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October 16, 2010

Abbott poised for big senior season

Asked whether he thinks often about the accomplishments which have enabled him to be selected to the John Wooden Award Preseason Watch List this year, Arizona State senior guard Ty Abbott characteristically re-directed the focus to his team.

"No, not really," Abbott said. "I just want to win."

Maybe that's one of the reasons Sun Devil coach Herb Sendek called Abbott one of the best leaders he's ever coached at the team's Media Day Wednesday.

Abbott is a player who genuinely cares more about the sum of the whole than the individual components.

But make no mistake, his is a most important component.

In his three year career, the Sun Devils are 37-12 (.755) when Abbott scores in double figures. He's also one of the best defending and rebounding guards to play at ASU in recent history.

It's his commitment to excellence, however, which makes the biggest and most consistent impression according to those in and around the program.

"Ty is a guy that is an every day guy," senior teammate Jamelle McMillan said. "He comes in every single day and you know what you are going to get, you know what to expect. He is a guy where you feed off him, just his presence alone.

"In the weight room especially, I think he lifts like 400 pounds, or something ridiculous, and on the court he doesn't get tired, he is running forever, always on the ball defender, high-octane guy, and offensively he will shoot it from anywhere.

"This guy is going to make you better and wants to make you better. Just seeing him from day one till now I am extremely proud of what he has been able to accomplish, and he should be extremely proud of his career so far, and hopefully he will build off that this year."

After having arthroscopic knee surgery as practice was about to get underway last October, Abbott eased out of the gates during non-conference play before exploding for 15.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in Pac-10 play, where he earned first-team all-conference honors.

"I think Ty has worked as hard as anybody this off season I think he is very determined and dedicated, extremely focused and he has always been like that," Sendek said. "I remember September skill workouts when he was a freshman, he would snap a pass, he would cut hard, he always had great attention to detail even as a young guy. Now he has a wealth of experience, his body has continued to change I think he is in the best condition of his career right now he has really dedicated himself and worked hard during the off season and I think he is ready to have a great season."

Abbott's most important role may be his ability to impact ASU's largest recruiting class in at least a decade with his knowledge, humility and work ethic. Seven newcomers will be asked to mesh with five returning players as the Sun Devils attempt to win 20 or more games in a fourth straight season for the first time in more than a half century.

"He's taken me under his wing a lot," high profile freshman guard Keala King said. "When I come to the weight room and conditioning, he pushes me hard. It's great because I've never had somebody to look up to that's been in college and knows what's going on and has the feel of everything when he gets on the court. Someone who has been in college for four years and is that good taking me under his wing, it feels great."

Another impressive season by Abbott could put him in position to be taken in next year's NBA Draft. An intense student of the game, Abbott spent a lot of time in the offseason watching NBA games and tape to make little tweaks to his game which can lead to big improvements.

"Just the way those guys, they constantly get defenders out of position, which makes them have to catch up or bring second defenders so they can either make a teammate better or pass it," Abbott said, when asked what he specifically took from watching elite NBA guards. "Make them give them a wide-open shot or they will beat them so bad to the point that they have to foul, and they draw the foul. I feel like the easiest ways to put points on the board is from the free throw line. The clock is stopped and you have a chance to get some free points. I think that's the biggest thing that I try to incorporate."

With increased athleticism and versatility, the Sun Devils are looking to put last season's post-regular-season disappointment completely in the rear view mirror. ASU exceeded all expectations to finish second place in the Pac-10 for the first time since 1981 before losing in the opening rounds of the Pac-10 Tournament and NIT Tournament.

"I don't really think about it that much," Abbott said. "I know it happened and it was a lesson learned. We had the opportunities to make something out of our season and we let it go. We know what we have to do this year and with the guys back that were around for that last year we know what it feels like. We know when we have to pick it up a little bit and get the freshman on the right page and keep it going."


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