November 19, 2007

Basketball Preview: New player evaluations

Arizona State begins its 2007-08 basketball campaign with a 9:30 p.m. MST (6:30 p.m. Hawaii time) game against Illinois in the first-round of the Maui Invitational tonight. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Here is an extremely detailed evaluation on each of Arizona State's new players. We break down their strengths, weaknesses and what to expect from them this season inside.

James Harden -- The first McDonald's All-American to sign with Arizona State out of high school since Chris Sandle in 1984, Harden was the No. 11 ranked player in the national 2007 class by Rivals.com and the No. 1 prospect in California. As a senior, Harden led Artesia High School to its second straight state championship and 33-2 record with averages of 18.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. As a junior, Harden's squad -- then coached by current ASU assistant Scott Pera -- went 33-1 and he averaged 18.8 points and 7.7 boards.

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Harden is a silky smooth lefty with an effortless jump shot and sneaky athleticism. He has an unbelievable, innate sense for the game and makes those around him better with his unselfishness and ability to pass the basketball. He's also a terrific rebounded for a wing guard and can be very disruptive defensively both on the ball and in passing lanes. Rivals.com listed Harden as being the "Best Shooter" and having the "Best Basketball IQ" among all incoming Pac-10 recruits, a list which includes numerous McDonald's All-Americans and no fewer than five of the nation's Top-20 recruits in the class.

In his two exhibition games, Harden led the Sun Devils with averages of 20 points and over eight rebounds per game. He is expected to be one of the team's top performers, a post-season honors candidate, along with junior forward Jeff Pendergraph. Harden is an extraordinarily complete player for being a freshman. He has virtually no weaknesses in his games, but if there was one thing that has been stressed to him by coaches, it is that he must have a more consistent high energy work ethic on the practice court in order to take full advantage of his plentiful gifts.

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