April 14, 2008

Sendek, staff focus attention on recruiting efforts

Christian Polk's decision to transfer has opened up a much-needed scholarship for Arizona State coaches, which could be awarded as early as Wednesday, the start of the 2008 spring signing period.

Polk started 26 games as a freshman in 2006-07, averaging 29.4 minutes and 12.0 points per game, but with the addition of freshmen wing guards James Harden and Ty Abbott, Polk's minutes on the floor were significantly cut. He averaged just 3.5 points per game in 12.5 minutes of action, and was not in the regular playing rotation in the second-half of the season.

Had Polk not transferred, the Sun Devils would have had all 13 scholarship slots allocated for the 2008-09 season.

With this development it appears Herb Sendek and his staff will likely attempt to add one recruit in the 2008 spring signing period, which begins April 16.

The coaches have had success in the late signing period in their short two years at ASU. They added Derek Glasser and Jerren Shipp in the spring of 2006, and brought in Abbott last year after he received a release from the Letter of Intent he signed with New Mexico the prior fall due to a coaching change.

This spring, the primary focus of the staff is on recruiting a player with both size and skill who can immediately help the program. Sendek and assistant Dedrique Taylor very recently traveled overseas to further evaluate a player described by one source as a "skilled 6-foot-8 European frontcourt player" with the ability to play multiple positions.

Adding such a player would seemingly be in keeping with Sendek's general recruiting philosophy. In the past, his teams have been stocked with skilled, multi-purpose players in the 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 range. Already, freshman Rihards Kuksiks is a player in the program who fits the mold. Another, 6-foot-7 Johnny Coy, is one the way.

Coy is expected to immediately play a significant role in the ASU frontcourt, which could use a boost. It became clear last season that only Jeff Pendergraph could be regularly counted on among the team's post players, and even then, only some of the time due to his propensity to get in foul trouble.

The Sun Devils need Eric Boateng and Kraidon Woods to continue to develop this off-season, but also must have an infusion of talent in the frontcourt in the event that one or both of those players are not able to provide a significant lift off the bench for a team that potentially could contend for the Pac-10 title.

In the event ASU coaches do not add the recruited European player, they could turn their attention to potentially adding a backcourt player. The top option appears to be 6-foot-3, 180 pound Oregon City senior point guard Brad Tinsley, who signed with Pepperdine in the fall but received a release after its coach was fired.

Tinsley, the No. 93 overall recruit and No. 18 point guard in the class by Rivals.com, has seen his stock soar in recent months after an excellent senior season in which he helped Oregon City to its first championship game appearance since 1945.

Considered the second-best unattached point guard in the country by Rivals.com. Tinsley has cut his list to Arizona State, Butler, North Carolina, Oregon, USC, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.

In the event that ASU does successfully land either the frontcourt player or Tinsley in the 2008 class, it will then likely shift it's attention to landing two additional players in the 2009 class above and beyond the commitments already in-hand from Rivals100 recruits Jared Cunningham and Trent Lockett. This, is working on the assumption that Harden will likely bolt to the NBA after his sophomore season.

The program's top target in 2009 is Renardo Sidney, who is widely considered to be the nation's No. 1 overall recruit in the 2009 class.

Sidney, a 6-foot-10 post player who averaged 24 points and 13.3 rebounds at Los Angeles, Calif., Fairfax as a junior, visited ASU for its Feb. 16 game against Cal, and was observed chapping and cheering for the Sun Devils throughout.

A source close to Sidney's recruitment, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Arizona State is a legitimate contender in the Sidney sweepstakes.

Sidney is an elite talent who is projected by many analysts to spend just one season in college before becoming a top selection in the 2010 NBA Draft.

As a high school sophomore in the 2006-07 season, Sidney played at Artesia alongside Harden. The Pioneers went 33-2 that season, winning their second consecutive Division III State Championship with a 91-64 victory over Bishop O'Dowd.

Harden led the team in scoring, with 18.8 points per game, with Sidney averaging 18.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

In the 2005-06 season, Harden and Glasser went 33-1 at Artesia on a team coached by current ASU assistant coach Scott Pera.

When Sidney was visiting ASU, he reportedly told Harden that if Harden stayed for his junior season, Sidney would likely elect to sign with the Sun Devils.

Another top recruiting priority for the Sun Devils in 2009 is Rocklin, Calif., power forward Brendan Lane. The 6-foot-9 Lane has been favorably compared to Cal star Ryan Anderson, who led the Pac-10 in scoring last season.

Lane, the No. 35 overall prospect and No. 12 power forward recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, averaged 20.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.2 blocks for a Rocklin squad that went 30-3, losing in the C.I.F Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semi-finals.

In recent months, Lane has repeatedly said he would like to play in the Pac-10, with Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Stanford and Washington State all under consideration.

If the Sun Devils miss out on Sidney and Lane, or appear unlikely to land either as the recruiting cycle moves into the summer months, they will likely turn their full attention to 6-foot-10 Anthony Stover, a junior center at Renaissance Academy in La Canada, Calif. Stover and his father visited Arizona State on the weekend of Oct. 13. In recent months, Stover has listed ASU, Stanford and UCLA has his top three schools.

Others who could also eventually garner significant attention and even a scholarship offer include Jake Cohen, a 6-10 center from Conestoga, Penn. Who visited ASU unofficially last year, Ray Turner, a 6-8 power forward from Houston, Texas, and Sam Dower, a 6-9 power forward from Osseo, Minn.

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