The time has arrived for Herb Sendek to get on the floor with the Arizona State men's basketball team, but that almost seems like a letdown after the first few months he has had as coach.
The Sun Devils hold their first practice tonight, with Sendek still on a honeymoon that has been scintillating.
“It’s exciting to be a part of,” sophomore forward Jeff Pendergraph said. “People have been talking about ASU basketball, and for the right reasons. In the past, that wasn’t always the case. Good things are ahead for us.”
After arriving in Tempe from North Carolina State, Sendek secured four-star talent — 6-foot-10 Duke transfer Eric Boateng and high school guards James Harden and Jamelle McMillan — and feverishly worked to sell ASU hoops to the local business community.
As a result, the 43-year-old Sendek has received rock-star treatment from the student section while on the sidelines at football games.
Sendek inherits a Sun Devil squad that last season went 11-17 overall and 5-13 in the Pac-10, finishing ninth. The recruited players will not hit the court until the 2007-08 season, and Sendek knows little about the players on the current roster. “Our guys have worked hard and are eager to learn throughout the preseason,” said Sendek, who is 253-158 (.647) in 13 seasons as a college coach, including NCAA tournament appearances in each of the last five years. “We are ready to start practice. It will be a challenge to teach a new system, and we have a very early opener in about four weeks.”
The Nov. 13 game against Northern Arizona is the second-earliest date that the Sun Devils have started a campaign. They tipped off the 2000-01 season on Nov. 10.
Sendek’s system has its roots in the “Princeton offense,” which is known for slowing it down and picking-and-rolling the opposing team to sleep. But the coach adds high power, as his N.C. State team averaged 76 points per game last season.
Pendergraph — one of the Pac-10’s top freshmen last season, averaging 10.6 points a game — said the objective of Sendek’s offense is to involve all five players and tax the defense.
“He’s always going to challenge the other team, and he challenges you,” Pendergraph said. “He doesn’t play games. He tells it to you straight. It’s fun to watch him work and plan, because basketball is a science to him.”
For Sendek and the Sun Devils, the laboratory opens tonight.
MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 7 — Basketball Travelers (EXH.), 7 p.m.
*Nov. 13 — Northern Arizona, 8 p.m.
*Nov. 15 — Cal State San Bernardino, 8 p.m.
Nov. 18 — Portland State, TBA
Nov. 21 — San Jose State, TBA
Nov. 25 — Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 — Northern Colorado, TBA
Dec. 2 — at Minnesota, Noon
Dec. 16 — at Xavier, TBA
Dec. 19 — Colgate, 7 p.m.
#Dec. 21 — North Carolina A&T, TBA
#Dec. 22 — Davidson/Ohio, TBA
Dec. 28 — Stanford, 7 p.m.
Dec. 30 — Cal, TBA
Jan. 4 at — Washington State, TBA
Jan. 7 — at Washington, TBA
Jan. 11 — Oregon, 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 — Oregon State, TBA
Jan. 18 — at UCLA, TBA
Jan. 20 — at USC, TBA
Jan. 24 — at Arizona, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 — Washington, 7 p.m.
Feb. 3 — Washington State, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 — at Oregon, TBA
Feb. 10 — at Oregon State, TBA
Feb. 15 — UCLA, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 — USC, 6 p.m.
Feb. 25 — Arizona, 6 p.m.
March 1 — at Stanford, TBA
March 3 — at Cal Berkeley, TBA
March 7-10 — Pac-10 Tournament at Los Angeles
* — Hispanic College Fund Classic
# — ASU Sleep America Classic