TEMPE (AP) – Arizona State guard Kobi Justice often found himself in the post trying to guard much larger players, sometimes even 7-footers.
The scrappy 6-foot-5 guard took every challenge head on and often on the head – in the form of an elbow – without ever backing down.
“Hopefully those days are gone,” Justice said. “But I’ll do it if that’s what they need me to do.”
After two seasons of playing primarily guard-heavy small ball, ASU coach Bobby Hurley now has some big guys to throw into the mix this year.
The Sun Devils will still rely heavily on their trio of senior guards, but the frontcourt will be bigger and more talented, allowing Hurley multiple lineup and style options.
“We played small-ball most of last season and certainly we can do that some this season,” Hurley said. “But this season we have the depth and the players in the front court where we can play multiple different ways.”
At ASU’s core will be Justice, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans, senior guards who have a knack for knowing what the other two are going to do without having to say it.
Holder has developed into a steady floor leader who can score, Evans can fill it up in bunches when he’s on and Justice can do just about anything, knocking down 3-pointers, flipping behind-the-back passes and guarding whomever Hurley tells him to.
The Sun Devils will be bigger, stronger, more versatile and could push for an NCAA Tournament berth, something that didn’t seem to be a real possibility heading into the past two seasons.