Archive for: April 2013

Breaking Down Every Addition and Departure for Arizona State Basketball

colvin felix

Arizona State Basketball is in a constant state of flux.

Just when it seemed that the team was beginning to jell, winning 22 games for the first time since the 2009-10 season and placing several players on the All-Pac-12 team, the Sun Devils are back to square one.

Granted, they are better off now that Jahii Carson has decided to return for another year, yet it will be a struggle for Herb Sendek’s team to return to the 20-game win plateau in 2013-14.

The team brings in three new additions and loses four players along with their long-time Associate Head Coach. Here is the breakdown of all the pluses and minuses in the upcoming season.

Plus: Brandan Kearney

  • brandanPosition: Shooting Guard
  • High School: Southeastern H.S. Detroit, Mich.
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 190

Brandan Kearney elected to transfer to Arizona State midway through his sophomore season at Michigan State. He will be eligible to begin play in January 2014 for the Sun Devils.

Kearney, who saw his minutes nearly double in his sophomore season, didn’t see an increase in production, averaging a mere 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game.

Kearney left Michigan State after he was unhappy coming off the bench for Coach Tom Izzo.

If Kearney opts to play in January for the Sun Devils, it will be a shortened junior season; if he waits until the fall of 2014, he will be able to play two complete seasons.

Kearney enrolled at Arizona State in January and will be able to practice with the team and battle for a starting position. He is a versatile player that can make an immediate impact with Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon in the backcourt.

Minus: Carrick Felix

Carrick Felix was the heart and soul of this team this past year. After two seasons on a struggling squad, Felix came into his own as a senior.

cfelixIn two seasons at Arizona State, Felix averaged 7.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He shot 41 percent from the field and 28 percent from three-point territory. He also had zero career double-doubles; last season, he recorded three in a one-week span.

After the 2012-13 regular season, he led the Pac-12 with 12 double-doubles, nine of them in-conference. His 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game were second best in the Pac-12 behind Stanford’s Dwight Powell with 15.6 points and 8.8 boards.

Felix finished the season in the top 15 of six categories in the Pac-12, including No. 6 in steals and No. 7 in rebounds. His field-goal percentage jumped to 51 percent and his three-point shooting improved to 36 percent.

He started all 31 games and led the Devils in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds and steals. His 14.2 points and 34 blocks were second best on the team as well. He scored in double digits in 25 games last season and tallied 20 or more in seven games, including 22 in his final regular-season game against rival Arizona.

The numbers are astounding, and Felix was named to the second-team All-Pac-12 as well as the exclusive Pac-12 All-Defense team with teammate Jordan Bachynski.

Plus: Egor Koulechov

  • egorPosition: Small Forward
  • High School: The Sagemont School in Weston, Florida
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 190

Egor Koulechov is ranked by MaxPreps as the No. 16 recruit in Florida and 247 Sports ranks him at No. 20.

The wing will look to fill the hole vacated by Felix; he has the long-range accuracy that Felix possessed but will have to work on his defense to contend at the Pac-12 level of play.

Koulechov and his family left his native Russia for Israel when he was seven years old. He then he left his family in Israel to pursue his dream of playing basketball in America, moving to Florida.

He returned home last summer and played for Israel’s U-18 basketball team, where he averaged 19.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Minus: Chris Colvin

Chris Colvin transferred to Arizona State as a junior from Palm Beach Community College and started at the point guard position for 17 of the 31 games in the 2011-12 season. The team was dreadful that year, winning only 10 games all season, four in-conference.

RS ColvinColvin was relegated to backup point guard with freshman phenom Jahii Carson taking over in the 2012-13 season. His minutes decreased from 25 minutes per game to 21 and his points per game dropped as well.

Colvin was a serviceable backup to Carson, but it was evident why the Sun Devils only won 10 games with him running the point the season prior.

He was a decent defender tallying 104 rebounds, 30 steals and four blocked shots but his shooting percentages left plenty to be desired. He shot 39.5 percent from the field, 30.5 percent beyond the arc and a dismal 42.3 percent from the charity stripe.

He did make a late-season surge, starting the last nine games at the shooting guard position, but it was based more upon Evan Gordon struggling than Colvin’s performance.

Plus: Chance Murray

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • High School: Frederick Price H.S. Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 180

Chance Murray is a 3-star recruit as ranked by Scout, Rivals and 247Sports and is also ranked No. 160 in the 247 Sports Top 247.

Murray had offers from competing Pac-12 schools in Stanford and Washington State, but chose Arizona State last September. 247 Sports ranks Murray as the No. 42 shooting guard in the country and the No. 14 recruit in California.

Look for Murray to fill the hole vacated by Chris Colvin as backup point guard. He could perhaps even battle Evan Gordon for the starting shooting guard position as Colvin did at the end of the 2012-13 season.

Minus: Ruslan Pateev

pateevRuslan Pateev was the longest tenured player on the Sun Devil squad, playing all four years under Coach Sendek.

