The 2013-14 Arizona State basketball team is taking shape.
After starting 13-2 to begin the 2012-13 season, the Sun Devils surprised everybody except the coaching staff. Head coach Herb Sendek, owner of one of the hottest seats in college basketball to begin the season, proved that his squad was much improved and deserving of national recognition.
With stellar play from redshirt freshman Jahii Carson and a vastly improved Carrick Felix, the Sun Devils were a lock for the NCAA tournament after beating UCLA by 18 and sweeping Colorado. Unfortunately for Sendek and the Devils, they fell apart down the stretch. They finished 3-7 in their final 10 games and blew a 15-point lead to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament.
What lies ahead for Arizona State in the 2013-14 season after the graduation of Felix, backup point guard Chris Colvin and backup center Ruslan Pateev?
The good news is that Carson is returning.
Here are five bold predictions about the incoming class.
High School: Brophy College Preparatory, Phoenix, Ariz.
The big forward from Phoenix was recruited to the University of Michigan out of high school and spent his redshirt season with the Wolverines before transferring to Salt Lake Community College. He led the SLCC Bruins to a 29-5 record—averaging 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Let the comparisons to Carrick Felix begin. Felix, a junior college transfer from Southern Idaho has approximately the same size and build as Tummala.
Under the tutelage of newly appointed associate head coach Eric Musselman, Tummala will elevate to the upper echelon of Pac-12 players. He is a beast under the boards and shoots over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Remember the name, Sai Tummala.
Position: Shooting Guard
High School: Southeastern H.S., Detroit, Mich.
With the departure of shooting guard Evan Gordon and graduation of Chris Colvin, the position is wide open for Kearney to shine.
In the backcourt with Jahii Carson, this duo has the opportunity to be one of the best in the conference. Kearney will be eligible to play in January of 2014 as he elected to transfer from Michigan State in January of 2013.
Kearney saw his minutes double from his freshman to shortened sophomore season, averaging 16.9 minutes. He averaged a mere 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in the always tough Big Ten conference.
Position: Shooting Guard
High School: Frederick Price H.S., Los Angeles, Calif.
The Sun Devils are seeing a near-complete overhaul of their backcourt. The only constants being superstar Jahii Carson running the point and rarely used backup Bo Barnes. Barnes transferred from the University of Hawaii and looked to make an impact last year—yet averaged only 4.1 minutes per game.
Perhaps it was his 17 percent shooting (4-of-23) and 4-of-17 from long range that kept him on the bench. The alleged sharpshooter proved to be not so sharp after all missing all two-point shots that he took—every one.
Barnes saw time in 28 minutes but failed to impress. He will have a tough battle against incoming freshman Chance Murray.
Murray, the 3-star recruit as ranked by Scout, Rivals and 247Sports is also ranked No. 160 in the 247Sports Top 247. 247Sports ranks Murray as the No. 42 shooting guard in the country and the No. 14 recruit coming out of talent-rich California.
Murray had offers from competing Pac-12 schools in Stanford and Washington State but chose Arizona State last September.
"I see myself fitting in well [at Arizona State]," Murray said. "Playing the two wing positions and some of the point. [I'm] just going in to do whatever it takes to help my team win."
Position: Small Forward
High School: The Sagemont School in Weston, Florida
The forward/wing position is a popular position on the 2013-14 roster. With the addition of transfer students Sai Tummala and Richie Edwards from Valparaiso, Koulechov will fight for minutes—any minutes.
Returning forward Jonathan Gilling started every game last year and has a lock on the spot coming into his junior year.
Koulechov will see minutes at the forward/wing position off the bench and has long-range accuracy that will fill in nicely when the starters need to catch their breath.
He played for Israel's U-18 basketball team last summer—averaging 19.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Position: Power Forward
High School: Lakeland High School, Lakeland, Flaorida
The big guy from Florida will bang the boards in his senior season. The forward from Valparaiso sat out the 2012-13 season due to transfer regulations but spent everyday practicing and learning with the Sun Devils.
Edwards averaged 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game at Valpo. His 48.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.8 percent from beyond the arc were among the best on the team.
He is excited to get to play the power forward position instead of coming off the bench as a backup center.
"The main reason I decided to transfer is they had me playing out of position (at center) and I want to play my natural position which is as a four (power forward) or even maybe a little three," Edwards said. "But I'm a stretch four who can score inside and also shoot from outside."
With his size, he will clean up on the boards and also has the ability to bring it down and nail jumpers or drive the lane.
David is the Featured Columnist of Arizona State Athletics for B/R. Follow him on Twitter at @asudave.