Jahii Carson leads the Arizona State Sun Devils with 18.7 points and 4.9 assists per game.
The sophomore is shooting the ball better than he did last year — especially from three-point range — and has led the team to a 12-3 (1-1) record to start the season.
Yet, things don’t seem quite the same for the 5-foot-10 point guard on the court.
“The thing that I’m really trying to do with Jahii is spend as much time with him as I possibly can so that we can go over the intricacies of his game, just like I did with James Harden,” ASU coach Herb Sendek told Bickley with Marotta Tuesday. “Because unlike his first year, now defenses are much more familiar with him, defenses’ schemes are more sophisticated at taking away what he does.
“No different than when we had James Harden.”
Harden, the last “star” to play for Sendek at ASU, saw his scoring, rebounding and assist totals improve from his freshman to sophomore seasons, but also had his shooting percentages decrease from one season to the next.
Teams knew what he wanted to do, and it was up to Harden and the coaching staff to adjust, and adjust they did.
A prolific scorer who would later be selected with the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Harden led the Sun Devils to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore.
Carson, who has expressed his intent to turn pro after this season, is on a similar path, at least with regards to his level of play.
“You go through that first year and then people get a better feel for what you’re good at,” Sendek said. “And so it really becomes incumbent upon the coach and the player, in this case me and Jahii, to really work together on trying to find little ways to improve.
“You know, he’s so good he’s not going to get 100 percent better at anything, but our intention is can we get a little better here, a little better there? If we do that over time, I think it will produce greater results.”
So when judging this season, one that hasn’t exactly been a bad one for the sophomore, it’s important to note that this is all part of the process of being a college star.
The focal point of the Sun Devils’ attack, Sendek says teams have often times sold out to stop Carson, meaning he has to give up the ball at first only to get it back later in the possession.
But ultimately, defenses know who they have to slow if they want to win the game, and that means things won’t always be easy for the talented guard.
“They’re saying ‘Hey, to beat Arizona State let’s load and not let Jahii get to the basket,'” Sendek said. “That’s pretty self evident, so we have to work to counteract that a little bit.”