The 7’0″, 231 pound center from Moscow, Russia played 20 games in his freshman season and saw action in nearly every game the next three seasons. He was one of only four players over 7’0″ to ever play at Arizona State.

Although his points per game never really lit up, his shooting percentage was always among the best on the team. He led the team last season, hitting 35-of-50 for 58.3 percent from the field while his 58-percent free throw shooting was fifth best.

Pateev has been a catalyst coming off the bench and sparking the crowd and Sun Devils to several victories including a 12-point, eight-rebound effort against a Cal team that had beaten every other team in the Pac-12.

House of Sparky had this quote from Sendek about Pateev:

After the game, Coach Sendek praised Pateev for his commitment to the team and called him, “the ultimate team player.”

Other Departures

Associate Head Coach Dedrique Taylor joined the Sun Devils coaching staff with head coach Herb Sendek in 2006. Taylor left Arizona State after the 2012-13 season to become the head coach at Cal State Fullerton.

Taylor graduated from the University of California-Davis, so returning to his home state as a head coach is a dream come true for the 38-year old Taylor.

dedriqueHe was named to the top 25 High-Major Assistant Coaches in the nation by College Insider and will look to improve the Titans’ program that finished 14-18 overall and 6-12 in the Big West under interim coach Andy Newman.

CSUF Athletic director Jim Donovan couldn’t be happier that Taylor is coming to back to California:

“I think Dedrique is a perfect fit for the Cal State Fullerton program,” Donovan said.“His ties to Southern California will help us immensely in our recruiting efforts and his experience in a major conference like the Pac-12 will serve him well in helping bring our program into the upper echelons of the Big West Conference and compete for championships.”

Also departing the Sun Devils is guard Joey Hormes, whose contribution to the team was seen on the practice court. The transfer student from nearby Glendale Community College registered on the stat board playing a minute in the Nov. 24 matchup versus Creighton.

Arizona State Footballs’ Weakest Positions to Worry About

Graham worry

The Arizona State Sun Devils completed spring football last week and although there were some high points in the 15-day practice regimen and annual Spring Game, there were also some notable areas for concern.

Coach Todd Graham himself noted the deficiencies and said, via ArizonaSports.com, “We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”

The Sun Devils had a successful national signing day that brought on 27 new players, including nine players who ranked in the top 40 nationally for their position and seven transfer students who ranked in the top 100 overall junior college prospects. Of the 27 commits, four of them were on the field for spring drills, although none of the four made an impact on the field.

With the semester coming to a close and the sweltering summer approaching, here are four positions that Coach Graham and his staff should be worried about.

Kicking Game

garoutteHere we go again.

The kicking game at Arizona State is in such disarray that they signed a placekicker, Zane Gonzalez out of Deer Park, Texas, nearly two months after national signing day. Gonzales was perfect in his senior year, including 10-of-10 on field goals and was 100 percent on PATs.

The Sun Devils kicking game woes have been well documented with Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora both struggling; Garoutte was 6-of-11 and Mora was 9-of-12, and both of them missed chip-shot extra points during the year.

The punting game will also need help after the departure of All-Pac-12 punter Josh Hubner. Junior Dom Vizzare will be competing with incoming freshman Matt Haack to be the team’s everyday punter. Vizzare had a nice outing at the spring game, averaging 45.3 yards per punt and pinning 4-of-6 within the 20-yard line. He had a long punt of 54 yards and one touchback.

Wide Receivers

For a team that had no standouts at the wide receiver position in 2012, the fact that quarterback Taylor Kelly still threw for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns is nothing short of a miracle.

The onus is on senior Kevin Ozier to lead this crew of receivers with sophomores Richard Smith and Gary Chambers also starting in the spring game.

Much like last season, Kelly’s favorite target at the spring game was H-back, Chris Coyle. The senior was at the receiving end of three of the five touchdown passes thrown, two from Kelly and one from Mike Bercovici.

New additions to the receiving corps look promising with Jaelen Strong lighting up the junior college circuit at Pierce College. Strong is the No. 17 overall recruit in ESPN’s JUCO Top 100.

Joseph Morris, Strong’s teammate at Pierce, also joins the squad and looks to add veteran leadership. Three freshmen receivers will join the team in the fall, including Ellis Jefferson, Ronald Lewis and Cameron Smith.

Defensive End

juniorSenior Junior Onyeali is still recovering from an injury and didn’t participate in the spring game, allowing Gannon Conway to take over the starting position. The former Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year needs to return to his former glory—and quickly.

The Sun Devils defensive line is solid with Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton at the nose and All-Pac-12 honorable mention Jaxon Hood at the tackle position. The end is truly an area for concern if Onyeali can’t return.

Senior Davon Coleman started eight games at the position last year but was relegated to running with the second team defense throughout spring practice. Incoming freshman Kisima Jagne saw limited time during the spring due to injury as well.

Linebacker

The Sun Devils linebacker squad was incredible last year and looks to do the same or better in the upcoming season. Why is it that this is a position to be worried about then?

