When announcements of Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson's ineligibility for the 2011-2012 season began to finally emerge Friday morning, the Sun Devil fan base breathed a collective sigh that sounded vaguely similar to "there goes the season." And while the news is undoubtedly disappointing for a struggling 3-5 ASU squad, all is not lost for a Devil team that's yet to find it's true identity.
No, I wouldn't go as far to say it's a "thunderbolt of good news" as coach Herb Sendek described it, but there are still some positive interpretation that fans of the maroon and gold can take from the situation.
Since he signed his letter of intent last November, there has been much hype around Carson potentially bringing that spark that Arizona State has been lacking since Sun Devils fan watch James Harden get drafted third overall. Really though, fans may have been putting some unreasonable expectations on the 19-year-old, especially with him missing so much time early in his collegiate career.
"You go through a normal transition from high school to college regardless," Sendek said. "If you don't start until sometime in December, it makes for an even steeper learning curve. It's not like he was going to go into a phone booth, practice today and come out and play tomorrow."
Yes, he is the highest-rated, in-state recruit ASU has ever landed but truly, it was unfair to ever think that Carson was some knight in shining armor that would ride into town with pitchfork in hand and elevate last year's 12-19 Sun Devil team back to Pac-12 relevancy instantly. These hopes and dreams from university die-hards were a burdensome rain cloud hanging over not only Carson's head but the heads of each and every player on the roster. With the final judgement finally being laid down, it seems everyone will finally be able to move on and look forward.
"I feel like the monkey's off my back," Carson said in his first press conference Friday. "It's not something I wanted but it's something I can live with."
"I think it's really important that we're supportive of Jahii," Sendek said. "But at the same time, you have to coach and prepare with who is able to play."
Gone are the days of the constant flow of Tweets at @Jahii_carson1 asking about his status. Now, for the first time since high school, it's just about getting on the practice floor and etching his role for next year in a team that's still learning on the go.
"We have to focus on the things we can control," Sendek said. "Right now, we're just thrilled he's able to start practicing with us."
"It's a little bit deflating, but I look at things on the brighter side," Carson said. "Being able to practice, be around my team, be around my coaching staff [and] be around people who have been around me since August supporting and caring for me is outstanding."
And really though, from listening to Sendek speak Friday, it sounded like he had been preparing for life without Jahii for quite some time now. When asked if this news changes anything about his game plan for the season, Sendek gave a quick and resounding "no."
"We have been making adjustments as we've gone along that are in the best interest of the guys who are available and able to play," Sendek said. "...a good while ago, before we started the season, we had some plans in place that most certainly included some thing that [Carson] did best but we've moved forward."
As you can see, Sendek is very aware that he has always had to make the best of what he has to work with and that conviction hasn't wavered. It really just comes down to how Carson deals with the NCAA's declaration and from in the early going, it sounds like he's approaching it as a "learning process."
"In high school, I was just a little bit immature," Carson said. "I didn't do things I was suppose to do. Now [that] I'm in college, I stepped up my game to a whole new level."
Sun Devil fans can also take consolation in the fact that Carson never even contemplated transferring to a junior college or different university stating "I gave my pledge to Coach Sendek and the ASU basketball staff and I was going to stick with that."
At the same time though, it's difficult, even for Coach Sendek, not to look to next year and be at least relatively eager.
"If you peak over the horizon with some of the guys we have sitting out, with our recruiting class coming [in], with this team not having a senior on the roster, there's reason for great hope and excitement."