Pac-12 foes, watch out.
Arizona State’s Jahii Carson did not come back to college basketball to improve his draft stock.
He did not remain in Tempe to showcase his skills or stay young and party for another year.
He’s not still in town because of any grand sales pitch from his teammates nor his family nor his coaches.
This is straight-up revenge, ruthlessness. The target is on your back. Carson is ready to drop daggers from all over the court, directly into the hearts of Pac-12 point guards.
“I came back to settle scores,” Carson said. “To beat teams we didn’t beat. We didn’t beat Washington one time last year. UCLA, we were 1-2 against. Arizona, we didn’t beat last year. Before I leave, I want to beat those teams, to create a real legacy.”
Carson understands legacy, he preaches it, and he wants one.
The 5-foot-11-inch point guard, with a chip on one shoulder and a roaring, menacing gorilla tattoo on the other, was a coup for Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils when he committed to ASU out of Mesa High in 2010. Rated the No. 10 point guard in his class by Rivals.com, Carson was considered one of the program’s best in-state recruits in years.
His debut was delayed, however, as he did not meet NCAA academic eligibility standards before his freshman season and was forced to redshirt. He remembers his lowest point.
“I think about it still,” Carson said. “It made my team suffer, and I want to prove that the year that I missed, I’m making up for with my play. … The team took a trip to USC, and I think we scored eight points in a half. If I would’ve been able to be there, I felt like I could’ve kept us intact.”
Carson watched that game from his home, sitting on the couch, stewing, just thinking, ‘Wait ’til I get my shot.’
The rest of the conference wishes he waited longer.
Carson shared the Pac-12’s top freshman award with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad after averaging 18.5 points per game, the second-best mark for a Sun Devil freshman in team history. He set several school freshman records, including points and minutes played, but while Carson achieved some of the individual goals he set for himself last season, the team aspirations fell short.
“The team goals we set for ourselves, we didn’t quite make it,” Carson said of the Sun Devils, who, despite 22 wins, were left out of the NCAA tournament. “I didn’t think we showcased ourselves the way we were supposed to. It definitely was a bummer. People who don’t watch basketball watch during tournament (time).
“That’s how people blow up.”
Those closest to him understand that this is Carson’s swan song, that he intends to ride off into the Arizona sunset after the season and leave for the NBA. Carson said he has appreciated the advice of Sendek — “My mom and I have the ability to read through people,” Carson said, “and we didn’t really read through him because there was nothing false” — and of former ASU greats.
Carson is connected to the prominent Sun Devils of recent history, including Houston Rockets guard James Harden, with whom he speaks often.
“About once a month; I know he’s busy, so I try not to bug him,” Carson said. “He tries to let me know what I need to do, what I need to accomplish, how to focus on the task at hand.”
You get the feeling that he longs to do the same for the next ASU great. That he wants to talk about his three years in Tempe and his two seasons with the Sun Devils and his one love, basketball, the reason he ended up staying for one more year.
He just has some things to attend to first.
“They’re gonna remember us,” Carson said.