In front of an auditorium full of students, season ticket holders, teammates, and even a DJ, Jahii Carson finally uttered the words that Sun Devil fans have been waiting to hear him say since the season came to an end three weeks ago. The talented freshman announced on Tuesday that he'll be returning for his sophomore season at Arizona State next year.
"This whole process has just been really exciting and tough at the same time," he said. "I've just been constantly with the coaching staff and my family everyday just coming to the best conclusion and the best outcome for me. I just decided just to continue my career here as a Sun Devil.
"My teammates have been great. The coaching staff has been excellent. Everybody here at ASU, I just feel welcome every time I step on campus. I like the way I feel when I step on campus and hang out with everybody here at Arizona State. I just think it's the best thing for me to do, to continue to try to build a legacy here and be the best Sun Devil I can be."
Following the team's second round defeat to Baylor in the NIT Tournament last month, Carson submitted his player evaluation request for the NBA draft as he pondered his next move. And while he says the feedback he received from the NBA offices was overwhelmingly positive, the decision to return to Arizona State for a second season was too much to pass up.
"It was really more of my decision," he remarked. "I had positive feedback and was happy with everything, but I just thought it was the best thing for me to come back and try to just continue something here at Arizona State that I started. The decision was just something I felt comfortable about and that my family felt comfortable about. And the coaching staff felt that my decision was a good one too, so that's just what I went based off of, was my heart."
Carson, who was a member of the First Team All-Pac-12 and Co-Freshman of the Year while averaging 18.5 points per game, tops amongst all freshmen nationally, said that he needed to take time after the season ended to collect his thoughts. The decision to leave for the NBA or return for another season under Head Coach Herb Sendek was one that he wrestled with for a long time before stepping back to clear his mind and consult with his family, friends and the Sun Devil coaching staff.
"I just took some time after the season to try to get some space, just to take some time and get some shots up and just be a normal kid for once," he said. "People were talking to me about the NBA for a while, even during the season when I was continuing to just have the best outcome for the season, and people were talking to me about it after the season. I just wanted some time to try to get away from myself. As the moment started to come, I started to talk to my parents and my coaching staff about it and I just came to a decision."
With Carson set to return, the Sun Devils will have one of the most dynamic players in the conference at point guard next season. Carson, who averaged a conference-high 37.2 minutes per contest, broke the Sun Devil record for 20 point games in a season with 18 (previously held by James Harden with 16), including three 30 point scoring games as well.
"I think I have a lot of things that I need to work on," he said. "A player knows what he needs to work on more than a lot of people do. I want to try to capitalize on the small things first, like making free throws. I feel like a couple games this past season we had some chances to seal some games with some free throws. That's an easy way that great players score some easy buckets, is capitalizing at the free throw line, like James Harden and Ike Diogu did here early on. And more of a consistent jump shot and penetrating and kicking it more."
Carson says that he's been invited to attend a couple Nike basketball camps this summer hosted by NBA players that he looks forward to, but also plans to spend most of the offseason in the gym with his teammates, preparing for the season ahead. While the Sun Devils may have notched their fourth 20 win season under Sendek, Carson says there's still plenty for the team to work on, including earning a berth in next year's NCAA Tournament.
"I think since we had a little bit of a successful season this year that we know what it takes a little bit more to be successful," he commented. "I think we’re going to be a little grittier. I think we're going to not take things for granted. And just build off the positive chemistry and the positive energy we had this year. We lose Carrick Felix, but a lot of people forget Carrick wasn't the same player last year that he was this year. He worked extremely hard so we're just going to try to take a page out of his book and just continue to try to work hard and build something here."
While Carson remains committed to Arizona State for at elates another year, the long-term future for the playmaker remains up in the air. Carson says that he's currently on track to graduate, something that his mother, a college professor at Central Arizona College, has expressed is very important to her, and he isn't ruling out the idea of staying beyond next year.
"I'm a Sun Devil,” Carson declared, “and I feel like I can come here for the rest of my life, so it wouldn't be an option that I count out."