The biggest cause for concern is losing team captain Brandon Magee to the NFL and also notable injuries that limited players in spring drills.

Carlos Mendoza had a monster game filling in for Magee against Illinois but was injured and spent the rest of the season on the sideline. When spring practice arrived, the hype on Mendoza was palpable, but he wore a green no-contact jersey throughout drills, raising concerns about his availability in the upcoming season.

Another injury that hit hard occurred on the first day of practice, knocking highly-touted in-state recruit Chans Cox out for the remainder of the spring.

Returning starters Carl Bradford, Steffon Martin, Chris Young and Grandville Taylor are all looking to dominate offenses in the upcoming season. Look for newcomers Antonio Longino and Eriquel Florence to push for playing time along with senior Kipeli Koniseti, who notched a solo tackle and fumble recovery in the spring game.

Wrap Up

graham TcupLast season was a bumpy ride for the Sun Devils in Coach Graham’s first season, but things are getting better—slowly but surely.

After losing four straight games in the middle of the season, the Sun Devils won their last three games for the first time since 1978 while beating Arizona and winning their bowl game for the first time since 2005, only the eighth time in school history.

Graham transformed the team from the most penalized in the Pac-12 to the least penalized. His high-octane style of offense is responsible for three of the 14 NCAA FBS bowl teams to score 60 or more points, and he is the only coach to have scored 60-plus points in multiple bowl games.

Given the small discrepancies previously mentioned, I believe that this Sun Devil team believes in what Graham is trying to do at Arizona State and has everybody “Speaking Victory.”

Tucson Padres Return Home for Fun-Filled Weekend

TPads

The Tucson Padres (9-10) had their first scheduled day off on Wednesday and returned  to Tucson for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

The Padres took three of four from the San Francisco Giants’ AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies (10-10) and have won six of their past seven games. The rest was short as the Padres return to Kino Veterans’ Memorial Stadium on Thursday night to  host the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (10-7) for a four-game set this weekend.

Before dropping the series finale at Fresno, the Padres were on a 6-game win streak winning the final three home games of the opening home stand over the Pacific Northern leading Salt Lake Bees (12-8). The Bees are the L.A. Angels’ top farm club that started hot out of the gates winning eight of their first 10 games.

The Sky Sox took two of three from the Padres earlier in the month when the two played three shortened games  and had two unscheduled days off due to snow, strong wind and below-freezing temperatures. The first game of the series was dominated by the Padres as they put up a season-high 14 runs in only five innings.

Former ASU rightfielder Travis Buck

Former ASU right fielder Travis Buck

Shortstop Dean Anna led the offensive onslaught with three hits and four RBI while left-fielder Travis Buck tallied three doubles and three RBI. Right-fielder Jaff Decker hit his second home run of the season and notched two RBI on two hits.

Starting pitcher Keyvius Sampson was roughed up in the first 2.1 innings giving up four hits, two earned runs, three walks and a home run. Jorge Reyes came in and pitched a near-flawless 2.2 innings allowing only two hits and one earned run to earn his first win of the season. Reyes has pitched 11 innings in relief and has one 3-inning start this season. He has a respectable K:BB ratio of 11-to-4 and his 2.57 ERA is second lowest on the team.

Thursday night’s game will host a marquee matchup of solid pitchers that have combined for four wins and zero losses. The Padres’ Robbie Erlin has won his past two games against Fresno and Salt Lake City recording seven strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA. Sky Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz has been lights-out in his three starts with a 21-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and tallied a 0.00 ERA in two of the three games.

(Edit: The San Diego Padres called up Robbie Erlin, tonight’s pitcher is TBD)

The game will also feature the ever-popular Thirsty Thursday featuring 12-ounce Budweiser and Coca-Cola products for only a dollar from 6-9 pm and all college students receive discounted admission of $4 with student ID. That sounds like a recipe for raucous behavior if I ever heard it.

If cheap beer isn’t your thing then the Padres have you covered the rest of the weekend with various promotions designed to attract the family, nostalgic, military and dog-loving demographics.

My wife and cousin with the Kino Bambino

My wife and cousin with the Kino Bambino

The Kino Reading Program held the Tucson Padres Book Challenge during the month of March that offered four free tickets to any child that read five books over the course of the month. Those that completed the challenge received tickets for this weekend’s games. Friday night’s game will also offer thundersticks to the first 2,000 fans.

Saturday night’s game will pay tribute to the Tucson Toros organization with a t-shirt giveaway to the first 2,000 adults with paid admission. The Toros played in Tucson from 1969-1997 and won the Pacific Coast League Championship in 1991 and 1993.

Sunday afternoon games are legendary at Kino.

The 1:05 start time is perfect for those looking for a relaxing day in the sun at the ballpark. The Padres host Military Appreciation Day on Sundays where active duty and veterans receive free admission. The “Bark in the Park” also allows you to bring your furry friend to the game, my golden retriever, Lexi loves going to the games. The best part of these games is when they ring the doorbell over the speakers which sends all the dogs into a barking frenzy.

