Frankie Collins and Jamiya Neal take on leadership roles for ASU men’s basketball
Sep 28, 2023, 7:33 AM
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
After a 23-win season and an NCAA Tournament appearance, Arizona State men’s basketball went through another roster upheaval in the offseason.
Gone are key contributors Devan Cambridge, Warren Washington, DJ Horne, Luther Muhammad, Duke Brennan, Austin Nunez and Desmond Cambridge Jr.
Muhammad and Desmond Cambridge Jr. ran out of eligibility. Washington transferred to Texas Tech, Brennan transferred to nearby Grand Canyon, Horne left for North Carolina State and Nunez transferred to Mississippi. Devan Cambridge originally announced he would be staying at ASU before announcing plans to transfer to Oregon. He later pivoted to join Washington at Texas Tech.
The three players of note from the 2022-23 season to stick around were guard Frankie Collins, guard Jamiya Neal and big man Alonzo Gaffney. A season ago, Collins led the Sun Devils with 4.3 assists per game, Neal was one of the Sun Devils’ most crucial role players and Gaffney played a bench role in 16.9 minutes per game.
Neal, who did test the waters in the transfer portal, spoke Monday on why he decided to return to head coach Bobby Hurley’s program.
“Some guys take the opportunity and try to go chase the bag,” Neal said. “I felt like staying here was the best for me and my future. And at the end of the day, I got to look out what’s best for me and staying at ASU was in my best interest for my future and my development as a player.”
Collins also explored another option by entering the NBA Draft. He eventually returned to Tempe because of his trust in Hurley and the coaching staff. He said he loves being at ASU and believes the staff can help him improve as a player.
With a mostly new roster, Collins, Neal and Gaffney will have to be the leaders of the 2023-24 squad.
“Those guys are the anchors of kind of what we’re doing,” Hurley said. “Vocally, they’ve been excellent in our workouts just reinforcing messaging to the new players of how we operate. And they’ve been great leaders for us on and off the court. And they’ve all taken steps. They know what playing winning basketball looks like coming off the 23-win season. And I think they’re hungry to want to do more.”
Collins referenced his consistency, both as a shooter and a leader, as a key focus in terms of individual improvement.
“I think I’m more consistent as being a leader, most importantly, just communicating with the guys,” Collins said. “Being another image of coach Hurley that’s on the floor. Just being that person that steps up every day and just leads, communicates and just does the right things for everyone else to see.”
Neal is similar to Collins in the way he is leading this team. He said he is trying to be an extension of Hurley, instilling the culture of last year’s tournament team on the new players.
Collins, a Michigan transfer who played his first year at ASU last year, is comfortable holding his teammates accountable in Year 2 as a Sun Devil
“I’m out there making sure we going hard, 100%,” Collins said. “And sometimes coach Hurley won’t say some things and he’ll let some things slide but that’s where I got to come in. Because he’ll let some things slide but it gets to a point where he’ll let it slide and slide and he going to have to stop and then we all going to be running. So I got to be the one that just makes sure that we not doing too much and trying to get away with too many things and just holding everybody accountable, being the voice for the team.”
As for the Sun Devils’ goals for the season, Collins said “there should be no reason” they should not be in the Final Four, which takes place at State Farm Stadium this season.
ASU begins its season with a neutral site game against Mississippi State in Chicago on Nov. 8.