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McKissic, other transfers, big part of ASU men’s basketball plans

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TEMPE ­– Just over five years ago, Shaquielle McKissic’s life was in turmoil.

First, he was arrested for attempted residential burglary in his native Washington state and served two years’ probation following three months in jail. The following year, his closest friend was shot and killed outside a party.

After garnering major college attention his senior year of high school in Kent, Washington, in the 2008-2009 season, he was unable to play collegiate basketball for two years until he saved enough money to register for classes at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington.

Set to begin his second season starting at guard for the Arizona State men’s basketball, McKissic said he looks to get past his hard times and struggles.

“That was a lot of last year’s talk, you know?” he said. “I‘m just kinda focused more so on the team.”

In his first year with the Sun Devils, McKissic averaged 9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as ASU finished 21-12 and made its first NCAA Tournament since 2009.

“I feel like it’s a dream come true,” he said. “To play last year, to go to the tournament, to have that feeling from where I was at two years ago to now, you know, it’s just excitement.”

McKissic’s road to ASU began when assistant coach Stan Johnson, as part of an effort to recruit more junior college transfers, got wind of his talent.

“I got him on the phone, and I could tell by his spirit, his demeanor, with all the people I had talked to, his coaches … previous coaches that he’d played for all the way back to his incident he had in high school, that this was a guy worth taking a chance on and giving another opportunity,” Johnson said. listen

“We’re certainly happy we did that,” he added.

McKissic is just one of several junior college transfers who have paid of for ASU in the last four seasons, but Johnson admitted the staff’s reservations about McKissic.

“He was the one guy we didn’t know what to expect of him coming in,” he said.

McKissic gave them no reason to worry.

“To his credit, he just wanted to grow,” Johnson said. “He just wanted to get better. He was a sponge. To do what he did last year, we never would have expected that.”

In light of his complicated past, the NCAA granted McKissic with an extra year of eligibility so he could return for this season.

“It was an unbelievable moment. It was like signing to ASU all over again,” McKissic said. “When you don’t know what’s gonna happen and your future is up in the air, it’s kind of a scary feeling every night.” listen

ASU’s 2014 roster includes four newcomers, some from junior colleges. McKissic said he’s excited to play with JUCO transfers because he can relate to them.

“I feel like we have an extreme amount of heart. Playing with JUCO players, everybody has a chip on their shoulder,” he said.

Head coach Herb Sendek said he agrees with McKissic but would word it a different way.

“It’s not so much chips on their shoulders, but to me they don’t have, as a rule of thumb, a feeling of entitlement …They’re excited about being here, you know? They love being Sun Devils,” he said. listen

Gerry Blakes, a transfer from San Bernardino Valley College, said the youth of the team makes it dynamic on the court.

“I feel like we’re a great defensive team. We have a lot of athletes this year,” he said.

Savon Goodman, a sophomore forward who played one season for UNLV, said the team has obvious flaws but is aware of the identity it wants to have.

“We’re just trying to, you know, get acclimated to the kind of offense we’re running, the type of team we want to be. Run and gun,” he said. “We’re definitely undersized and that’s not hidden.” listen

Goodman spent last season at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, but did not play.

Sendek said the anatomy of this team is unlike any other team ASU has ever had and that the sport is made for rosters featuring transfers.

“It just seems to make great sense, the way college basketball has evolved and where we’re positioned to attract the best junior college players in the country here at Arizona State,” he said.