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Hurley sees reason for optimism with new-look ASU basketball

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Sun Devils went 20-12 last year, beat Kansas and Vanderbilt and made it to the NCAA Tournament.

Some of the players that made that possible are back, but some are not. Such is the challenge of college sports: Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice have all moved on from their college playing days.

“I think there’s a lot of hope, there’s a lot of optimism,” head coach Bobby Hurley told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Wednesday. “There’s a lot of talent in the locker room. The transfers have been great, they were great all last year in practice — Rob Edwards, Zylan Cheatham — and that’s carried over. Our incoming freshmen have been as advertised. Luguentz [Dort] on a regular basis has a tremendous impact on what we do and just a special talent.”

Four-star power forward Taeshon Cherry has been dealing with minor injuries, Hurley added, but the San Diego native scored 17 points with eight rebounds in ASU’s 104-76 exhibition win against Arizona Christian on Tuesday night.

But the lopsided score doesn’t mean Hurley saw everything he wanted out of his team the night before Halloween.

“There were a few ghosts playing defense last night,” he said. “Kind of watching the film at times was scary and frightful.

“The guys may not be getting treats today in practice.”

One key returning player is sophomore Remy Martin, a guard who emerged in 2017-18 and won Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 9.6 points, 2.5 assists and shooting 75.5 percent from the free-throw line. Martin, though, is nursing an injury.

“We had numerous injuries, more than we’ve had to deal with in the past,” Hurley said. “Nothing season-ending, fortunately, but it’s been disruptive to our practices and just developing the continuity you really need going into a season I think that we had last year. We are trying to get Remy Martin back, he’s working through a high ankle sprain and hopefully he’ll be on the floor this week in practice.”

ASU will need Martin and its other experienced players as it faces a daunting schedule, hosting No. 18 Mississippi State, No. 7 Nevada and No. 1 Kansas before a Pac-12 slate that includes No. 25 Washington, No. 21 UCLA and No. 14 Oregon (twice).

“I’ve always challenged and pushed in our non-conference schedule and I think everyone knows it paid off last year with an NCAA Tournament berth with just the success we had against the high-caliber teams we were willing to play. I think it’s exciting. It’s something to look forward to early in the season. Even after the game last night, I’m talking about our first week and our opponents we’re going to play the first few weeks and are we getting ourselves ready for those type of games.

“It gives you a way to get your guys on edge and have something really fun to look forward to.”

ASU’s first game is on Tuesday at home against Cal State Fullerton on ESPN 620 AM.

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