandall and Justin Allen also figure to worktheir way into the mix, among others.

'We're going to be a real big surprise this year,' Diogu said. 'My teammatesand I know it, our coaching staff knows it, but the rest of the worlddoesn't know it. We all know what we're capable of doing.'

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@asu.edu.

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