If you are looking for something fun to do over the next four days, the Tucson Padres have got you covered, it is always a great time at the ballpark—even if you don’t like baseball.

6 Pac-12 Schools Still Battling for Supremacy Down the Stretch

asu base benjamin

With five weeks remaining in the college baseball regular season, six teams in thePac-12 are ranked in the NCBWA poll and have a shot at winning the regular season championship.

The Oregon schools still rule the roost but have yet to play each other save for the single non-conference game on April 9. The Beavers (31-8, 11-4 Pac-12) travel to Eugene to take on the Ducks (29-10, 13-5 Pac-12) on May 17-21 for a three-game weekend set and another non-conference matchup the following Tuesday.

Prior to the marquee matchup, the Beavers host the USC Trojans (16-23, 8-10 Pac-12) this weekend and look to rebound after dropping two to the cellar-dweller Washington Huskies (11-26, 5-10 Pac-12).

They then host the Cal Bears (18-21, 7-11 Pac-12) and travel to Stanford (22-12, 9-6Pac-12) to take on the Cardinal. The Beavers end the regular hosting the Washington State Cougars (19-18, 6-9 Pac-12) after the four-game Oregon set.

ucla baseThe Ducks suffered two consecutive 1-0 losses to the UCLA Bruins (25-11, 9-6 Pac-12), but rebounded with a 5-3 victory in the series finale. They host Stanford this weekend before embarking on a eight-game road trip to Seattle, Pullman and Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.They welcome the Gonzaga Bulldogs for a two-day mid-week set prior to Oregon State and finish the season against the Utah Utes (16-19, 5-13 Pac-12).

The Bruins and Cardinal are tied for third spot in the league and play each other in the final series of the regular season, May 24-26. UCLA has a considerably lighter schedule in the remaining weeks with their biggest challenges coming from Arizona for a three-game set May 10-12 and then having to travel to take on the No. 3 Cal State Fullerton Titans on May 14.

Stanford, on the other hand travels to Oregon this weekend, Arizona State next weekend and hosts Oregon State the following weekend. Nine tough games that the Cardinal need to win if they want to have a chance at the conference title.

cats gilbertThe team with the most favorable remaining schedule is the fourth place Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils (24-12-1, 8-7 Pac-12) decimated non-conference foe Valparaiso last weekend winning the first two games by a total of 31-6 before dropping the finale 8-6. The Devils took 5-of-9 games against the top three teams in the Pac and won seven games against teams nationally ranked in the top 10. Their remaining schedule contains the bottom three teams in the conference in California, Utah and Washington and their toughest foes, Stanford and Arizona are at home.

The Arizona Wildcats also have an outside shot at the title with a little bit of help. They are home for the next seven games including Alabama State this weekend, Arizona State next Tuesday and Washington the following weekend. The final road trip of the season could spell their doom as they have to travel to UCLA and then to Tempe to take on Arizona State in consecutive weekends. They end the regular season hosting the USC Trojans.

There is no doubt that all six teams will make the postseason and perhaps USC and Washington State could still find themselves playing after Memorial Day weekend if they can pick up some quality wins.

With a lot of work, some blood, sweat, tears and a pinch of luck, the Pac-12 could be the dominant conference when it comes to this year’s College World Series and I will keep you updated every step of the way.

Arizona State Students, Alumni and Donors to Vote on “New Sparky”

4 Sparkys

 

Arizona State University officials got it right this time.

After unveiling a drastic redesign of the school’s iconic mascot to severe outrage and backlash, university leadership worked feverishly to make it better.

Working in conjunction with student leaders, the Sun Devil Coalition Advocacy Board, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Alumni Board and members of the Sun Devil Club Board, the group has come up with four final options to change the face of the beloved mascot, Sparky.

The saga began when the University released the “New Sparky” to the populace on March 1, a Friday afternoon. Almost immediately, people spoke out against the change. There was severe backlash including a change.org petition, a Facebook page titled Bring the Old ASU Sparky Back and a Facebook group 100,000 Arizona State Fans Against the New Sparky. There was even an unofficial poll run by House of Sparky that showed an approval rating of only 10 percent.

new sparky botsThe biggest complaint was that the redesign, a collaborative effort between the University and Disney, supposedly listened to students and designed what the students wanted—untrue. The student body was some of the most vocal opponents to the changes.

The voting began Monday, April 22nd and will continue through May 5. Voting is open to all current students, alumni, employees, season-ticket holders and Sun Devil Club members.

The Arizona State student newspaper, The State Press reported that all is well on campus now:

Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Mark Naufel said he was pleased with the way the university responded to students’ criticism, coming to the student government to get the look that students wanted. “They treated us like this was our thing. We mattered most in the decision making process,” Naufel said. “It was really a great collaboration between administrators, students (and) the alumni.”

