If you’re looking for hints about ASU’s upcoming basketball season, the Sun Devils’ exhibition game Thursday night provided a couple:
• Their offensive attack appears balanced.
• Then again, symmetry in scoring can be evidence that a team lacks a star.
Perhaps the leading candidate for such a role is Antwi Atuahene, the team’s new point guard, who took over the game when the Devils were struggling and led them to a 70-58 win over the Carleton Ravens, a traveling Canadian team.
Atuahene (pro-nounced Ahtoo-ah-nee), was called earlier in the day at the Pac-10 media gathering by coach Rob Evans "potentially the best point guard I’ve had in 13 years as a head coach."
He started tentatively.
"The speed of the game was a lot different," said Atuahene, whose post-high-school experience consists one season at a junior college.
"Then I got my second wind and played better."
He attacked the basket, tried to force fast breaks — his teammates sometimes were slow to keep up — came up with steals and showed an aggressive all-around court presence in scoring a teamhigh 16 points.
Though it was only an exhibition, the win was sweet for the new point guard, who grew up in Toronto and knows some of the Ravens.
"This means bragging rights when I get back home," he said.
The Ravens, who have a superior shooter in Jeanty Osvaldo (a childhood acquaintance of Atuahene’s who scored 21 points) whittled a 14-point deficit down to 51-48 with 5:35 left.
Then Atuahene and holdovers Bryson Krueger and Kevin Kruger forced a faster pace; the Devils came up with a few fast breaks and hit their free throws to put it away.
Overall, considering this was the earliest exhibition game in Evans’ eight years at ASU, "We did a pretty good job defensively," the coach said.
Also, the Sun Devils hit all their free throws down the stretch and hit a healthy 20-for-25 from the line.
The Devils’ front line will be bolstered in the coming weeks by the additions of freshman Jeff Pendergraph, a 6-10 freshman who is coming back from a medical problem, and Chad Goldstein, a 6-9 transfer from UC Davis who is eligible at the end of the semester, Evans said.
Point guard Tyrone Jackson sat out the game for an unspecified violation of team rules.
"I ask guys to do certain things," Evans said. "When you don’t, you lose the privilege of playing."
Here’s the take on ASU basketball from a participant in the Pac-10 media event early earlier Thursday in Los Angeles:
"Any time you lose a guy who has been so critical to a program for three years, it’s tough to come up with a replacement," he said, referring to Ike Diogu.
"I think we’re all curious to see what that team looks like without Ike. But guys have an amazing way of stepping up when other guys leave."
The speaker: Arizona coach Lute Olson.