Thump, thump, thump, thump. Did you hear that? It was a basketball hitting the hardwood Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena. The Herb Sendek era began with a 58-53 exhibition win over the University of Victoria Vikes.
Thump, thump, thump, thump.
Do you hear that?
It’s a pulse, and if Sendek’s first recruiting class at Arizona State is a forerunner of things to come, the Sun Devil basketball program finally has one.
Sometime this afternoon, Sendek is expected to announce the signing of three players who, along with 6-foot-10 transfer Eric Boateng from Duke, could be the renaissance the program has yearned for since Ned Wulk was wearing plaid pants and growling at officials.
Sendek’s haul consists of 6-foot-4 James Harden, called the best player in California by the Long Beach Press Telegram; point guard Jamelle McMillan of Seattle, a top-100 player; and 6-8 forward Kraidon Woods, who signed with Villanova last year but decided instead to attend prep school.
Sendek also is battling St. John’s and Virginia Tech for 6-6 forward Rihards Kuksiks of the Florida Air Academy.
Scout.com ranks the class as the 15th best in the country. Boateng will be only the third McDonald’s All-American to play for the Sun Devils — Byron Scott and Chris Sandle were the others — and Harden is expected to get the McDonald’s seal of approval this year.
“To me this is a bold statement by Arizona State,” said Dave Telep of Scout.com. “They needed to retool their talent level, and with the players they have brought in with this class, they’ve done it.”
Harden is the crown jewel of the class. Former UCLA and Georgia coach Jim Harrick, who ran Harden’s AAU team this summer, said he’s one of the best guards he’s ever coached.
“James Harden is an impact player, a potential program changer for Arizona State,” Telep said. “When you sign a kid like Harden, you expect him to be a producer from Day 1.”
Now, recruits — and recruiting classes — sometimes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Tempe Corona del Sol’s Donnell Knight, for example, was supposed to be a great catch by former ASU coach Rob Evans, but he spent more time in Evans’ doghouse than he did on the court.
This class, however, does look legit. If nothing else, Sendek has quickly and impressively shut up skeptics (here!) who wondered if his lack of West Coast ties made him an ideal fit for the job.
“James Harden made the statement for Arizona State,” Telep said. “He will be forever (known) as the guy who gave Herb Sendek his street cred on the West Coast.”
NCAA rules prohibit Sendek from commenting on recruits until they’re signed, but you can bet he’ll be all smiles this afternoon. He’s exceeded expectations and given long-suffering Sun Devil fans something to look forward to.
“I think we’ve been received extraordinarily well,” Sendek said. Until his class gets here, the hard times will continue for ASU. Sendek inherited a team that wasn’t very good to begin with, and guard Kevin Kruger’s defection to UNLV has left the Devils devoid of a consistent 3-point shooter. Sendek’s first North Carolina State team scored fewer than 60 points in 17 of its 32 games. ASU, which could start two freshman guards — Jerren Shipp and Christian Polk — could challenge that mark this season.
“Our young guys are going to be baptized by fire,” Sendek said.
There is nothing more tiring — or frustrating — in sports than the phrase “wait
till next year.”
But for ASU, those words are not a hollow plea.
They’re a promise.