Like I said, this is the ideal situation, but fortunately for coach Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils, this appears to be what they have in junior guard Trent Lockett.
Lockett lead the team in scoring at 13.4 ppg in his sophomore season while also finishing second in rebounding with 5.3 rpg. Still, there were several areas for him to improve upon, as well as the rest of the team, as the Sun Devils finished with a 12-19 record and last in the Pac-10.
With the losses of seniors Ty Abbott, Rik Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan, Lockett not only becomes one of the elder statesmen of the team as a junior, but now is the guy that everyone looks to in this program, something he seems fine with.
“That’s a great feeling that I’ve put on my shoulders,” Lockett said of being a leader. “With a lot of the new guys coming in it’s on us, the older guys, to show them how it’d done and how to win games in the Pac-12.
“I’d like to say I’m a hard worker and I pride myself on doing the right thing so if guys follow in my footsteps I guess I’d say it wouldn’t be bad. Everybody on our team is a good guy and they do the right thing so that’s not a problem at all.”
Lockett no doubt will be the focus of opposing defenses this season as the team awaits the NCAA’s ruling on freshman point guard Jahii Carson, and as good as he was last season, he struggled at times shooting the ball when teams would crowd the lane against him.
“In the offseason I really tried to work on my outside shot and my ball handling, but basketball is such a mental game I really tried to improve myself mentally for the most part,” Lockett said of his offseason work. “I work with a sports psychologist who helps me with any problem I come to him with and he gives me pointers to focus on when I’m playing.
“I think I’ve definitely evolved in a lot of mental areas in my game from freshman and sophomore year and I look forward to continue improving this year.”
Improvement shouldn’t be hard for a team that finished last in its conference the year before in scoring and rebounding, the latter of which hurt the Sun Devils in nearly every game they played in.
“We finished last in the Pac-10 so the only way to go right now is up,” Lockett said confidently. “Like I said, we’ve been working hard and really looking forward to starting new this year.
“Last season was definitely tough to swallow. I’ve never been through anything quite similar to that, but one thing it did provide was great motivation this offseason. Guys were working really hard and like I said we’re just looking forward to our work paying off come this Friday at practice.”
Hoping to fix some of the offensive woes, coach Sendek has said he will be tweaking the offensive scheme to fit the players the Sun Devils has this season by running a more up-tempo style that will push the ball when the opportunity presents itself.
“It’s still in the beginning stages because obviously we haven’t even started practice yet, but I think he’s tailoring it a little different to our personnel,” Lockett said of the offensive changes. “We lost quite a few shooters last year and gained a few more penetrators and slashers, so I think he’s tailoring it a little different to our personnel and we’ll see more as it evolves as practice starts.”
One of those “slashers” Lockett was referring to is Palm Beach Community College transfer Chris Colvin, a 6’2” junior guard from Chicago, Ill. Colvin and sophomore Keala King have been shouldering the point guard duties thus far and both have made an impression on their coach and teammates.
“Chris has surprised me coming in,” Lockett mentioned. “I like his defensive mentality and he’s impressed me with what he can do with the ball and I think Chris will surprise many fans this year and have a good season.
“Keala is a great teammate. He’s always going to be there for you. He always brings a positive attitude to the weights, conditioning, anything we do. On the court he’s a big point guard. He can really change the game in that way.”
With so many players that excel at cutting to the basket, sophomore Chanse Creekmur will be heavily relied on as an outside shooting threat now with the departures of Abbott and Kuksiks. Creekmur only averaged 3.1 ppg last season, but showed the ability to shoot the deep ball on occasion, something he’ll have to do much more of this season for the Sun Devils to be successful.
“Chanse has really impressed me,” Lockett said of Creekmur. “He was a great shooter last year, but he is really putting the ball in the basket now. He’s leaned out a little bit, gotten stronger, but I can go down the line. Everybody is putting in work in the weight room and conditioning-wise, so I’m looking forward to the season and see what everybody does.
“I think Chanse is pretty versatile. Rik was a great player, it’s hard to compare him to Rik, but Chanse can get in there and mix it up. He’s actually worked on his ball handling, he’s penetrating a lot better this year, but just like Rik he can put the ball in the basket.”
While he may not be very vocal, you can feel the disdain Lockett has for the way last season ended when he speaks, which is very similar to the way the ASU football players talk about their 2010 season. Obviously the programs are unrelated, but it’s not hard to tell that everyone involved is eager to get their respective programs going in the right direction.
“That was not fun,” Lockett said of last season. “We just couldn’t get the ball going our way. It provided great motivation this offseason and anytime you didn’t feel like working out all you had to do was think about last year and it provided plenty of motivation.
“We’re definitely looking forward to starting new. New jerseys, the football team is doing outstanding this year and they’re setting the tone so we’re definitely looking forward to following in their footsteps.”
When asked what people should know about him entering this season, Lockett, while brief, had some pretty powerful words to sum everything up.
“I’m never going to give up.”
Luckily for ASU that doesn’t appear to be a problem.