Head coach Herb Sendek and four of the top players for the Arizona State Sun Devil men’s basketball team gathered in front of a room of season ticket holders Wednesday evening to answer questions about their trip to China and on the upcoming season. The news conference was highlighted by sophomore standout Jahii Carson and senior Jordan Bachynski along with sophomore Eric Jacobsen and transfer Sai Tummala.
When speaking about the Sun Devils’ recent trip to China to play three games against university and professional teams in the country, coach Sendek stressed two words: grateful and gracious. He added that, even through the team’s 30-hour journey back to the US, he did not hear one whine or complaint from anyone on the team.
Coach Sendek also stressed that the people in China were “gentle, warm, and loving.” He noted that most of the people they were around had probably never seen a white or a black person before, “never mind one 7’2” [in reference to Bachynski] and never mind one this handsome [in reference to himself].”
While Eric Jacobsen described the competition in the Devils’ first game in China as “sub-par,” Sendek seemed pleased with how his team played.
“I thought our guys played really well; we didn’t practice when we went over there, we had three games. But I thought they had fun playing, they had great energy. And it was a good experience for our team to come together in terms of bonding,” Sendek said.
Jahii Carson spoke on the interesting dynamic of the crowds in China, who were rooting not only for their home team, but for the Sun Devils as well.
“It was a little bit of both; they didn’t want to see us do [badly], obviously they didn’t want to see their team do [badly] so whenever we scored, they would cheer, and whenever they scored, they would cheer,” Carson said.
The players also spoke on some of the traditions of the Chinese people; Jordan Bachynski described of his surprise to learn of the tradition of cricket fighting.
“We spent probably about hour with this guy explaining to us cricket fights. They have weight classes and they weigh in before matches. I did not know that actually existed and they took it that seriously,” Bachynski said.
Sendek had some very high praise for the student group the “942 crew” that leads the student section for games in the Wells Fargo Arena. He said he was encouraged by the momentum of the student section near the tail end of last year and hopes that it can continue into this coming season. The student section broke the attendance record last year during the Washington game with a total of 1515 students coming for the game. A representative of the 942 crew said, “these guys deserve more.”
In talking about the coming season, Bachynski and Carson both expressed about how they want to help each other get better, while Jacobsen and Tummala talked about becoming more consistent.
Sendek had a lot of praise for all of the transfers this season and hopes that they will be able to play more guys especially after seeming so thin last season. He particularly had praise for Sai Tummala, going over his story from his time at Brophy Prep in Phoenix, to walking on at Michigan, before becoming a junior college all-American at Salt Lake Community College and coming back home to ASU.
Sendek went over the Sun Devils’ “3-12-24” plan. The numbers refer to the team’s desire to get the ball past half court under three seconds, and get a good shot off before 12 seconds. To do this, they practice with a 24-second shot clock. The Sun Devils hope that this plan will help bring even more speed to the team as Sendek stressed several times that they “have the fastest point guard in the nation.”
One of the final questions asked was whether or not coach Sendek was at all taken by surprise by the departure of Evan Gordon.
“In a sense, losing Gordon did catch me off-guard. But in this day and age, I’ve really become surprise-proof,” Sendek commented.
When asked what game they are most excited for, Jacobsen whispered “Arizona” and the rest of the panel agreed. They were then asked what was the second game they were most excited for, to which Jacobsen replied, “We play them twice.”