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November 13, 2010

Carson signs with Arizona State

At center court of his high school gym Friday, Mesa star point guard Jahii Carson made perhaps the biggest assist of his career.

He used a pen instead of a basketball.

In front of teammates, cheerleaders, family members and television cameras, Carson, the No. 9 point guard and No. 35 overall prospect nationally, became the highest profile in-state prospect in history to sign with Arizona State.

From Sean Elliott to Richardson Jefferson, Mike Bibby and Jerryd Bayless, a relentless stream of local talent has rushed directly and unimpededly to the University of Arizona over the last two-plus decades.

Until Friday, the Sun Devils hadn't scored a true superstar local recruit since Fat Lever in 1978, which happened to be the program's first season in the Pac-10.

Carson's decision certainly didn't stem the flow to Tucson in and of itself, but it was an important first step in the water; one Carson said he wanted to make.

"Me being an Arizona native," Carson said in an interview following his August commitment, "it would be common for me to go to Arizona and be a really good point guard. But I can be the first one in a really long time to come out of Arizona and go to Arizona State and be a really good point guard. So that's something that really appealed to me."

No doubt, it appealed to ASU's coaches as well, as they now have a local big name player they can build around as they attempt to take their program to the next level.

"I think Jahii is the kind of guy other guys like to play with and I think he'll have a very strong gravitational pull," Sun Devil coach Herb Sendek said Friday. "So that will be another thing we can promote and sell in our program. Obviously there's a lot of variables any time you recruit an individual but certainly to play with a good point guard and a guy who is charismatic and fun to be alongside can't hurt."

A freakish athlete known for high flying dunks which seem to defy gravity considering he is a diminutive 5-foot-10, Carson averaged 23 points last season at Mesa and has already set the school's all-time assist record.

"He's a charismatic young man," Sendek said. "He's one of those guys who everyone hopes is on his team when pick up comes. He's got a lot of natural leadership ability. He's likeable, easy to gravitate to. Those are qualities that are obviously very important in a lead guard. But he's an extremely talented young man. He's quick off the bounce, he can beat you with his shot as well as his pass and he really works at it on the defensive end of the floor."

Carson said he's not one to shy away from the expectations that come along with being not only an elite prospect, but being the first such prospect to stay home and play for ASU in decades.

At the same time, he knows he's just getting started in the quest to reach his ultimate dream.

"Right now I can pretty much go off athletic ability," he said. "In college you've got to think the game a little bit more. Guys are going to be a little quicker, a little faster, a little stronger and they're going to play defense a little tougher. So I'm going to have to make more intelligent decisions because I'm going to have to think about what I'm going to do before I do it. I'm going to have to get a little stronger and I'm going to have to work on my outside jump shot."

He'll have plenty of time. As his coach Shane Burcar reminded him Friday, there's still the goal of a high school championship ahead of them this season, and perhaps even the chance to make an even more impacting assist than the one made Friday.

But that won't be easy.


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