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Recruiting success helping create improved ASU basketball culture

This Feb. 18, 2017 photo shows Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley watching from the bench area in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Pullman, Wash. Arizona State is expected to make a push for the NCAA Tournament this season after coach Bobby Hurley added several talented big men to go with his trio of senior guards. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

TEMPE — Under coach Bobby Hurley, the Arizona State men’s basketball program appears to have undergone a significant culture change. Part of that change lies in the level of recruits that Hurley has brought in and the team’s overall production on the court.

“I do like the team that I see every day in practice and there’s a lot of different players giving me indication that things are going in a great direction,” said Hurley, whose team opens its season tonight against Idaho State. “When you have the type of young talent with Kimani Lawrence and Remy Martin, what they’ve been able to do in these exhibitions and what they’ve shown me in practice, the future is strong.”

Under his leadership, the team is finding increasing success, which stems from his ability to recruit. The journey has not been an easy one, but Hurley and his team believe in the goals they set.

Most recently, highly coveted five-star shooting guard Luguentz Dort of Montreal and four-star wing Elias Valtonen of Finland signed their letters of intent as the newest additions to the 2018 class.

Dort is the fifth Top 100 recruit secured by Hurley in the past three years.

“We’ve tried to recruit hard and to build relationships,” Hurley said. “It’s a lot to sell here. It’s a great conference. The Pac-12 is an unbelievable league to play in in terms of turning out NBA players.”

Hurley said that the level of competition, along with things like warm winters, should give Arizona State a recruiting advantage.

“It’s a great city, and the weather, and a great school. There’s a million things that you can really sell here to prospects,” Hurley said. “A lot of people have always viewed Arizona State as a sleeping giant, and hopefully, eventually it will wake up and we’re hoping to make that happen.”

He remains committed to his game plan.

“There’s always things you can second guess, why it hasn’t come together faster, but you just have got to trust the process,” Hurley said.

The process, which began when Hurley arrived at Arizona State in the spring of 2015, is something that current seniors have really embraced. Players like Kodi Justice, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans have worked tirelessly with Hurley to not only improve individually but as a team. The three seniors serve as leaders for all of the other players on the court, pushing them to be their best.

“We love to compete. When we go out in practices, if we have somebody that loses on a certain team, we’re mad that day. We come back the next day ready to go at it. Every single day we’re there to compete trying to get better,” Justice said.

“It’s an honor to be able to coach them this year,” Hurley said. “I’m hoping to give them everything that I can give them, and hopefully their teammates will understand this is their last go-around and they’re hungry to be successful this year and be a winning program.”

“This is it for us, and we know that,” Evans said. “I feel like we take things more serious now. Coach Hurley gets on us, as well, but we kind of police ourselves in a way. We know we’ve got a big game coming up and the season’s here so guys are locking in and are focusing more.”

Hurley also said that they players are eager to get the season started. The difference between this year’s team, and teams of years past, is the level of confidence he has in the seniors.

“I have a high level of trust for our seniors,” Hurley said. “They’ve all had very good individual careers and just the focus those guys have at playing at a high level and trying to push us and put us in a position as we go on the journey this year to have a chance to play in the postseason.

“I’m optimistic that that’s a possibility.”

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