When walking into Wells Fargo Arena for an Arizona State basketball game, one thing is certain: there will be plenty of ASU James Harden jerseys in the crowd. This seems only fair given that Harden is fresh off of winning the NBA MVP award and is the most famous hooper in Sun Devil history to today’s audience. You might even see his Houston jersey, which was the sixth-highest sold in the NBA last season, but there are plenty of other players making their mark in other leagues who all have Maroon and Gold in their blood. We’ll go through a few who are succeeding even though they aren’t in the NBA.
G: Briann January, Phoenix Mercury, WNBA
January is still popular on the Arizona State campus given her involvement as an assistant coach with ASU women’s basketball during the WNBA offseason.
January was the starting point guard for the Phoenix Mercury in 2018. She just wrapped up her tenth season, nine of which were spent in Indiana on the Fever. In her first campaign back in the desert, she led the WNBA in three-point percentage at a career high 47 percent mark – one of just nine players who to eclipse 40 percent from beyond the arc in the league. The Mercury just missed making the WNBA finals for the fifth time in their history, after falling in a decisive game five to the eventual champion Seattle Storm.
G: Shannon Evans II, Atomeromu SE Paks, Hungary A Division
Just last March, Evans was representing the Sun Devils in the NCAA Tournament. ASU fell in their First Four game against Syracuse, but Evans finished his Sun Devil career with an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention award while averaging 17.5 points per game as a senior. Evans dazzled “The Bank” with his energy and late game heroics, and he continues his basketball career abroad.
He made an NBA Summer League Roster with Houston, but the former Sun Devil never played a minute. He was cut, but found a home in Hungary, where he is off to a hot start.
For the 3-5 Atomeromu, Evans is leading the team with 17 points per game (eighth in the league) while shooting 41 percent from three, a higher rate than he ever shot in college, according to basketballrealgm.com. He also ranks among the best in the league at the charity stripe, making 93 percent of his free throws. If he can keep this up, he could be playing basketball for a long time.
G: Promise Amukamara, Alexandria, Romania D-1
Considering ASU’s “Guard U” nickname from last season, I’ll put a third capable guard here. Promise Amukamara played four seasons at ASU, from 2011-2015, the final being with her sister Peace. Amukamara, 25, shined in Romania last season in every facet of the game. She scored her professional career high 20 points per game (she has played on three European clubs), picking up three steals, 5.5 rebounds and shooting 50 percent from the field (41 from three).
The former Phoenix Mercury draft pick also displayed her talent at the 2018 FIBA World Cup representing Nigeria. Her 16-point performance led her national squad to a win over favored Argentina, and overall Nigeria finished a respectable 3-4 and was ranked 19th in the world by FIBA.
F: Willie Atwood, Surrey Scorchers, British Basketball League
It’s tough to find players with size from ASU who still play, but the 6’8”, 210-pound Willie Atwood has a solid role and has performed well in Britain. A member of Arizona State basketball from only 2014-2015, Atwood now plays for the Scorchers where he fills a solid role contributing across the board – fourth on the team in points, blocks, rebounds and assists.
He exploded for 26 points and nine rebounds on October 21, a game of which he connected on six threes. Like many other Sun Devils, his three-point stroke has been working. He shoots 38 percent, third on his club. This is Atwood’s third season overseas, scoring a career best 11.9 points per contest.
C: Jeff Ayres, Ryukyu Golden Kings, B. League, Japan
Formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph, he played on four NBA teams, including the 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs. He even played in the Summer League this year. He scored 10.5 points per game for the Lakers, but instead of playing at Staples Center, he plays in Okinawa, Japan for the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
He has previous experience in the B. League as a member of the 2016-2017 Toyota Alvark. Ayres scored 12.4 points with 7.2 boards per game there, but on the Golden Kings, he has bumped those numbers up. The former Devil also has career highs in effective field goal percentage (.605) and blocks. His team is 12-5 so far.
Honorable Mention: Kodi Justice, Parma, VTB United League, Russia
The former four-year Sun Devil has quickly established himself as the best scorer on his new team.
He leads Parma in points per game with 14.6, much of which come from three. Justice was a capable shooter in Tempe, where he shot 40 percent in every season but one, but in Russia he is hitting a team best 44 percent from deep. The team is struggling at just 2-5, but Justice has found a home for himself in pro basketball for the time being.
Honorable Mention: Torian Graham, APOEL B.C., Cyprus
Finally, Arizona State basketball’s leading scorer in 2016-2017 now plays in Cyprus, an island just south of Turkey. There, he has put up capable numbers despite struggling from three. He shoots just 20 percent from beyond the arc, a complete departure from his time at ASU, but he still manages over 14 points on over 60 percent shooting from the field. Part of it has been his effort, grabbing 5.4 rebounds per game despite being just 6’5”. If he can maintain his effort, the shooting will probably come around and he could continue his ascent.
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