ASU basketball mock draft: Building the best roster of former Sun Devils
James Harden is the face of the Arizona State basketball program because of what he’s done in the NBA.
But many other Sun Devils — stars and role players alike — have put together great college careers in Tempe.
ArizonaSports.com’s Matt Layman and Kevin Zimmerman are reaching back three decades to consider Sun Devils who played from 1990 onward — apologies to Fat Lever, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins, among others — to create a 10-man squad. They’ll alternate by drafting Sun Devils based on their abilities at the peak of their college careers.
To be clear, this is a team-building exercise, not a “Who is the best player?” list. Once they mock, we will put the results up for a public vote to see who constructed the best roster of ASU players.
You can scroll to the bottom of this page to see our final rosters, or read through our mock draft starting here to see the order of picks.
ASU basketball three-decade mock draft
No. 1 — Ike Diogu, 6-foot-8, 250 pounds
Career stats (2002-05): 21.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 57.1 FG%
Matt Layman: Diogu is notably not James Harden, but he’s the school’s all-time leader in career scoring average, sixth in school history in rebounding average and first all-time in free throws made. He was eventually picked ninth overall in the 2005 draft, one spot after Arizona’s Channing Frye, and played eight NBA seasons.
No. 2 — James Harden, 6-foot-5, 218 pounds
Career stats (2007-09): 19.0 PPG, 3.7 APG, 5.4 RPG, 37.6 3FG%
Kevin Zimmerman: Diogu is probably the right pick at No. 1, but while Harden as a college player wasn’t the terror he’s become in the NBA, he was still really, really good. He was a pretty good shooter, an excellent creative slasher and had some nice play-making abilities for his teammates.
Now to determine how to piece the roster around him.
No. 3 — Eddie House, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds
Career stats (1997-2000): 16.5 PPG, 3.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 36.6 3FG%
Layman: House at third overall seems like a good value, since he’s the school’s all-time leader in points, steals and field goals. He really took off in his senior season, averaging 23 points, 3.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds. He gives this squad a formidable presence in the backcourt with Diogu up front.
No. 4 — Mario Bennett, 6-foot-9, 235 pounds
Career stats (1991-1995): 15.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 58.7 FG%
Zimmerman: Bennett just did so many things well as a uniquely talented big man. He could protect the rim and finish at it, too, and that’s an enticing piece to place next to Harden.
I feel good about rolling with a duo of Mario and James.
No. 5 — Jordan Bachynski, 7-foot-2, 248 pounds
Career stats (2010-14): 7.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 54.5 FG%
Layman: Maybe this is a reach at this spot in the draft, but Bachynski’s skillset is unique enough that adding more scorers can wait. The center was the 2013-14 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time Pac-12 All-Defense team selection and was once an All-Pac-12 second team selection.
Bachynski is ASU’s all-time leader in blocks and it’s not close. His senior year, he averaged 4.0 blocks per game, had a 7.6 box plus-minus and played 30.9 minutes a night.
He is now a player enhancement coach for the Boston Celtics.
No. 6 — Jeremy Veal, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds
Career stats (1994-98): 16.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 39.7 3FG%
Zimmerman: I’m giving Veal the job of sharing ball-handling duties with Harden, and his ability to swing on and off the ball is important here. Imagine covering this backcourt in pick-and-roll situations.
No. 7 — Torian Graham, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds
Career stats (2016-17): 18.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 38.7 3FG%, 82.1 FT%
Layman: Playing just one season at ASU after playing two years at a junior college, Graham provides some three-point scoring next to House in the backcourt. His lone season as a Sun Devil ranks among the top individual seasons in school history for three pointers and free throws.
No. 8 — Jeff Ayres (formerly Pendergraph), 6-foot-10, 240 pounds
Career stats (2016-17): 12.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Zimmerman: Ayres played 237 games in the NBA for a reason. He’s just a dude you want on your side to knock around the opponent, set good screens and hit the glass. He’s this squad’s starting center.
No. 9 — Carrick Felix, 6-foot-6, 197 pounds
Career stats: (2010-13): 10.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 45.6 FG%, 32.6 3FG%
Layman: A good shooter who broke out his junior year, Felix averaged 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game his final season at ASU. He’ll play small forward on this team and add another scoring option, while also boasting a Pac-12 All-Defense selection on his resume.
No. 10 — Zylan Cheatham, 6-foot-8, 220 pounds
Career stats (2018-19): 12.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.2 APG
Zimmerman: I love this guy’s game from his single season at ASU, and his versatility and fanatical rebounding will allow the team to go small. He can play alongside Bennett or Ayres.