The vote will only be on the face or mask of Sparky with the newly designed outfit to be worn by the mascot. I’m still not sold on the knee-high boots but I suppose people have had enough of the flame pants on the current edition.

The winning version of the mascot will be released via social media within two days of the polls closing and the new mascot will be put into use starting in the fall of 2013. Although, we will know the winning version within two weeks, the current mascot costume will be in use until that time.

The current logo will be unchanged as used as a trademark in facilities, advertising, banners, clothing and merchandise.

If you are an eligible voter, got to http://sparky.asu.edu and let your voice be heard!

Arizona Craft Brewers Guild Inaugural SpringFest a Big Hit in Tucson

Springfest

The booming craft brewing industry made its mark on Tucson last weekend.

Over 50 craft breweries from across the country descended on the sleepy burgh of Tucson for a day of great beer and delectable treats on one of the warmest days of the year. I was invited to the VIP treatment by a great friend of mine in the burgeoning craft brewing scene, Steene Routh.

I met Steene several years ago when I was bartending in college, long before craft beer was a “thing” in Arizona. We had Bandersnatch and Four Peaks in Tempe, Papago in old town and Sonoran Brewing in north Scottsdale.  The past five years has seen an explosion of Arizona breweries with seemingly new ones opening on a monthly basis.

Statewide, breweries have flourished in cities like Bisbee and Lake Havasu City joining established breweries such as Oak Creek out of Sedona, Beaver Street out of Flagstaff and Gentle Ben’s in Tucson.

First in line for Craft Brew

First in line for Craft Brew

I met up with Routh and her beau, Mike along with another longtime friend and beer lover from Colorado, Laura Mann. We arrived at the Rillito Racetrack around 11:30 am and were the first in line awaiting the gates to open at noon. Much like a quality ride at Disneyland, we went through one line to wait in another and there we stood, mouths agape, waiting with bated breath for the behemoth security guard to allow us entry.

One notable improvement from beer festivals that I have been to in the past is that as VIPs, not only were we allowed an extra hour to partake in the hand-crafted suds, we were given a bar towel with the SpringFest logo. This towel came in extremely handy several times—I will bring it along on all future beer events as I have been known to spill a little here and there.

Being a resident of Tucson for the past 5 1/2 years, I have grown to love the offerings from local establishments and could not wait to visit their tents and introduce my out-of-town friends to them. My favorite of the bunch was the Saison Blue from Dragoon Brewing Company. I was surprised to see the big boss, Bruce Greene at the event along with longtime employee Pat at the taps. The Saison Blue is a great beer for the warm weather. This farmhouse ale is brewed with blue corn and agave nectar then dry-hopped for a floral finish. The 7.5% ABV packs a nice punch and yet it is easily drinkable.

SF Field

Local Tucson Breweries

The gentlemen at Borderlands Brewing Company also did not disappoint with their selections and their recent brews are definitely something to write home about.  The Hibiscus Saison was another light, refreshing farmhouse ale with a sweet smell from the hibiscus and an herbal finish. The low ABV makes this selection a perfect session beer for the hot summer days in Tucson.

Nano-breweries Ten Fifty-Five Brewing and Sentinel Peak were both on hand and their beers were flowing nicely for those who haven’t yet ventured to their tasting rooms. Ten Fifty-Five made us wait until 2pm to get their Two Sons Citra Double IPA, but it was well worth the wait. The Sugar Skull Chocolate Milk Stout was also a big hit while waiting. Sentinel Peak offered up a beer that was perfect for the warm afternoon—the Summer Swelter Citrus Ale. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this offering, more than once.

Other Tucson breweries Nimbus, Barrio/Gentle Ben’s and Thunder Canyon were present and all seemed to be doing brisk business.

The biggest surprise of the weekend for me was to see a former college buddy, Jon Lane at the event…as an owner of one of the Valley’s most popular up and coming hot-spots. O.H.S.O. Eatery and nanoBrewery is located in the Arcadia district of Phoenix at 49th St. and Indian School and boasts 13 local craft beers on tap as well as four of their own. They are an environmentally friendly restaurant that is both bicycle and pet-friendly—I shamelessly packed away several of their handmade dog treats but their beer is what kept me coming back. I truly loved their Orange Pail Ale, great stuff.

A relaxing day with great beer

A relaxing day with great beer

One of my favorite beers of the day came from College Street Brewhouse and Pub from Lake Havasu City. Their Big Blue Van Blueberry Vanilla Wheat was super refreshing. The unfiltered wheat beer brewed with blueberries and vanilla bean was divine and the addition of fresh blueberries put it over the top. This was a definite favorite among the group.

Other valley favorites such as Four Peaks and SanTan were on hand and I would have been remiss if I missed the spring time favorite Mr. Pineapple from SanTan and my go-to beer—Hop Knot from Four Peaks.

The beer that had the longest wait time was also the beer that put many over the edge. Goose Island treated the festival goers with one of only four kegs in the state of Arizona of their Bourbon County Stout. At 14.5 % ABV, this sipping beer had an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke.

