Lindy's Sports, special to The Sports Xchange

The SportsXchange

The play unfolded early in the first half on a wet night at Oregon State.

After a made free throw, Jahii Carson took a pass and darted upcourt, needing four dribbles and just four seconds to go the length of the court and lay the ball in.

For this particular conversation, this is Exhibit A.

Proof that the Arizona State sophomore is college basketball's quickest point guard, approaching All-America status inside a program that needs a star.

Herb Sendek doesn't need convincing. The eighth-year Arizona State coach says it emphatically: "We have the fastest point guard in college basketball. Who's faster than him?"

Last season, Carson averaged 18.5 points and 5.1 assists, sharing Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad. Had the Sun Devils not faded - missing out on an at-large NCAA Tournament bid - he may have been the conference's Player of the Year.

Carson considered turning pro at season's end but opted to return to school, hoping to follow a path similar to that of former Michigan guard Trey Burke.

"One of my goals is to win the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 Tournament," Carson said. "First-team All-American would just top it off, as well as making the NCAA Tournament."

Carson hasn't had an easy road. A four-star prospect coming out of nearby Mesa High in 2011, he was ruled an academic non-qualifier and couldn't play his freshman season. Still, leading up to last season, Arizona State put Carson front and center, selling him to fans before he had taken one collegiate jump shot. The school's belief: The point guard could handle the pressure.

It was right.

"The way he handled the avalanche of expectations with such grace and poise for a young guy (was impressive)," Sendek said. "As you recall, the buildup for his first appearance was bigger than any Broadway show, bigger than any motion-picture debut. And yet he handled it all in stride."

Carson improved as the season unfolded. In Arizona State's final seven games, he averaged 22.4 points, shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range. The masterpiece: A 34-point effort in a Pac-12 Tournament win over Stanford, Arizona State's first postseason win since James Harden left campus.

"In big moments, on grand stages, he's at his best," Sendek said.

"We didn't make the tournament last year so a lot of people didn't get to see me," he said. "I just want to make my name known across the globe. When people watch college basketball, I want to be a name that people talk about, just like Trey Burke was last year, how he was able to take his team over the top in crucial moments. That's what I'm looking to do at Arizona State."

- Doug Haller

POINT GUARDS

1. Marcus Smart, 6-4, So., Oklahoma State: There were recruiting "gurus" who didn't think he was a PG. LOL.

2. Aaron Craft, 6-2, Sr., Ohio State: He's a good enough leader to carry team to Big Ten title.

3. Kendall Williams, 6-4, Sr., New Mexico: The truth be told, he's the best "combo guard" in college.

4. Jahii Carson, 5-11, So., Arizona State: The word "dynamic" was coined to describe players like this guy.

5. Elfrid Payton, 6-3, Jr., Louisiana-Lafayette: No relation to Gary; he just plays a lot like the HOFer did.

6. Keith Appling, 6-3, Sr., Michigan State: He doesn't fall far from the MSU "PG tree."

7. Andre Hollins, 6-1, Jr., Minnesota: As you can see, there are a lot of very good PGs in the Big Ten.

8. Kevin Pangos, 6-2, Jr., Gonzaga: Say hello to the WCC's next Player of the Year.

9. Shabazz Napier, 6-0, Sr., Connecticut: Remember when he played on the Huskies' title team about 15 years ago?

10. Justin Cobbs, 6-2, Sr., Cal: The Big Ten's loss was the Pac 12's (and Mike Montgomery's) gain.

11. Kyle Anderson, 6-8, So., UCLA: No backhanded praise: He's the best "big PG" in the college.

12. Chaz Williams, 5-8, Sr., Massachusetts: Would win a lot of races, with or without dribbling.

13. D.J. Irving, 6-0, Sr., Boston U: He's "best in show" among this group of Terriers.

14. Eric Atkins, 6-2 Sr., Notre Dame: Atkins will help made ACC landing a smooth one indeed.

15. Siyani Chambers, 6-0, So., Harvard: The quarterback for the best Ivy League team in four years.

16. Jake Odum, 6-4, Sr., Indiana State: After Elfrid Payton, the best PG most college fans have yet to see.

17. Anthony Ireland, 6-0, Sr., Loyola Marymount: A couple of cool Kevin Pangos matchups this season.

18. Quinn Cook, 6-0, Jr., Duke: We'll offer him up as a sleeper for ACC POY.

19. Yogi Ferrell, 6-0, So., Indiana: Should be able to handle expanded role quite nicely.

20. Joe Jackson, 6-1, Sr., Memphis: There has been steady progress each semester for this guy.

21. Derrick Marks, 6-3, Jr., Boise State: A reason the Broncos could surprise a whole lot of folks.

22. T.J. McConnell, 6-0, Jr., Arizona: The true PG the Wildcats were missing last season.

23. Deonte Burton, 6-3, Sr., Nevada: The WAC to MWC transition had some wobbly moments.

24. Marcus Paige, 6-1, So., North Carolina: By March, rating him this low could look very shortsighted.

25. Ryan Arcidiacono, 6-3, So., Villanova: Maybe spelling his name will be a breeze when he's a senior.

Freshmen of note: Andrew Harrison, Kentucky; Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington

For more college basketball previews and sports information, visit www.lindyssports.com. Like them on Facebook and follow on Twitter at @Lindyssportsmag.
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