TEMPE, Ariz. - The regular season begins Friday.
And while expectations for the 2013-14 ASU Sun Devils basketball team are high, head coach Herb Sendek, while expecting a good season himself, is unsure how his club will navigate the upcoming journey.
"One thing I've really challenged our guys with the last week is let's establish what our identity is," Sendek said. "What kind of team are we? And it can't just be because we choose to call ourselves something or the coach says we're supposed to be this. But who are we? What are we going to hang our hat on?
"We are still searching to find out what are we going to be really good at. When the rubber meets the road, what is this team all about? What is our identity? Because there's a lot of different ways to win and teams do it in different ways."
In what way would Sendek like to see his team operate?
"For a coach, I don't know if it ever gets any better than being able to say your guys played with consistent and regular great effort," he said.
"The greatest compliment that we could ever earn is we played with unconscionable effort, that we just gave all of ourselves. Then the other thing that would be really important to us (is) did we play together, did we play as a team."
That has been the challenge for Sendek as he enters his eighth season at ASU.
Three starters return from last year's 22-win squad, which advanced to the NIT second round before losing at Baylor: point guard Jahii Carson, forward Jon Gilling and center Jordan Bachynski.
Gone are Carrick Felix (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Evan Gordon (transferred to Indiana).
In their place are transfers Jermaine Marshall (Penn State) and Shaquille McKissic (Edmonds CC), two of the eight new faces on the roster.
Even with six weeks of practice time, ASU is "still very much developing habits," according to Sendek.
There were also exhibition games against St. Mary's and the University of San Francisco for Sendek to experiment with player combinations and roles.
"They've been great opportunities to learn about our personnel, to learn about ourselves," he said.
Having his team up to speed by tipoff against University of Maryland-Baltimore County means keeping the focus simple.
"Understanding what it takes to win and what constitutes winning plays. And it's not the spectacular, but it's the simple, basic things; the fundamentals, the attention to great detail," Sendek said. "Those are areas that we're really trying to zero in on as we approach Friday's game."