TEMPE, Ariz. -- It is a bit unusual for a major college program to add a player with only one year of eligibility remaining, but for
Arizona State this season, it was the way to go. The
Sun Devils did it twice.
With top Pac-12 player of the year candidate Jahii Carson already declaring his intention to leave for the NBA after this season and shot-blocking center
Jordan Bachynski entering his senior year, it only made sense to surround them with as much talent as possible for a push toward the NCAA tournament.
Penn State senior transfer
Jermaine Marshall missed ASU's Maroon and Gold game Friday at Wells Fargo Arena with an illness, the scrimmage might be remembered as newcomer Shaquielle McKissic's coming-out party.
McKissic, a 6-foot-4 senior, oozed athleticism from the opening drills, when he and Carson staged an impromptu slam-dunk contest in the layup line. McKissic was the unofficial winner when he threaded the ball between his legs in the air before finishing the dunk. McKissic ran the floor, made 3-pointers from both wings and seemed to be a fine fit in the up-tempo offense coach Herb Sendek plans to employ behind Carson again this season.
Carson, for one, did not need to be convinced. After a few runs with McKissic earlier in June, Carson tweeted: "... he's going to cause a lot of ruckus with me in the backcourt."
McKissic responded Friday: "He's easily the best player I've ever played with in my life. I'm extremely excited about the season. Practices are hard, competitive. Everybody wants those minutes. Everybody is working hard."
After losing contributors
Carrick Felix and
Evan Gordon and lesser helper Chris Colvin, the Sun Devils had room for new blood. Like Felix, McKissic is an elite athlete, a comparison Sendek did not hesitate in making.
"Where he has to be an ace in the hole for us is with his athleticism. He's one of the very best athletes we have. That's his calling card. He shot the ball well. He got a number of easy baskets off our defense," Sendek said.
One year? That is plenty.
"As we've learned here recently recently, college basketball continues to converge to a year-by-year proposition on many fronts, and so with the scholarship available, how could you pass on a guy like that?" Sendek asked.
The running style comes easy to McKissic, who averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists a game at Edmonds (
Wash.) Community College last season after sitting out the previous two years. He attended Kentridge High in
Seattle, leaving in 2009.
"Everybody wants to run. I think everybody wants to get after it," McKissic said.
ASU was a little short-handed in the scrimmage, as Bachynski (sprained ankle) and
Marshall sat out. Bachynski is expected back in practice next week, Sendek said.
Carson's team won three of the four 10-minute quarters as players swapped teams after each quarter, and the sophomore showed a nice touch from long range, hitting several NBA-range 3-pointers.
"I think everybody got a look tonight as how much he has improved as a shooter," Sendek said.
The Sun Devils opened the scrimmage with Carson, returning starter Jonathan Gilling, sophomore Eric Jacobsen, McKissic and freshman Egor Koulechov on one team. When Bachynski and Marshall return, McKissic appears to be the likely candidate to start at small forward.
Sendek mentioned several other players who caught his eye -- junior shooting guard
Bo Barnes, who made several 3-pointers, as well as Gilling and freshman small forward Egor Koulechov -- but it was clear who made the biggest impression.
McKissic did most of his damage in the open floor Friday. The challenge, as he realizes, will come at the other end of the floor. ASU, which played all man-to-man defense last year, played some 1-2-2 zone in the half-court in the scrimmage and trapped out of it.
"They threw a lot at me. It is a real learning experience," McKissic said. "I've never had to learn this much in my life, but the players make it easier. They take me up under their wing and I just listen.
"Just keep my motor running. Stay crashing the boards and keep playing totally unselfish. That's the one thing I learned watching basketball on my couch: The unselfish players are usually always the ones that come to light. That's the way I'm trying to keep it.