There’s a first time for everything.
For Bobby Hurley, his first commit since becoming head coach at ASU came from a dead-eye wing from Seattle named Sam Cunliffe.
Cunliffe and his Rainier Beach squad are participating in the Hoophall West tournament at Chaparral High School this weekend. In their opening round bout, Cunliffe’s future college coach was in attendance along with ASU players Tra Holder and Maurice O’Field.
Cunliffe put up 19 points and seven rebounds in his Friday night game, and sat with Hurley and after watched St. Anthony, led by Bobby’s father, Bob Hurley, beat Corona del Sol.
“The relationship we have, it’s like I already play for him. I’m already talking to all the coaches,” Cunliffe said. “For him to be able to see me play is a really big thing. He always told me, ‘You’re the first guy for me to ever commit at this school so I feel like I have a different connection with you.’”
Cunliffe’s play has gone to the next level over the past few years. According to him, the credit is due to Rainier Beach head coach Mike Bethea, who has challenged the four-star recruit to step his game up and use his size and strength to do a little bit of everything.
“I feel like I’m a big guard who can shoot, put it on the floor, do everything. I’ve really tried to expand my game to do everything on the court: rebound, play defense, drop a dime, block a shot, everything I can do to help my team win,” Cunliffe said. “That’s what I’ve been able to transform myself into.”
Cunliffe isn’t the only one impressing on the court. Hurley has his Sun Devils sitting at 7-2 with quality wins over Creighton, Texas A&M and UNLV in his first year. Despite the hot start, the Sun Devils’ track record has been in the middle of the Pac(k), and some people have questioned why Cunliffe pledged to the Sun Devils with offers from plenty of Pac-12 schools as well as Gonzaga.
The Sun Devil commit gives them a simple answer.
“I tell them I believe in Coach Hurley. I believe in the staff. I believe all the coaches, all the players there,” Cunliffe said. “People like to say they’re not that good, but I feel like every player on that team does their job and does it well….I feel like he’s a great coach, honestly.”