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Bobby Hurley: Sun Devils will have more lineup options in 2018-19

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, Ariz. – The Sun Devils men’s basketball team may need a rebranding this fall. “Guard U” could become “We’ll Guard U.”

“We have the potential to be by far the best defensive team that I’ve coached here with the type of athletes we have,” coach Bobby Hurley said Wednesday at a press conference during a break in his basketball camp at Wells Fargo Arena. “The way our roster is constructed and built this year, we’re going to be bigger, even at the guard positions.

“Luguentz Dort is 6-4, 215. Rob Edwards is 6-4, 200. Those are big guards and then we have real good size at the wing positions with Mickey Mitchell (6-foot-7), Kimani Lawrence (6-foot-7), Zylan Cheatham (6-foot-8) has been outstanding in the offseason. We’re just going to have more options, more depth in the front court.”

While Hurley called the 2017-18 season a major success for ASU because it broke through and made the NCAA Tournament, exceeding most external expectations, he has long pointed to the 2018-19 season as a turning point for the program.

“I had a pretty good suspicion that we would exceed expectations from what people thought for last year, but really deep down, I thought this was the year in terms of having the size on the front court and then having a high level recruiting class,” he said. “It’s been anywhere from [No.] 7 to [No.] 10 in a lot of publications, where our recruiting class has shaken out for 2018 but then you add Rob Edwards and Cheetham to that class, that has made it a lot stronger.”

Hurley said with all the size and roster options, he doesn’t expect the team to look like last year’s perimeter-oriented club that ran through senior guards Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice, and freshman Remy Martin, the lone returner of that group.

“I try to get the best players on the floor as much as possible. As it turned out last year, four of those guys were 6-4 or under,” he said. “I don’t have one, set way that I force my players to play. It’s determined by your roster and what that looks like, the make-up and how everyone mixes and then we’ll come up with the best way that we need to play this season.

“I think this year’s roster gives me a ton of options to play a lot of different ways but I could see scenarios that there’s five guys out there that are 6-7 or bigger, which I’ve never had.”

Hurley will also have 7-foot-1 Serbian center Uros Plavsic, who played at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He joins returning post players Romello White and Vitaliy Shibel, returning forward De’Quon Lake and a class that also includes fellow four-star prospects Dort, wing Elias Valtonen and forward Taeshon Cherry.

“There aren’t too many guys that have his skill set that can move,” Hurley said of Plavsic. “I’m not the type of coach that would necessarily love a plodding 7-footer. He’s got great footwork and he can change ends. He’s mobile, so he fits into how we would like to play. There’s not a ton of pressure on him because we have experienced front-court guys and depth in the front court so he’s going to progress at his pace.”

Hurley said he will take the summer to evaluate a roster that is likely set, before figuring out which combinations to try.

“There’s going to be a lot of responsibility on my part to manage that and figure out what the best combinations are,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition in practice that’s going to elevate things and make us better.

“I’m not going to have to talk as much about rebounding as I’ve talked about it the last couple of years. Every day, I’ve just had to ingrain and to compensate for the size. Just having more size, guys that can go get the basketball, I think we’re going to be a much better rebounding team.”

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