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Romello White’s status up in air for ASU vs. Arizona; Jalen Graham active

Romello White #23 of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts after scoring against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half of the NCAAB game at Desert Financial Arena on December 14, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Bulldogs 79-59. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

ASU men’s basketball may have to counter the size of the University of Arizona frontcourt without their go-to big man.

Redshirt junior forward Romello White’s status remains up in the air after he suffered a right ankle sprain in the Sun Devils’ win Saturday.

“He’s been limited this week so we’re hoping that he can do a little more each day,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “Right now I’m still not sure.”

ASU plays Arizona in the Pac-12 opener in Tucson this Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

White was injured midway through the first quarter against Texas Southern. He needed help getting off the court.

He has been a key piece to ASU, averaging 11.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The team’s most physical force down low, White is the only Sun Devil to average more than 4.0 rebounds per game and would be vital for the team in defending freshman power forward Zeke Nnaji.

Nnaji, who came to Arizona as a four-star power forward out of Hopkins High School in Minnesota and was a top-50 prospect, is averaging 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

White is the ASU player best-equipped to handle such an opponent.

“He’s such a big part of what we do, especially just his presence in the paint, especially with the size and the productivity of Arizona’s front court,” Hurley said. “It’s important that he gets all the ice possible between now and Saturday and hope that he continues to progress.”

While White is questionable, freshman forward Jalen Graham is set to return from injury.

Graham was cleared for his first full practice Thursday.

In 11.7 minutes per game this season, Graham is averaging 3.2 points and 2.3 rebound per game while shooting 68%. He missed the last two games for ASU.

Graham’s return will give the Sun Devils another option to guard Nnaji, which would be especially important should White miss the game.

ASU will also have to limit Nico Mannion, the five-star point guard from Pinnacle High School in Phoenix who regularly appears in mock drafts as an expected 2020 lottery pick.

Freshman point guard Jaelen House, who attended Shadow Mountain High School in Arizona, faced him three times during their high school careers.

“Give him pressure the whole game, make him tired,” House said. “He has great basketball IQ … just play defense the right way, (it’s) just about being solid.”

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