Ty Abbott And The Sun Devils Stand Tall
By Brian Price
If anybody knows what it takes to strive through adversity, it's Ty Abbott. Abbott was one of the nation's top recruits when he stepped on campus at Arizona State in the fall of 2007. He lived up to the hype as a freshman, earned the love of the fans and helped lead the Sun Devils to a 21-13 record after the Sun Devils had gone 8-22 and 11-17 the previous two seasons.
But 2008 brought on a sophomore slump that not even Abbott had envisioned. He puts it bluntly: "I could not hit a shot."
Abbott, who was relied on in the offense for his accuracy from behind the arc (he set the ASU freshman record for three-pointers made), saw his 3-point shooting percentage dip to .285 after shooting .353 as a freshman.
It was a struggle for Abbott, who is now a senior, but he was determined to make a comeback, for himself and for the fans.
"Believe me, nobody wanted to hit shots more than I did, but it hurt," he says. "When you're doing well fans love you, but when you're not they can turn on you. I just figured the best thing to do was to turn it around."
As a struggling sophomore, Abbott received support from his teammate, mentor, best friend and roommate Derrick Glasser.
"Derrick always built me up and had confidence in me," Abbott says. "He always reminded me to keep shooting, and eventually the shots would drop."
Abbott took his friend's advice and, yes, eventually the shots started falling again. Abbott helped lead the Sun Devils to the Pac-10 Tournament championship game and a berth in the NCAA tournament. He ended the 2008-2009 season scoring double-digits in four of his final five games.
This season, the Sun Devils have showed signs of being at the doorstep of victory. They've lost their last four games by only a combined 15 points.
They're progressing game-by-game, and, according to Abbott, they have a great deal of potential. "Did we anticipate the season going the way it is? No, of course not," explains Abbott. "However, this is a program that will be relevant sooner than people think. We're right there, but it's just a matter of putting together 40 good minutes."
The inconsistent success has made Abbott even more resolute. "In many cases a bounce or rebound that goes our way gets us a win," Abbott says. "We've been in games as of late that would have been blowouts earlier in the season. We've been fighting back."
As far as remaining positive, Abbott credits Sendek, who was quick to address his team after a tough 66-62 loss to Cal on February 3. "Coach just told us to stand tall," Abbott says. "We had a post-dinner team meeting before we could all split up and go our separate ways. He didn't want us to be alone and thinking about the loss, but rather dealing with things as a team. He wanted to bring us together and point out some positives."
The Sun Devils will continue to fight in a pair of match-ups against Pac-10 leaders Arizona and Washington next on the schedule. Surely, a win over either conference foe would provide a tremendous boost heading down the final stretch of the Pac-10 regular season.
The Sun Devils will get their second crack at No. 15 Arizona on February 13 after dropping an 80-69 road contest against the Wildcats in January.
Additionally, the match-up against U of A will provide an opportunity for ASU head coach Herb Sendek to get his 37th career win over a nationally ranked opponent.
Recently, the surging Wildcats have had the Sun Devils' number, but overall Abbott points to his success against their in-state rival as a positive note for the future. "Nothing builds confidence like beating your rival," Abbot says. "It's important to help the younger players understand that this isn't a one-sided rivalry. We always expect to beat Arizona and we did beat Arizona a lot while I've been here."
Overall, Abbott is 6-3 against Arizona during his Sun Devils career. He was also a part of three straight wins at McKale, a feat that's only been accomplished two other times in the past 27 seasons.
Remembering Glasser's unwavering support when he needed it most, Abbott mentors the younger players on the team. "I want to continue teaching younger guys so they can experience the kind of success I had hoped for during this season, as well as the success I experienced before they got here," Abbott says. "I want to instill the resolve in them that Derrick instilled in me. Myself, Jamelle [McMillan], and Rick [Kuksiks] want to graduate knowing we helped them grow as players and as people."
Currently, Abbott is shooting 39.9% from three-point range, which is third in the Pac-10 and 42nd in the nation. Overall, Abbott is sixth all-time on three-pointers made at ASU and he's also posted three of the top six scoring outings for Sendek since he took over as head coach. Additionally, Abbott is on track to graduate this June with a degree in sociology.
Abbott also seems ready to pass the torch. "[Guard and team leading scorer] Trent Lockett has always played older than his age," Abbott says. "He's going to do a lot more for this program down the road.
"In addition to Trent, there are a lot of winners on this team, and, despite the record, all of them continue to work very hard."