TEMPE – Arizona State basketball coach Bobby Hurley fondly remembers the one time he crossed paths with then 18-year-old Kobe Bryant.
“His rookie year, my last,” Hurley said. “I remember playing him in L.A. I made a move and he made a comment about Duke because I had played there. ‘Don’t try that Duke stuff here’. He was a baby, 18 years old then.”
“It’s been tough. (The team has) been in a bit of a funk since then,” Hurley added of the news that Bryant died in a helicopter crash. “There are so many guys on our team that idolize Kobe and so it’s been a struggle.”
“We’ve been trying to work through it as best we can. He meant so much to this generation of players and to see that happen and families torn apart like that with such a tragedy, it’s very very upsetting.”
With ASU basketball (3-3, 12-7) scheduled to play at Washington State (3-5, 12-9) Wednesday night, Hurley said the team has done what it could during practice since the news broke that Bryant died in the crash along with his daughter Gianna and seven others.
Bryant’s 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers included five NBA championships, two U.S. gold medals, 18 All Star appearances and a shower of accolades that followed.
Bryant was much more than basketball to many. He was a father, husband, brother and uncle to those close to him. To many in the basketball community, he was a court legend.
“Kobe, he meant a lot to me,” said ASU guard Alonzo Verge Jr. “With him retiring I would just watch videos of his interviews. The way he thinks and the way his work ethic’s is like no other. It’s crazy, I’m lost for words.
“I don’t really have too much to say about that because I don’t want to get emotional but he meant a lot.”
Verge Jr. put up the game winning layup Saturday to help ASU to its 66-65 win over Arizona. The Sun Devils are now on a two-game streak as they set to play two crucial road games.
Remy Martin continues to remain hot on the court, leading the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.7 points per game.
While talking to the media, Martin set aside basketball and reflected on his family and heritage.
“It’s a sad moment for everybody in basketball,” Martin said. “He had such a big impact on everybody including myself. As a Filipino family as well, Kobe was a big inspiration to them and I went back home after the game on Saturday and L.A. was just crazy.”
“Everybody just respected him in every aspect. It didn’t matter if it was basketball. It was just the way we went about life. For me personally, that’s the only reason why I work the way I work and had the schedule it was really because of Kobe. From waking up three, four in the morning to finishing the day earlier than everybody else, that was the big inspiration.”