No. 11 — Jahii Carson, 5-foot-10, 180 pounds
Career stats (2013-14): 18.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.0 RPG, 45.3 FG%
Layman: I was pounding the table for Cheatham before Kevin took him 10th overall, but Carson is a pretty good consolation. While small, he played great in two seasons at ASU and gives formidable scoring off the bench.
No. 12 — Remy Martin, 6-foot, 170 pounds
Career stats (2017-20): 13.8 PPG, 4.0 APG, 42.7 FG%, 33.2 3FG%
Zimmerman: The point guard run is happening! I will mirror Layman’s pick and get myself a high-energy third guard who will annoy opponents off the bench without the team worrying about scoring drop-off if Harden or Veal need a breather.
No. 13 — Kodi Justice, 6-foot-3, 160 pounds
Career stats (2014-18): 40.2 3FG%, 42.9 FG%
Layman: Let’s shoot the basketball! Justice will be a great three-point threat off the bench. That’s it. That’s the pick.
No. 14 — Rihards Kuksiks, 6-foot-6, 210 pounds
Career stats (2007-11): 9.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 40.2 3FG%
Zimmerman: Man, I was split between Jonathan Gilling and Kuksiks, but I’m going with the latter because he was more often a starter (98 of 121 games played at ASU) and tended to be more trigger-happy with 8.4 three-point hoists per 40 minutes.
While I drafted Cheatham and Martin ahead of him, I’m putting them on the bench and Kuksiks in the starting lineup to sit in the weakside corner as Veal, Harden and Bennett go to work.
No. 15 — Obi Oleka, 6-foot-8, 225 pounds
Career stats (2015-17): 11.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG
Layman: Oleka is second in ASU history in total rebounds for two-season careers. He averaged juuuuust under a double-double his second year as a Sun Devil, putting up 12.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He’s a solid backup to Diogu up front.
No. 16 — Jonathan Gilling, 6-foot-7, 219 pounds
Career stats (2011-15): 7.6 PPG, 40.4 3FG%
Zimmerman: Sue me for going fit over best available. I’m doubling down on shooting so we can reproduce a Houston Rockets situation around Baby Harden.
No. 17 Luguentz Dort, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds
Career stats (2018-19): 16.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG
Layman: This was really close between Tra Holder and Dort. I liked the experience that Holder brings while Dort was just a one-and-done, but the deciding factor was Dort’s prowess defensively. He’s a good scorer who likes to attack the rim and can keep things tight on the other end of the court.
No. 18 — Shaq McKissic, 6-foot-5, 200 pounds
Career stats (2013-15): 10.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Zimmerman: We needed a wing defender, and McKissic is as athletic as they come.
No. 19 — De’Quon Lake, 6-foot-10, 225 pounds
Career stats (2017-19): Per 40 minutes: 15.4 points, 11.8 rebounds
Layman: If the spirit of this exercise is to take best players available, this is a bad selection. But here’s the logic: At this spot in the draft I was thinking backup center to Bachynski, who is a defensive specialist. Lake wasn’t a starter at ASU under Hurley but he was a lengthy, bouncy player who could score at the cup. His per-40 minutes show what he did in the limited time he was given on the court. I always enjoyed watching him play, and think he brings a fun element up front off the bench.
No. 20 — Jamelle McMillan, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds
Career stats (2007-11): 5.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG
Zimmerman: It’s nice to have a gritty defender and savvy point guard at the end of the bench. I have a feeling he could make a great coach some day, and that’s not a bad thing to have at the end of the bench.
Starting five: PG Eddie House, SG Torian Graham, SF Carrick Felix, PF Ike Diogu, C Jordan Bachynski
Bench: Jahii Carson, Kodi Justice, Luguentz Dort, Obinna Oleka, De’Quon Lake
Layman’s post-draft conclusion: I tried to draft a team that was balanced as possible, and I have a soft spot for guys that play strong defense (Felix, Bachynski, Dort, Lake). Passing on James Harden was a tough call, but I feel like I went with my gut at every pick. I do wonder if I took one too many guards and should have gotten one more wing.
Starting five: PG Jeremy Veal, SG James Harden, SF Rihards Kuksiks, PF Mario Bennett, C Jeff Ayres
Bench: F Zylan Cheatham, PG/SG Remy Martin, F Jonathan Gilling, G/F Shaq McKissic, PG Jamelle McMillan
Zimmerman’s post-draft conclusion: I, too, wanted a balanced roster that could also match up with any style of opponent. That said, I wanted to put enough shooting (Hi, Rihards and Jonathan) and defense (Bennett, Ayres, Cheatham, McKissic) around Harden as possible. A concern might be that Harden, Veal and Martin carry too much of the play-making weight, but with time I think the chemistry would work out fine.