Posted on November 2, 2020
The Arizona State Sun Devils have been a middle-tier program in both basketball and football for the better part of their history.
Sure, seasons with star players, such as James Harden, Jake Plummer, and Pat Tillman, have led to stints of 2-3 years of success.
But they have been few and far between.
However, with those star players, ASU showed it had the ability to compete with some of the nation’s best, whether in an NCAA tournament run, or a Rose Bowl victory.
The perennial problem for the Sun Devils has been building consistently elite recruiting classes with more than one or two stars, accumulating enough of Top 25-caliber talent to hang with top-tier Power 5 schools.
With the arrival of Bobby Hurley and Herm Edwards, it may be time to declare that Arizona State football and basketball are no longer on the rise, but have begun to arrive.
The place where Herm Edwards deserves the most credit in comparison with previous years is in rebounding from the potentially devastating star players such as N’Keal Harry, Brandon Aiyuk and Eno Benjamin.
Not only has ASU not fallen into rebuild mode over the past two years, but in the minds of some close to the program, this Sun Devil team could be better than those of the past several seasons.
Edwards has created a much needed “Cali Devils” pipeline, which has produced an increase in top recruits from California, including premiere players in Merlin Robertson and Jayden Daniels, the highest ranked quarter recruit in ASU history.
And while recruit rankings and profiles can be deceptive, the high schools ASU has been recruiting from have increased in notoriety. Long Beach Poly, in particular, has been a great pipeline for the Sun Devils because of Antonio Pierce.
Antonio Pierce coached at Long Beach Poly before coming to ASU, and has made a difference since stepping foot on campus. Keon and Kejuan Markham, brother recruits, followed Pierce to Tempe and were the first to open the pipeline.
Top teams such as Clemson can replace a Deshaun Watson at quarterback by a Trevor Lawrence without missing a beat. The Sun Devils aren’t Clemson by any means, but striving toward that type of depth and consistency are the keys to becoming an elite program.
And this could be the deepest Sun Devil team in recent memory.
Sun Devil Basketball is a preseason favorite to win the Pac-12, and stop me if you have heard this before, but the 2020-21 squad is probably the deepest and most talented ASU team in some time.
Bobby Hurley came to Tempe after a stint as the head coach at Buffalo, where his recruits delivered the most successful seasons in school history. Hurley’s third recruiting class at ASU compares favorably to his last class at Buffalo.
Ironically, Buffalo beat the Devils in the 2018 play-in, and went on to upset a Deandre Ayton-led Arizona team in the first round.
This year’s recruiting class features two 5-stars, including Duke and NBA star Marvin Bagley’s brother, a Top 15 recruit, the highest-rated at ASU since James Harden.
The common theme with both Edwards and Hurley is their ability to draw higher profile players, enabling their teams to compete with—or become—the best in the Conference.
What’s needed is enough depth and consistency around the star players to sustain the program once they leave for the First Round of the NFL or NBA drafts, keeping the respective programs from falling into to yet another 6-6 football season, or an NIT basketball berth.
With Hurley and Edwards on campus, ASU Athletics are no longer simply on the rise; they’re ready to make some serious noise.
—Recent Wills Rice Stories—
- Rice: Is ASU Hoops on Verge of Losing Six Years of Progress?
- Rice: ASU Still Seeking Identity after Collapse in LA
- Rice: Pac-12 Tourney Run Still Doable for Devils
- Rice: Pandemic aside, where has it gone wrong for ASU?
- Rice: Four Big Season-Ending Questions for ASU Football
- Rice: Late Collapse at USC not Indicative of ASU’s Prospects
- Rice: An Early Look ASU’s Opener vs. USC
- Rice: Veteran Frank Darby Paces a Trio of Talented ASU Freshmen Wideouts
- Rice: Despite Recent History, Sun Devils Have Raised Expectations for 2020
- Rice: 7-Game Schedule does ASU No Favors, but Sun Devils Set to Surprise
- Rice: Sun Devils a Likable Long Shot in Race for College Football Playoff
- Rice: 2020 Fall Football Season Vital to Arizona State’s Ongoing Development
- Rice: Jayden Daniels Means More to His Team than any Other QB in the Country
Rice: Is ASU Hoops on Verge of Losing Six Years of Progress?Injuries and Covid-related issues transformed a promising 2020-21 season into disappointment - March 19, 2021
Rice: ASU Still Seeking Identity after Collapse in LAInjuries and Covid notwithstanding, the Devils are playing well, though not winning close games - February 22, 2021
Rice: Pac-12 Tourney Run Still Doable for DevilsWhen healthy, ASU has the talent to compete with anyone - February 15, 2021