Length will be Arizona State basketball’s friend in 2022-23
TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils men’s basketball team hasn’t had a 7-footer appear in a game since Jordan Bachynski in 2013-14.
The team went 21-12 and the coach was Herb Sendek.
ASU has appeared in two more NCAA Tournaments since that season, the last time it had a 7-footer (ASU listed Uros Plavsic as such, but he redshirted his single season in 2018-19 before transferring to Tennessee).
That near-decade-long drought likely ends with senior transfer Warren Washington. The arrival of the 7-footer brings forth a unique excitement to a locker room of players predicted in the preseason media poll to finish seventh in the Pac-12.
“I would say [this team is one of my biggest],” head coach Bobby Hurley told reporters after Wednesday’s practice. “The physicality and the length that we have. And then we will get Marcus [Bagley] a lot of reps at the three spot this year, so that’ll give us more size and more rebounding.”
The vibe from the players is that of great excitement. While not everybody on the team collects press clippings, their overall mentality embraces that they’re underdogs for 2022-23.
“I don’t really read social media and all the newspapers, but they have it in the locker room,” Washington said after Wednesday’s practice. “It just makes us play with an edge and with a chip on our shoulder.
“This team is really hungry … We’re all ready to get out there and prove everybody wrong.”
Washington, who transferred from Nevada, averaged 10.5 points, 6.6 boards and 1.3 blocks in 24 minutes per game in 2021-22.
He said that the underdog mentality will appear in the form of intensity, and that combined with the Sun Devils’ length should make them a problematic matchup for offenses.
“I feel bad for the team we’re playing against,” Washington said. “Just because we’ve got so much length and athleticism.
“It’s one thing to have length and be slow and stiff, but I feel like we have a really good balance of mobility and length. So, I feel like we’re going to be really, really good on the defensive end.”
Having an abundance of length isn’t just good for the defense, it also can create mismatches on offense, especially with returning forward Alonzo Gaffney and Washington, who provide their own unique skillsets in addition to being long and athletic.
The 6-foot-9 Gaffney averaged 1.3 blocks in 22 minutes per game a year ago and grew more efficient as a three-point shooter in the second half of the season.
“Our versatility, combined with our length is going to be really nice,” Washington said. “We could just run the whole game if we wanted to. But if the [other] team wants to slow us down, we can also run plays in the halfcourt.
“I feel like it’s really a ‘pick your poison’ situation with our offense.”
ASU basketball opens 2022-23 Monday
The Sun Devils open their season at home Monday at 5 p.m. against Tarleton State, who also finished 14-17 a season ago.
However, they kept games close against Michigan and Gonzaga last season, so they won’t be an easy opponent.
Tune to ESPN 620 AM, the Arizona Sports app or ArizonaSports.com as ASU basketball faces Tarleton State.