“It’s a great honor but I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t have the teammates I had,” Derek Glasser said of his achievement. “Guys Like Jamelle (McMillan), Rik (Kuksiks), James (Harden), Jeff (Pendergraph)…just all those guys who can put the ball in the hole. It makes it much easier on me.”
The significant, not to mention rapid improvement, Glasser has shown each season at Arizona State, is equivalent to that of any other player that came under the tutelage of Sun Devil Head Coach Herb Sendek.
“He’s certainly among the most improved players that we ever had,” Sendek acknowledged. “Arguably he gets as much out of his abilities and opportunities as any player that we’ve had. At the end of the day those two things that we’ve just said are about as a high level compliment that you could get.
“If you’re getting better and coming close to maximizing potential, theoretically no one every reaches it, so if you’re coming close to maximizing it – that’s what we are all striving for.”
Glasser smiles when he says that his fighter mentality helped him improve throughout his career in Tempe, but stated pragmatically that hard work is what brought him this far.
“Every day just put one foot in front of the other and plug away,” Glasser remarked. “Having guys my freshman year like Antwi (Atuahene) playing against every practice and playing against Jamelle every day in practice makes me a better basketball player.”
Glasser came to ASU largely sight unseen. Not too bad for someone who could achieve an ASU first by becoming the first player ever to don the maroon and gold and record 1,000 points and 500 assists in their career.
Sendek and most of his staff have never seen him play, and the only person familiar with him was then Director of Basketball Operations and now Assistant Head Coach Scott Pera, who coached the point guard when Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia won the CIF Division III state title in 2006.
“We picked him up in July before school started in August,” Sendek recalled. “I’d never seen Derek play so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have real high expectations. He got off to a little of a slippery start as a freshman. He was part of that team that won two conference games – we took our blows. But he has just stayed with it. He has really changed his body. He's really strong, he benches over 300 lbs. He’s always been a clutch free throw shooter.”
Glasser humbly commented that Sendek has put him in the right spot to make the best play he can. On the other hand, Sendek claimed that his point guard’s game vision and decision making abilities can be taught only so much by a coach.
“On a ball screen he always seems to hit the right man,” Sendek explained. “You’ll watch film and you’ll push pause or rewind it to see if that was the right thing and sure enough he hits the right guy. You can coach that to a degree, but only to a degree. You can show a guy film, but when that’s happening real time, with all those bodies out there…that’s a gift.
“He’s a gamer. He's just one of those guys. He’s better in games than he is in practice.”
Jamelle McMillan called his backcourt teammate the “X-factor” of the Sun Devil squad.
“Without him this team doesn’t operate,” McMillan said. “Obviously he has made a lot of improvement over the last few years and without him making the right reads, doing the things he’s able to do on the floor, guys like me or even James and Jeff aren’t the players that we are.
“We have to give a lot of credit to this guy for our success. Having this guy on your team every day, being able to learn and watch…I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”
But Saturday’s afternoon contest wasn’t only an extraordinary milestone for Glasser, it was also a gritty victory recorded through ASU’s trademark play. ASU limited San Diego State to 3 out of 15 beyond the arc, and the Aztecs committed 24 turnovers.
“It shows credit to our defense,” said Glasser of the win. “That’s what we are going to have to pride ourselves on if we are going to make a run at the (NCAA) tournament this year, being able to hold teams in the 50’s and low 60’s. We’ve done that so far this year and I think that’s how we got the win tonight.”
In terms of quality non-conference victories that come in handy on Selection Sunday, the win over San Diego State vital as the team has a strong sense of urgency after losses earlier this month to BYU and Baylor.
“We knew that if we had any shot at making the tournament, that we needed this game for our resume`”, Glasser acknowledged. “LSU was a good win for us, but other than that we really haven’t had a win that you can really look at and say ‘they beat a team that will be looked at in March for the tournament.’ This was our last chance before conference (play).
“This is the game that we must win and we came away with it.”
And tying the school’s third longest basketball record was just the icing on the cake.