Revamped Arizona State aims to topple Portland in opener

NCAA Basketball

Gone is Arizona State’s high-scoring veteran backcourt of Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr., but coach Bobby Hurley is counting on addition by subtraction for the Sun Devils this season.

Hurley is hoping a revamped lineup that includes a veteran frontcourt will energize the program for the Sun Devils, who open the 2021-22 season at home against Portland on Tuesday.

Most notably, Hurley is looking for more toughness from his lineup after the Sun Devils did not play to expectations and finished 11-14 last season.

“I think it comes down to mental toughness,” Hurley said. “We had games last year where a team would run 10 points off on us and we would not respond.”

Martin, a three-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 19.1 points a game last season, left as a Super Senior transfer to Kansas after testing the 2021 NBA Draft. Verge, the Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20, is now at Nebraska.

Josh Christopher, a freshman last season, left to the NBA.

Marcus Bagley opted to return after entering the transfer portal, joining Jalen Graham and Kimani Lawrence to give Hurley a veteran frontcourt.

They are joined by Arizona State’s incoming transfers, who are talented on the perimeter.

They include Luther Muhammad, who sat out last season as a transfer from Ohio State, and Marreon Jackson, the Mid-American Conference player of the year last season at Toledo. Jay Heath was Boston College’s leading scorer at 14.5 points per game last season, and DJ Horne led Illinois State with 15.1 points per game.

Portland is under first-year coach Shantay Legans, who spent the past 12 years at Eastern Washington — including the past four as head coach. He coached the Eagles to the NCAA tournament last season.

Three players joined him from Eastern Washington, including Tyler Robertson, the Big Sky Conference Sixth Man of the Year last season after averaging 11.1 points per game. He played for Australia at the 2019 FIBA U-19 World Cup.

Legans has seven freshmen on his roster, three of whom are international players. One is Matija Svetozarevic, who competed in the highest level of Serbian club basketball.

“I’m really excited to see this freshman class, and how they progress throughout the year, and they’ve already done so far,” Legans said.

–Field Level Media

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