(AP) — Trent Lockett is the acknowledged leader of an Arizona State basketball team looking to turn things around after a last-place finish in what was then the Pac-10 last season.
The job will be a lot easier if the Sun Devils have their top recruit, Jahii Carson. The team will practice without the standout point guard while the NCAA weighs his eligibility issues.
Coach Herb Sendek said at the Arizona State media day on Wednesday that all he could say about the matter is "we remain hopeful that he will be joining us in the near future."
The university would not comment on specifics of the case, but The Arizona Republic has reported it centers around an online course Carson took in the summer. The newspaper said that the school involved, Adams State in Colorado, had not released the course transcript, slowing the process.
As for the impact of Carson's absence, Sendek said, it is "not unlike any other time a player is not able to practice."
However, in this case the Sun Devils coach doesn't know when, if at all, Carson might be declared eligible.
"Obviously not knowing always adds another layer to your preparation, always creates more contingencies that you have to deal with," Sendek said. "It adds another variable, if you will, than if you had certainty. But as you go through any season sometimes you have to adapt. There's illness, there's injury, there's players who emerge and break through, maybe other guys go through a slump. So your team is always taking new shape and new forms as your season goes along."
Carson, who played at nearby Mesa High, is the top in-state recruit for Arizona State in many years. Sendek, entering his sixth season with the Sun Devils, has had one other big-time recruit, James Harden, now of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden was from Los Angeles.
Known for his outstanding passing ability, Carson played on the U.S. team at the U19 world championships in Latvia. One reason he chose Arizona State was a chance to start right away for a team that went just 12-19 overall last season, 4-14 in the conference. Carson is enrolled at Arizona State but can't participate in any team activities until he is cleared by the NCAA.
Lockett, a junior who was second team all-Pac-10 last season — and first-team all-academic, said the team will do just fine as it prepares for the season, even with Carson unavailable.
"That's kind of something we can't worry about," Lockett said. "It's kind of out of our hands. The NCAA is taking their time with that, but right now all we can work on is getting ready for the season."
In Carson's absence, the point guards are sophomore Keala King, who played some at the position last year, and junior Chris Colvin, a transfer from Palm Beach Community College.
Lockett, meanwhile, said he is embracing the role of team leader. He worked on his outside shooting in the offseason and had continued sessions with a sports psychologist to strengthen his mental toughness. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore.