Practices ‘like war’ as Sun Devils prepare for men’s basketball season

Bobby Hurley is entering his eighth season as head coach of the Arizona State men’s basketball team; his record is 118-100 (.541). (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

Arizona State guard DJ Horne, a transfer from Illinois State, looks to build on his first season with the Sun Devils. The junior led the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – As Arizona State’s men’s basketball team ramps up for the 2022-23 season, the team’s toughness and competitiveness are already bleeding through.

Literally, in some instances.

“Practices are definitely like war,” said point guard Frankie Collins, a transfer from Michigan. “Usually, you come out with scars and battle wounds all the time.”

Fans will get their first chance to see the men’s and women’s teams Friday night during “MoonLIT Madness” at Sun Angel Stadium following ASU’s hockey game against Colorado College. The Sun Devils open the season Nov. 7 at home against Tarleton State.

Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley, who is entering his eighth season at ASU, marveled at the intensity his team has played with so far.

“​​Probably my best team, my team with Lu Dort and Zylan Cheatham, those practices were wars, and it was guys going at each other pretty hard,” Hurley said. “It really got us ready to play.

“And I feel kind of in a similar way about this group just because of our athleticism, our length, our size around the basket and just some older guys that have played a lot of college basketball.

“So I think it’s a good mix.”

It’s also a new mix.

Arizona State sophomore Jamiya Neal will add depth to Sun Devils during the 2022-23 season. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

Collins, a sophomore who was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, is among a group of four incoming transfers after Hurley lost nine players off of last season’s roster. Collins takes pride in his defense, which has brought a new level of competitiveness to the Sun Devils.

Because of his defensive effort, athleticism and pure point guard skills, Hurley said he is excited to see the leadership and defense Collins will bring and added that the former Michigan playmaker is different from any point guard he has had in the past.

Collins and the three other transfers join three freshmen, three returning starters and several other key contributors, including sophomore forward Marcus Bagley, a projected NBA draft pick. Bagley played in only three games due to injuries last season and 12 games in 2020-21.

It’s a deep roster, which the Sun Devils are not taking for granted.

“We really have two starting fives. We got 10 guys who can go,” said Desmond Cambridge Jr., a graduate transfer from Nevada. “That’s why I love it here. You cannot come in here any practice and think you can just, you know, fake your way through a workout because you will get embarrassed.

“You will get put to the side. And every day you have to come in like your spot is in jeopardy. So that really keeps everyone at the top of their game.”

Cambridge, the second-leading scorer at Nevada in 2021-22, said he considered entering his name in the NBA Draft after finishing his senior season with the Wolf Pack, but he didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to play with his brother, Devan Cambridge.

Devan spent his last three seasons at Auburn and also entered the transfer portal. The two ended up at Arizona State in a package deal for Hurley.

Hurley said the 6-foot-4 Desmond, along with Bagley, will bring instant offense to the Sun Devils. And he described the 6-6 Devan as an elite athlete that comes from a winning program who can do a little bit of everything for the team. Devan started a little more than half of the games he played for the Tigers over the last couple of seasons.

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ASU also got a commitment from 7-footer Warren Washington, who also played at Nevada, establishing an early chemistry among the newcomers, which is something of great importance to Desmond entering his final year.

“I played on other good teams, but the chemistry wasn’t there, and so it just didn’t equate to wins,” Desmond said. “That’s the biggest thing. I’ve always had the team, but I’ve never won and (ASU this season) is my last go around. So winning is of utmost importance.”

ASU’s leading scorer last season, DJ Horne, believes the Sun Devils can build on a strong finish to their 14-17 season in 2021-22, when they won seven of their final eight games before falling to Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament.

One of the many transfers to the Sun Devils in 2021, Horne already sees a difference in the team as the 2022-23 season approaches.

“I think this year’s team definitely came in and clicked a lot faster than last year’s team,” Horne said. “I think that will definitely show come game-time.”

Because of the depth the Sun Devils now have at guard, Horne made a bold prediction.

“I think we’ve got the best backcourt in the (Pac-12) right now,” Horne said.

As the Sun Devils continue to battle it out in practices and grow as a group, Hurley sees a team that has a lot to prove.

“They read the magazines, and they see the projections, and they don’t see their names mentioned in almost any of those categories by all people that ‘know it all’ about college basketball,” Hurley said. “And coming off the last two years, it’s probably justified. So, I think there’s been an edge to what we’ve been doing, and hopefully that carries over and continues throughout the next few weeks.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Brendan Mau expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. Mau has interned as a sports reporter with Times Media Group.

Susan Wong soo-zin wah-ong (she/her/hers)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Susan Wong expects to graduate in May 2023 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Wong, who earned a bachelor’s in sports journalism in May 2022, is a digital media intern with Sun Devil Athletics.