NCAA trip worth the wait for ASU's Pendergraph Print
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Tuesday, 17 March 2009 22:02
NCAAB Headline News


 MIAMI (AP) -Jeff Pendergraph was getting nervous.
It was Selection Sunday and for the first time in his Arizona State career, Pendergraph could watch the unveiling of the NCAA tournament brackets with complete confidence that the Sun Devils were in the field of 65.
Except they weren't on the first of four brackets. Or the second. Or the third.
``We started getting kind of anxious,'' Pendergraph said. ``We're like, 'Holy cow, what's going on?' It seemed like all the other schools in the Pac-10 got picked. Where we at?''
Finally, as the hourlong show was down to its final minutes, Pendergraph got his long-awaited answer: Miami.
And with that, he finally felt relief.
Arizona State (24-9) drew the No. 6 seed as an at-large bid from the Pac-10 in the South regional and will play 11th-seeded Temple (22-11) on Friday, with the winner facing either Syracuse or Stephen F. Austin in the second round.
It's the first NCAA berth for the Sun Devils since 2003.
ys have played in big games, our guys have played against outstanding competition and at the end of the day it's 'Hoosiers' - the basket is 10 feet and it's the same size court and we've got to go play the game,'' Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said, referencing the classic basketball movie.
Pendergraph's time at Arizona State wouldn't make for a bad movie plot, either.
There was the tumor - ultimately benign - in his left leg that threatened his career before he played his first collegiate game. The 10-17 record in his freshman year, followed by a coaching change. The 15-game losing streak in his sophomore year, the first under Sendek. The heartbreak on Selection Sunday as a junior, when his Sun Devils barely missed getting into the NCAA field and settled for a spot in the NIT.
It nearly was enough for Pendergraph to consider the NBA draft a year early. But he came back, averaged 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds this season, and gets a chance now at the cinematic happy ending.
``Feels so good to finally be there,'' Pendergraph said. ``I don't think it's really hit me quite yet. It's such a big deal.''
It's already the winningest season for the Sun Devils since 1994-95, when Bill Frieder's club went 24-9. The last Arizona State team to win more than 24 games was the 1974-75 club that went 25-4 and won two games in the NCAA tournament before losing to UCLA.
No wonder that 8-22 debacle two seasons ago - the worst Arizona State season in nearly 40 years - seems like it happened a lifetime ago to Pendergraph.
``It wasn't so long ago that we don't remember,'' Pendergraph said. ``Guys remember that year and it's definitely given us motivation and cause and drive to get to where we are right now.''
Pendergraph has never been to Miami before, and said he can't wait to see South Florida's famed sand and surf.
He's only half-serious.
This is a business trip in every sense of the phrase for the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder, who knows he's getting only one chance to play in college basketball's greatest showcase.
``Getting to the Big Dance, that's a great feeling in itself right there,'' Pendergraph said. ``It's a great feeling to know that our season's not over, when a lot of teams are already done.''
 

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