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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

March 22, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Will the last Sun Devil out of the gym kindly hit the light switch?

Trent Lockett, Arizona State’s excellent guard and the Sun Devils’ leading scorer and rebounder this season, is positioning himself to move closer to his home in Minneapolis to be nearer his mother, who is battling cancer. After the Arizona Republic wrote this week that he had asked for his scholarship release, the school issued statements from both Lockett and coach Herb Sendek clarifying Lockett’s situation.

Said Lockett, “At this time, my energy and focus needs to start now on being as close to my mom as I can while at the same time pursuing career goals with one year of college basketball remaining. However, that does not mean I have closed the door on returning next season to ASU. It only means I have to prepare.”

If Lockett leaves with a year left in eligibility, it would be the third Sun Devil in recent days to announce a premature departure, and fourth since January. Kyle Cain, the third-leading scorer, made it known this week he is transferring, and before that, wing Chanse Creekmur said he was leaving to pursue football at a school closer to his Iowa home. Guard Keala King was booted from the team in January for violating team rules.

According to the Republic, Lockett’s departure, if it comes about, would make 12 scholarship players having left ASU in four years.

Here’s a measuring stick: Last summer, I assessed some recent attrition from the Gonzaga program by checking it against the Pac-10 programs (in the league’s earlier iteration). Average attrition in a three-year period (entering classes of 2008-2010) was about four players per program, discounting those who left early for the NBA. But it was only three per program in cases where there wasn’t a coaching change. That would include ASU.

So 12 in four years represents a shocking amount of attrition, even if you factor in a few departures for reasons unrelated to unhappiness with the program.

In the ASU-issued Lockett statement, Sendek said in part, “The main reason we’ve had student-athletes transfer out of our program is a combination of expectations around playing time and holding them accountable for their actions. It is important that we maintain certain standards and expectations and not lower them . . . during this past season, I have done a deep introspective look at our program under my leadership. I take ownership of the past two seasons and understand where and who we need to recruit.”
When the Pac-12 announced its all-league teams recently, the Sun Devils had a complete whiff on everything. There was nary an ASU player to be found — among 15 players on the first two all-league teams; six honorable-mention selectees; the all-freshman team (and two named honorable mention); and the all-defensive team (and three honorable-mention picks). That’s a fairly breathtaking strikeout, in a league which challenged its all-time low-water marks for competitiveness.
If Lockett leaves, joining Cain and Creekmur, that’s a combined 55 starts from ASU’s 10-21 team.
Help is coming next year, in the form of point guard Jahii Carson, whose ineligibility was a key to ASU’s fortunes in 2011-12, and players like 6-9 local product Kenny Martin.
I’m told Sendek, who got a contract extension in December from ASU, is a terrific guy and an uncommonly bright coach. But it’s an understatement to say this is not trending well.



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