As the USA Under-19 team runs roughshod over the competition at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Latvia, one particular story is of interest to Sun Devils fans. Despite receiving limited playing time during the tournament, 18-year old Jahii Carson is flaunting a skillset that made him one of the coveted point guards of the 2011 incoming class, and ASU's most heralded recruit since James Harden.
As the only member of the U19 to make the team without college experience, the tournament has served as a learning experience for Carson. Yet, through five FIBA games, and just 42 minutes, the explosive 5'11" guard has already amassed 16 assists.
When extrapolated out, that number translates to 13.7 assists per 36 minutes, an extremely good average for a player of so young an age. Court vision is one of the most important traits in a point guard, but it is also one of the last to mature. In that respect, Carson already seems to be well ahead of his peers.
"He's a talented point guard that carries a certain amount of expectations," Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek said to ESPN.com. "Although we expect really good things, we take it one day at a time. He'll have a role to play and be a part of our team."
Despite the coach's even-handedness, make no mistake about it, the goal is for Carson to transform next year's version of the Arizona State basketball program into a entirely different beast from the one that ranked at the bottom of the Pac-10 in ‘10-‘11. With Sendek's lauded incoming freshman class -- which also includes fellow blue-chipper Hersey Hawkins -- in addition to burgeoning star Trent Lockett, the Sun Devils will finally have the tools to flip their traditionally slow and measured offense onto its head.
"He basically said teams think that we're a slowdown program, and there's times when he hadn't really had a point guard that felt comfortable pushing the tempo," Carson excitedly explained. "He wants to put the ball in my hands, and he just wants to push the basketball so we can change to an up-tempo type of game."
Last year the Sun Devils averaged an abysmal 64 points a game, good for last in the Pac-10 and 292nd in the nation. But it only takes a single player to turn around the fortunes of a college basketball program, a fact that Sendek is very aware of after watching the fervor that coated the university during James Harden's tenure from 2007-2009.
"He is a very self-confident, charismatic young man who possesses some real leadership abilities," Sendek said. "We look forward to taking advantage of his strengths."
The hope is that those strengths can translate to Sendek's second NCAA tournament appearance since being brought on in 2006. Even still, as a lifelong Arizona native, Carson has bigger plans.
"People from out of state say U of A," says Carson, well aware of the stigma despised by the Sun Devil faithful. "They don't really say Arizona State."
"I just want to change that." He pauses, measuring the weight of the words in his head before forcefully declaring, "I think we can definitely change that."