Arizona State Week: One-on-One With Jahii CarsonPosted by AMurawa on June 13th, 2012
Point guard Jahii Carson signed with Arizona State as the crown jewel of their 2011 recruiting class, a four-star recruit rated by ESPNU as the eighth-best point guard in his class. With lightning quick speed and stunning athleticism, Carson was supposed to provide Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils with a pure point guard, something that the team had been missing in 2010-11. But, after being declared academically ineligible for the 2011-12 season, he spent last season watching from the bench as his new team struggled to a 10-21 season. However, Carson’s academics are back on track and he is expected to slide right into the starting lineup this season for the Sun Devils. RTC’s Andrew Murawa had a chance to talk to Carson last week.
Andrew Murawa: Last year was not a great year for the team and it must have been hard for you sitting out and watching your team as it struggled. Were there any positives you got out of watching your team last year?
Jahii Carson: I like to think of myself as a student of the game. And watching games when I’m not playing, when I’m not on the court, I can see things that I wouldn’t see if I was on the court. I can break down the other team’s defenses, I can look at what type of offenses we can run against those defenses. I can learn my teammates’ skills and their weaknesses. I can learn what offense they thrive in and where and how they want the ball on offense. So, I just became more of a student of the game having to sit on the sidelines.
AM: You got a chance to practice with the team last year as did transfers Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon. Having a year before you actually got a chance to step on the court, does that give you a benefit going into this season?
JC: Being able to practice with the guys, being able to learn their strengths and weaknesses, that helps me figure out how I can be better on the basketball court helping them. Evan Gordon, he’s more of a scorer, a slasher – a smaller, undersized slasher – but he uses his tools to his ability. Bo Barnes is more of a three-point shooter, who is learning to put the ball on the floor and being able to beat defenders off the dribble. And me being able to practice and watch them grow as players every day allowed me to make those assessments about those guys. So, I think that me sitting out last year helped me learn my teammates’ game and their strengths and weaknesses a bit more.
AM: Okay, you gave me a little breakdown of Barnes and Gordon. Give me a critique of your game. What’s your biggest strength and what do you need to work on the most?
JC: I’m a fast guy with the basketball, and I have a quick step. I’m real explosive and I can think and look at things that happen on the floor before they happen. I’ve got a strong, dominant right hand, and I think I can get to my right hand at any point in time, but I think one of my weaknesses is that I tend not to go left very much. My left hand is way weaker than my right. Also, I think my jumper is a little inconsistent. I’m a scorer, so you know when I get streaky I can hit jump shots, but as far as my consistency, I don’t think that consistency is there yet. Aside from that, I think my strength is something I need to work on as well. My left hand, my jumpshot being more consistent and getting stronger are the things I most need to work on.
AM: You mentioned speed as one of your main strengths; I talked to Coach Sendek earlier in the week and he said he expects you guys to play at as fast a pace as anybody in the Pac-12. You got any thoughts on that?
JC: I think that’s the truth. He sees that the athletic capability that we have on this team, I think he see that we can play as fast as anyone in the Pac-12. I think with me at the point guard position we can push the tempo as fast as anyone. You know, with Carrick Felix on the wing, he’s a very athletic guy. Evan Gordon, Bo Barnes, Jonathan Gilling, those guys are all able to get out and run. Our bigs, J.B. (Jordan Bachynski), Ruslan (Pateev), the incoming freshmen, they all have athletic traits. I think that the tempo that Coach is looking to play at, all of our players can thrive in that system.
AM: Can you tell me a little bit about those new freshmen? Have you had a chance to scope them out?
JC: Oh yeah, me and Calaen Robinson have played together for a while. He’s a younger guy that has looked up to the older guys in the basketball state of Arizona. Eric Jacobsen, he played in my region in high school. I went to Mesa High, and he played in our Fiesta region. So I got a chance to play against him for three years when we were in high school. Kenny Martin? I haven’t got a chance to see his game. I’ve heard a lot about him, how versatile he is, how he can shoot threes and get out in transition as a factor in his game. Calen Robinson I think is gonna be a great addition. He’s a slasher, he’s streaky as well. Eric Jacobsen is a big body, he knows the game well, he’s able to use his size on defense, he can contest layups and floaters and jump shots without fouling – he’s one of the big guys who don’t foul. So we’ve got a good group of guys coming in.
AM: Can you tell me a little bit about Coach Sendek, now that you’ve spent some time sitting on the bench with him last year, as well as your experience with him in the recruiting process? How would you describe him and his style as a coach.
JC: I would say that Coach Sendek is an intelligent coach. People describe him as a slower tempo type of coach, but I don’t think that he’s like that. I think he wants to put his players in the best possible system so that they can succeed. I think that he’s had some point guards before who weren’t as comfortable playing in that uptempo situation. With me being a player who thrives in an uptempo situation, I think that’s what he’s going to put us in. Coach Sendek is smart, he knows a lot about the game, he knows a lot about player development and a lot about team development. And he uses his staff well. He’s able to say things to his staff that helps them with recruiting, with better skill work, better film work and how different strategies work in a game. And he’s a very charismatic guy who is able to get along well with our staff, with students, with fans. And he’s real good with our team. Nobody dreads Coach Sendek. Everybody has a positive vibe about him.
AM: Okay, lastly, have you been watching the NBA playoffs at all?
JC: I have. I have. I’m a huge fan of the OKC Thunder because James (Harden) and I are really close. So that’s one of my favorite teams.
AM: Nice. Is there one particular point guard that you’ve watched so far this year that you’ve really been going to school on and trying to learn from their game?
JC: Yes, definitely Tony Parker. I love the way he plays. He’s able to cut through the defense. He’s able to use his body to shield off the bigs when he goes to the basket. The way he’s able to run the pick and roll and use the midrange jumper to his advantage. Another guy that I like, and I know his team’s been out a while, is Ty Lawson. I look at me and Ty Lawson as kind of similar players. I think I might be a little bit more explosive as far as the vertical leap goes, but as far as speed, quickness, handle, hitting little midrange jumpshots, being a scoring point guard but at the same time getting his teammates involved, letting the game come to him. I think me and him are similar in those types of ways. He’s definitely a guy for me to look up to.
AM: Okay Jahii, looking forward to seeing you this year. Good luck in the summer and good luck with the team this fall.
JC: Thank you, I appreciate it.