If last weekend was any indication, it is plain to see that the city of Tucson has truly embraced the craft brew industry and is on pace with the metropolitan Phoenix area in hosting great festivals.

A huge thanks to the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild for recognizing Tucson and allowing people to see that the Old Pueblo has a lot more to offer than just Eegee’s and Lucky Wishbone.

What Each Arizona 2013 Recruit Must Prove in Freshman Season

Jerrett belArizona basketball has been on a roller coaster this past month.

The Wildcats were ousted by Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen on March 28 and the following week brought news that the Pac-12 head of officials allegedly put a bounty for any official that “rang up” or “ran” head coach Sean Miller.

Good news finally came to the ‘Cats when the nation’s No. 4 player committed to Arizona on April 2 and signed on the 17th. Arizona finished the year ranked No. 14 after spending the bulk of the season in the top 10, but the roller coaster kept moving.

On the same day that Gordon signed, forward Grant Jerrett decided to make himself eligible for the 2013 NBA draft. Jerrett, the 6’10”, 235-pound freshman from Chino Hills, Calif., was a 5-star recruit out of high school and ranked by ESPN as the overall No. 9 recruit in the Top 100.

Jerrett started the first two games but was quickly relegated to coming off the bench with the emergence of fellow freshman Brandon Ashley. Jerrett averaged 17.8 minutes per game coming off the bench but failed to prove that he deserved a starting role averaging a mere 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.

With the addition of three new freshmen this year, here is a list of what each must prove in their freshman season.

Aaron Gordon

AaGordonPosition: Forward
Height: 6’8″
Weight: 215 pounds
High School: Archbishop Mitty High School
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Rivals Ranking: No. 3 (5-star)
ESPN 100 Rank: No. 4 (5-star)
247 Sports Rank: No. 5 (5-star)
Scout Ranking: No. 9 (5-star)

Aaron Gordon is a phenomenal athlete and the top-ranked player coming out of the state of California. Gordon’s size will allow him to play the small or the power forward position and he can even fill in at center if needed. He dominates on the glass and is a first-class defender.

Although he has the versatility to play the 1, 2 or 3 at any given time, Gordon will need to improve his mid-range shooting and realize that not everybody is going to allow him open lanes for the easy bucket.

Gordon dominated the McDonald’s All-American game with some beautiful dunks, but if he is to be an one-and-done, as is widely predicted, he will first need to play against other seasoned college veterans in the always-competitive Pac-12.

He will have the opportunity to start and will have a stellar backcourt in T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson feeding him the rock non-stop, so he will need to work on his mid-range and long-range shots.

Grant Jerrett’s biggest strength was his ability to nail the three-point basket almost at will, as he led the team in that department, knocking down 40.5 percent of his attempts.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

RHJeffPosition: Forward
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 205 pounds
High School: Chester High School
Hometown: Chester, Pa.
ESPN 100 Rank: No. 16 (5-star)
Scout Ranking: No. 17 (5-star)
247 Sports Rank: No. 18 (5-star)
Rivals Ranking: No. 21 (5-star)

The small forward from Chester, Pa. was the marquee signing for Coach Miller and the Wildcats last September. Hollis-Jefferson is the prototypical small forward that is of smaller stature than Gordon, but his versatility will allow him to play the power forward or center position when Miller wants to play “small ball.”

His athleticism and competitive nature make him an incredible asset to the the frontcourt for the ‘Cats. Coach Miller likened him to former forward Solomon Hill, stating that he’s “a warrior” and “similar to Solomon in that he can do a lot of things.”

With the early departure of Grant Jerrett, this leaves the power forward position seemingly open for Brandon Ashley with Aaron Gordon at small forward. Hollis-Jefferson said back in September that he signed with Arizona because he would “have a chance to start right away.”

This no longer seems to be a certainty, so Hollis-Jefferson will need to prove that he can fill Kevin Parrom’s slot by being a dominant sixth man coming off the bench. His mid-range and long-range shooting is improving and he will be the heir apparent to the starting small forward position if Gordon departs after one season.

Elliott Pitts

pitts mittyPosition: Shooting Guard
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 185 pounds
High School: De La Salle High School
Hometown: Concord, Calif.
ESPN 100 Rank: No. 100 (4-star)
Scout Ranking: No. 117 (4-star)
Rivals Ranking: No. 126 (3-star)
247 Sports Rank: No. 150 (3-star)

Elliott Pitts is a developing player that comes from a solid high school program and will benefit greatly from learning under the tutelage of Coach Miller and watching starting shooting guard Nick Johnson.

Nobody expects Pitts to challenge Johnson for the shooting guard position, but he is more along the lines of freshman guard Gabe York. Both Pitts and York were highly recruited out of high school and are diamonds in the rough that need polishing.

One area that he will need to improve on is his physicality. He will need to build mass, and Miller believes that Pitts is still going to grow and will put on the needed weight once he arrives at school in the fall.

