James Harden: A blessing to have number retired at Arizona State

Feb 17, 2015, 11:00 PM | Updated: 11:01 pm

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TEMPE, Ariz. — For two seasons James Harden carried Arizona State basketball to extraordinary heights. Now his number will be carried to heights reserved for only the elite of the Sun Devil program.

Harden’s no. 13 will become the sixth to hang high above the playing floor of Ned Wulk Court, joining no. 5 (Eddie House), no. 32 (Joe Caldwell), no. 11 (Byron Scott), no. 33 (Lionel Hollins) and no. 12 (Fat Lever).

The ceremony will take place Wednesday night when the Sun Devils play host to the UCLA Bruins at Wells Fargo Arena.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Harden last week when his Houston Rockets visited the Phoenix Suns. “It’s just a blessing for me just to be able to have my jersey retired with so many great players. It’s pretty exciting.”

Harden helped lead the Sun Devils to back-to-back 20-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009, the school’s first in five years.

ASU was 8-22 the year prior to Harden’s arrival in 2007.

Harden bypassed the NBA and returned to Tempe for his sophomore season. In 2008-09, he became the first ASU player to earn consensus First-Team All-America honors. He was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, leading the league in both scoring (20.1 points per game) and steals (1.69 per game).

“A role model,” said Harden, when asked about his Arizona State legacy. “A guy that did it the right way. Paved his own way. Someone that kids can look up to. Kids and adults can look up to and say, ‘James, you did it the right way.'”

In two seasons with Harden, ASU went 46-23, including a 5-0 mark against rival Arizona, the first time the Sun Devils had won five straight against the Wildcats since a nine-game streak from 1979 to 1983.

“The whole college experience was definitely life-changing. It helped me mature from a teenager to a man,” he said. “The first year was kind of a whirlwind. The second year was kind of me settling in and kind of just knowing what to expect and just all about handling my business.

“It was a great two years.”

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