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ASU Basketball: Bobby Hurley has High Hopes for Taller, Stronger Jalen Graham

Sophomore Jalen Graham impressing coach Bobby Hurley early in the preseaon

Arizona State basketball seemingly had a dream offseason.

It brought in the highest-rated recruit in school history, wing Josh Christopher. As a whole, its 2020 recruiting class is ranked seventh in the country by 247Sports.

Reigning All-Pac-12 first-teamer Remy Martin announced he is returning for his senior year on Sunday and defending conference Sixth-Man of the Year Alonzo Verge Jr. is also coming back for one more year.

The biggest hit ASU took was losing its big man.

Center Romello White was a starter for ASU for three years, but he will finish his college career at Mississippi. That leaves a lot on the plate for sophomore center Jalen Graham and other front court players to fill in the gap.

On Wednesday, Hurley addressed the media via a virtual press conference. He said Graham looks a bit different now than when the season ended.

“[Graham] has grown a little bit over an inch,” Hurley said. “He has started to fill out a little more.”

Graham was listed as 6-foot-9, 205 pounds in his freshman year.

He used his wingspan to be a defensive presence, blocking over a shot per game. On offense, he could’ve used a bit more bulk to back defenders down, but now it appears that he has that. His additional size could also help him as a pick-and-roll partner, with his length coming in handy on finishing above defenders.

White was vital on the glass as the only Sun Devil who grabbed more than four boards per game last year. That and interior defense will likely be Graham’s most important jobs given how much perimeter scoring ASU now has.

Hurley said Graham showed up in Tempe recently to work out with his coach and showed good signs.

“[Graham] was doing some special things for a guy who’s only been in workouts for me for about a week,” Hurley said. “We have high hopes for him and for what he’s going to be able to do this year.”

Graham is ASU’s only center with more than five minutes of Pac-12 experience, but there is the possibility of ASU going smaller.

Taeshon Cherry is listed at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds. He could perhaps be a small-ball center, as his defense and rebounding impressed Hurley last year.

Hurley liked the “dirty work,” Cherry prided himself with down the stretch.

Incoming four-star recruit Pavlo Dzuiba enters Tempe as one of the team’s bigger players at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds. He fits the mold more as a stretch four, but his rebounding numbers in FIBA basketball are promising for a team that could use some help with that.

Hurley alluded to having flexibility with his front court, and the Sun Devils do have good length with their wings. But, compared to the rest of the roster’s strengths, the interior could be trouble unless Graham elevates in his second year.

Graham impressing Hurley in preseason workouts is a great early sign, and how he progresses is something to monitor as fall approaches.