Pitts will join a crowded backcourt with T.J. McConnell, Johnson, York and Jacob Hazzard, and he’ll be fighting for limited minutes in his first year. The main thing that Coach Miller will be looking for in Pitts is that he is learning and buying into the program as a team player.

He will need to prove that he is patient and willing to learn the way things are played at Arizona and be ready and willing to contribute at a moment’s notice. If he does exactly as he is told, he has a great possibility to find himself in the starting lineup by his junior or senior year.

(Bonus) T.J. McConnell: Transfer

TJ DuqPosition: Point Guard
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Chartiers Valley High School
Hometown: Bridgeville, Pa.

T.J. McConnell has spent the last season practicing and learning the offensive scheme so that he will be able to hit the ground running in the 2013-14 season. He will be instrumental in running the point for Coach Miller and the Wildcats. As Josh Mozell from Bleacher Report states:

McConnell is the quintessential guy and the cure to many of the Arizona’s ailments this past season. He is a heady pass-first guard, averaging 5.5 assists and only 2.6 turnovers as a sophomore at Duquesne.

Last season’s point guard, Mark Lyons was a dead-on shooter but lacked in the passing game. Lyons took the weight of every game on his shoulders and almost refused to pass the ball in close games. It was quite evident when the shooting guard led the team in assists, not the point guard.

With so many weapons in the frontcourt in Gordon, Ashley, Tarczewski and Hollis-Jefferson, McConnell is the court general that can lead this team to another championship.

In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Meet the 2013 Arizona State Basketball Recruiting Class

jahii 2013

With the news that Arizona State’s all-everything player, Jahii Carson, is returning to play next season, Coach Herb Sendek will most likely get one last chance to prove he belongs at the helm of the basketball squad.

Sendek has coached the Sun Devils to five 20-win seasons and has recruited some of the best players that the program has seen in Carson and James Harden. The 2013 class doesn’t have much flash or pizzazz, but the players coming aboard in the upcoming season will fill immediate needs.

The heart and soul of the Sun Devils, Carrick Felix, is gone along with backup center Ruslan Pateev and backup point guard Chris Colvin.

Pateev and Colvin were serviceable backups, but the loss of Felix is huge.

Here is a closer look at the newest Sun Devils coming to the desert.

Egor Koulechov

  • egorPosition: Small Forward
  • High School: The Sagemont School in Weston, Florida
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 190

The “Russian Warrior” from Israel, ruled South Florida high school basketball last season. He was named to the All-county first team as well as the “Broward County Fab Five.”

He is ranked by MaxPreps as the No. 16 recruit in Florida and 247 Sports ranks him at No. 20.

The wing will look to fill the hole vacated by Felix, he has the long-range accuracy that Felix possessed but will have to work on his defense to contend at the Pac-12 level of play.

Koulechov and his family left his native Russia for Israel when he was seven years old.

He left his family in Israel to pursue his dream of playing basketball in America, moving to Florida. He returned home last summer and played for Israel’s U-18 basketball team where he averaged 19.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Chance Murray

chance

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • High School: Frederick Price H.S. Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 180

Chance Murray is quite the feather in the cap for Herb Sendek’s 2013 class.

The 3-star recruit as ranked by Scout, Rivals and 247Sports is also ranked No. 160 in the 247 Sports Top 247.

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.”

247 Sports ranks Murray as the No. 42 shooting guard in the country and the No. 14 recruit in California.

Look for Murray to fill the hole vacated by Chris Colvin as backup point guard. He coould perhaps even battle Evan Gordon for the starting shooting guard position as Colvin did at the end of the 2012-13 season.

Brandan Kearney: Transfer

  • kearneyPosition: Shooting Guard
  • High School: Southeastern H.S. Detroit, Mich.
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 190

Brandan Kearney elected to transfer to Arizona State midway through his sophomore season at Michigan State.

He will be eligible to begin play in January 2014 for the Sun Devils.

Kearney, who saw his minutes nearly double in his sophomore season didn’t see an increase in production averaging a mere 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game.

Kearney left Michigan State after being unhappy with his current role coming off the bench for Coach Tom Izzo.

If Kearney opts to play in January for the Sun Devils, it will be a shortened junior season, but if he waits until the fall of 2014 he will be able to play two complete seasons.

“(ASU) Coaches said I’m versatile and they can use me in a lot of different ways playing the 1, 2, or 3,” Kearney described. “They also like my defense and shooting. They said if I get stronger and put on weight I could post players up and come off ball screens. They really think I can help the team.”

Kearney enrolled at Arizona State in January and will be able to practice with the team and battle for a starting position. He is a versatile player that can make an immediate impact with Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon in the backcourt.

ASU Wrapping Up Spring Practice and Preparing for Pat’s Run

asu 4

Arizona State Football wrapped up 2013 spring practice on Thursday and honored four defensive players with the coveted camouflage No. 42 Pat Tillman jersey.

