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Jahii Carson’s return: Great for ASU, but places pressure squarely on Herb Sendek

“This whole process has been really exciting and tough at the same time, and I’ve just been constantly with the coaching staff and with my family every day, just coming to what’s the best conclusion and the best outcome for me, and I just decided just to continue my career as a Sun Devil.”

Welcome back, Jahii Carson. And hello, expectations.

The perception of Carson is that he’s the type of player who can get ASU to the NCAA Tournament. Hell, many think he’s the type of player who should get the Sun Devils there. If ASU is only good enough for the NIT next year?

Things could get ugly in Tempe.

Thing is, Carson’s decision to return to Arizona State for his sophomore season was the right one; he was not a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and he may not have even been a first rounder. His jump shot needs work, and he must prove to scouts — much as Michigan’s Trey Burke did — that he can succeed as an undersized guard. When you really look at the situation, there was no reason for Carson to leave town just yet.

And therein lies the rub with regards to his return.

Because as good as Carson was as a freshman, his decision to come back is not on the same level as the one Indiana’s Cody Zeller made one year ago. Zeller would have been a sure-fire lottery pick, but wanted one more shot at an NCAA title.

Different sport but same idea, Carson’s choice does not rank up there with the one USC quarterback Matt Barkley made in January 2012, when he passed up on being a top 10 pick because he felt the Trojans could win a championship.

Both of those players, it could be argued, made a mistake. The extra season in college ball exposed them to some degree, and their draft stock may have taken a hit because of it.

Carson, on the other hand, is taking on no such risk. He was not going to be a top pick, so he really has nothing to lose — and everything to gain — from coming back.

“My teammates have been great, the coaching staff has been excellent,” Carson said. “Everybody here at ASU, I just feel welcome every time I step on campus.

“I like the way I feel when I step on campus and hang out with everybody here at Arizona State, and I just think it’s the best thing for me to do, is to continue to try and build a legacy here and be the best Sun Devil I can be.”

It was the best thing he could do, but now the pressure is squarely on a head coach who is already deservedly on the hot seat.

Herb Sendek has been at the helm of the ASU basketball program for seven seasons, and only once has been to the NCAA Tournament. Were he and the team snubbed at times? Maybe, but the fact is just one dance in seven tries. That’s not good enough.

Now with Carson back in the fold, there is no room for error. The point guard averaged 18.5 points, 5.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game last year, often times getting to the rim at will.

Yet he, along with multi-Pac-12 Player of the Week award winner Carrick Felix and shot blocking machine Jordan Bachynski, was not enough to get the Devils into the dance. Felix won’t be back, but that won’t temper the expectations in Tempe, not with a player of Carson’s caliber.

Even though, you know, ASU had a player of Carson’s caliber just last season and still was not able to get into the tournament.

“Obviously for our team, it’s a great shot in the arm,” Sendek said of his point guard’s return. “He had a spectacular freshman year, and as you just heard he’s very determined to continue to get better, and I think everybody’s excited looking to next year.”

If next year does not include an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, well, we know where the blame will fall.

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