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Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley: This offseason felt ‘like Survivor a little bit’

Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils speaks with his team during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on January 11, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

To say that Arizona State men’s basketball head coach Bobby Hurley has had a turbulent offseason would be an understatement.

After a 2020-21 season that required the coach to have to play as a scout team player in practice due to injuries, Hurley has had to reconstruct his roster entirely.

That’s because as of Thursday, the Sun Devils have lost six scholarship players to the transfer portal and two to the NBA Draft.

“We knew this year there was going to change, especially with the new one-year transfer being implemented,” Hurley said via Zoom on Thursday. “You’re seeing it nationally, not just at Arizona State. Just wanted to have honest conversations with our players and see who truly wanted to move forward with the program and which guys wanted to explore their options.

“I think as a coach at this level, and a guy that has played at a very high level, you don’t get these four years back. It’s a one-time experience, so certainly we want our guys to be committed to Arizona State basketball who are here.”

ASU has lost the likes of guards Jaelen House (New Mexico), Holland Woods (GCU) and Kyle Feit (transfer portal), as well as Marcus Bagley (NBA Draft), Josh Christopher (NBA Draft), Taeshon Cherry (GCU), Pavlo Dziuba (transfer portal) and Chris Osten (NIU). Additionally, guards Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. remain undecided but could return due to the pandemic-affected season granting another year of eligibility.

“Guys who want to move on, that’s certainly their choice and we wish all the guys that have decided to go to other places nothing but the best in the future,” Hurley said. “That being said, I’ve probably worked as hard as I’ve worked in an offseason as I can remember in terms of not wanting it to end when it did and do something about that so we’re not in this situation again.

“My goal is to never go through a season like this ever again. There’s no guarantee or promises about that, but certainly myself, our staff worked extremely hard to try and change some things. To evaluate not only the talent of the players we were getting involved with, but just finding out about them and what they value and hopefully winning is a big ingredient in that.”

One familiar face returning to Arizona State next year will be forward Kimani Lawrence. The Sun Devils have also received transfer commitments from Marreon Jackson (Toledo), Jay Heath (Boston College) and A.J. Bramah (Robert Morris) as Hurley shapes his roster for next season.

“All those guys really talked about wanting to be in a winning situation,” Hurley said. “[Some] of those guys only have one more year and really want to be successful and have a chance to try to win championships and play in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve done some things very unconventionally that I’ve never done before. I’m so motivated and hungry from the taste of last season that was left in my mouth. I’m not revisiting again. I took a couple of days because I felt exhausted after the season, felt drained. But then got busy as kids were announcing they were going to the portal and was just very aggressive on the phone.”

One of those “unconventional” things Hurley did was keep a whiteboard in his living room in order to keep track of the ongoing changes to both the roster and his assistant coaching staff. The board consisted of potential recruits, as well as an assistant coaching pool.

“It was a detailed board that even when I wasn’t in the office, I was staring at it and making adjustments as things were changing,” he said. “If you had a before and now of what that looked like, it’d be a very unique situation. Very motivated, very happy with some of the things that happened.

“It did maybe feel like Survivor a little bit, ‘Am I going to be the last guy on the island at one point?’ But as kids really started believing what we were doing and we were getting closer with some coaches we felt great about, everything really coming into focus and just really excited about it.”

Hurley doesn’t expect this offseason to be a one-off either. The former Duke Blue Devil thinks this trend will continue as the layout of college basketball’s landscape continues to change. ASU fans will be hoping that this experience will bode well for Hurley and the Sun Devils.

“I think it’s going to be what college basketball is like moving forward. This is a new era,” he said. “Student-athletes will have the same rights as everyone else to maneuver and have a chance to figure out what’s best for them. It’s going to be the new world. You have to be ready for the second season. You go through a season, you have to bounce back and be prepared.

“I’m not sure it’ll be to the extent that it was this year in terms of the turnover and transition year in and year out, but there were a lot of things to work through. There were days you felt good about steps you were making and strides you were taking. Other days — oof, I’m not sure if this is going to come together or not. So it was a rollercoaster ride really the last six weeks or so. I think it’s brought us to a really good place and put me in a really good frame of mind.”


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