The jersey had only been donned twice since its inception last fall when safety Alden Darby was given the honor. Defensive end Will Sutton wore it proudly earlier this month, and today’s final practice welcomed safety Chris Young and cornerback Osahon Irabor to the vaunted list.

The Sun Devils finished their 15-practice spring schedule, and head coach Todd Graham was happy with what he saw in practice but kept his head about moving forward.

“I feel great about the spring that we had, I’m very proud of our guys and proud of the development on and off the field,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in position to have a chance by how we practiced this spring, but we still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”

Jake Spring

Jake Plummer after the Spring Game

Last weekend’s ASU Football Fan Fest was highlighted by the annual Maroon and Gold Spring Game. The Maroon team won a close game 24-22 as the three quarterbacks threw for five touchdowns, and Marion Grice ran for the sole rushing touchdown from a yard out on the opening drive.

H-back/tight end Chris Coyle was the true star of the game, catching six receptions for 51 yards and two touchdowns for the Gold squad. One of those scores came on a 31-yard strike.

Sutton and Davon Coleman each tallied two sacks, while Marlon Pollard picked off a Taylor Kelly pass and Kipeli Koniseti recovered a Gold team fumble.

Coach Graham was quoted as saying:

We turned the football over too much. I wanted to see 100% ball security, and getting the defense getting plays. So either way it’s not going to work out right. We were mostly doing two’s against one’s, but we ended doing one’s against one’s. I think our guys competed well. We have 120 plays, so it was a good scrimmage. We’ve gotten better as a football team, and the key is depth.

Now that spring practice is complete, Coach Graham can shift his focus to another great Arizona State tradition—Pat’s Run.

Graham will be the official starter for the Ninth Annual Run on Saturday, April 20, and Sutton, the Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, will start the Kid’s Run.

Pat’s widow, Marie, who is also president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, said of Graham and Sutton:

Coach Graham has been very active in promoting Pat’s football legacy atASU and also supportive of the foundation’s efforts to invest in Tillman Military Scholars nationwide. Will shares Pat’s passion for football and dedication to education. I can’t think of two more perfect people to help us celebrate the 9th Annual Pat’s Run.

tillmanGraham is hoping for 100-percent team participation in the run this weekend and completed spring practice early for this reason. Despite the recent tragedy that occurred in Boston this week, the run promoters are not letting it affect the atmosphere or spirit of the run, although security will be heightened.

The 4.2 mile walk/run will begin at 7:05 a.m. MT, and registration is $42 and starts east of Sun Devil Stadium. It will go through the streets of Tempe before finishing on the 42-yard line in the stadium.

In case you weren’t aware, Tillman wore No. 42 at Arizona State.

Oregon State Beavers Top College Baseball’s Latest RPI Poll

beavs RPI

The NCAA released the second College Baseball RPI poll on Tuesday, and the Oregon State Beavers remained on top for the second straight week after sweeping Utah at home over the weekend. The Beavers (28-6, 10-2 Pac-12) are one of three teams representing the Pacific-12 Conference in the top 10 with in-state rival Oregon at No. 5 and Arizona State at No. 9.

The Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences also had three representatives in the top 10 and Cal State Fullerton represented the Big West Conference at No. 10.

Moving down the list, the ACC dominated the 11-20 ranks with five teams while the SEC placed two teams and the Big Ten, Sun Belt and Atlantic Sun Conferences each contributed one.

The remainder of the top 25 brings teams from the remaining power conferences with teams from the Big 12 and the Big East.

The Top 10 RPI rankings are as follows:

  1. Oregon State  Pac-12  28-6
  2. Vanderbilt  SEC  33-4
  3. Levi MichaelNorth Carolina  ACC  34-2
  4. Louisiana State  SEC  34-3
  5. Oregon  Pac-12  27-8
  6. Florida State  ACC  30-6
  7. Virginia  ACC  31-6
  8. Mississippi State  SEC  30-9
  9. Arizona State  Pac-12  22-10-1
  10. Cal State Fullerton  Big West  31-5

North Carolina is the consensus No. 1 pick across the board in the four polls; NCBWA, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and the USA Today Coaches poll with Vanderbilt, LSU, Cal State Fullerton, Oregon State and Florida State all occupying the top five nationally.

Upcoming weekend matchups between top-ranked teams include Florida State visiting Virginia for a three-game set and UCLA visiting Oregon for three games. North Carolina hosts a struggling Duke team this weekend while Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. feast on SEC bottom-feeders Georgia and Auburn. The Beavers are also fortunate to face a last place team when they travel to Seattle to take on the University of Washington.

With six weeks remaining in the regular season and the regional playoffs beginning on May 31, many teams are prepping and padding their tournament resumes while others are just looking to survive and make the field of 64.

This is crunch time and my favorite time of the year. The city of Omaha, Nebraska isn’t well-known outside of college baseball circles, but for those in the know, it is the holy ground and I can’t wait to get back there.