The Arizona State Sun Devils open at the second-most famous place in America known as "The Pit" next Tuesday against New Mexico in Albuquerque and ASU coach Herb Sendek is still determining what his playing rotation will be.
On Monday, coach Herb Sendek was asked to name his current starting lineup. His response? The five returning lettermen who saw little to major playing time last season. Those would be guards Ty Abbott, Jamelle McMillan and Trent Lockett, with forward Rihards Kuksiks and big man Ruslan Pateev.
"Right now, this moment, those would be our five starters," Sendek said. But that is always in flux, he indicated.
Kuksiks and Abbott averaged 12.1 and 12 points a game last season. Sendek said freshman guard Corey Hawkins has an injured ankle but that he could be ready to practice later this week.
"I don't know that we've had the full team at any one practice healthy and able to go yet this year," Sendek said. Kuksiks twisted an ankle at the first team practice, and other players have been either sick or banged up over the past few weeks.
Pateev is a seven-footer from Russia who has impressed, McMillan said.
"Ruslan's gotten some footwork from somewhere," McMillan said. "He's down there dancing in the post. It's good to see."
Abbott, McMillan said, has been dominant at both ends of the floor in practice, and is hungry for success in his last year for a shot at playing at the next level.
Beginning with the Lobos in the opener, ASU's schedule is rough. There is the Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving and UAB, Baylor, Richmond and Nevada on the docket before the Pac-10 season begins.
"Our schedule is very good. We have a challenging schedule right from the first game through the last," Sendek said. "It was done very purposely and it's a monumental challenge for our team right now, but we just really believe that that's what our program needs at this point."
The hallmark of Sendek's team has been defense and a slower offensive tempo that frustrates opponents, but this season, Sendek feels he also has good depth and versatility up and down the roster.
"Top to bottom, we're probably a longer team than we've been in the past. We probably have more athletes than we've had in the past," Sendek said. "We might put all 12 (players) in."
Yet Sendek stressed the importance of the fundamentals and playing together as a team. He wants his players to think when they play, not worry about thinking too much.
"We're still learning how to think the game, how to play the game the right way with other guys," he said.