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May 2, 2013Sai Tummala, a third-team NJCAA All-American last season at Salt Lake Community College and former star player at Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., has committed to Arizona State.
"I really feel like ASU is going to a different level right now with how the team did last season and having Jahii (Carson) doing what he's doing and some other good players surrounding him," Tummala said. "A big part of it was wanting to be close to family and in a comfortable environment where I can continue to develop my game. I think coach (Herb) Sendek does a great job. We were able to see some of what he does from a skill standpoint and I was very impressed by that. He's a very good coach and will get the most out of players who are going to work hard and be fully committed. I was fortunate to have some really good options but I just felt like ASU filled all of the criteria I was looking for."
Tummala, 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, averaged 14.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season for the Bruins after redshirting the previous year as a walk-on at the University of Michigan. He will have three years to play three seasons at ASU.
"It's been a lot of hard work and I'm glad I was able to get the opportunity (at Salt Lake) to really show the strides I've made with my game and physically," Tummala said. "Michigan was great because I gained a lot of weight and strength and got to practice and train in a top flight setting and then I was able to build on that. I want to continue that moving forward.
"There's a lot more that I have to do. I want to get more lateral quickness so that I can be even better at defending more athletic players on the perimeter and also that will help me broaden out my offensive game even more."
BYU, Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pitt were under serious consideration by Tummala, and Arizona and Texas had been in contact in recent days, but proximity to home helped the Sun Devils ultimately win out.
"He wants to be close to his family and the location and he said he wants to be near me so we can continue to train," said Tim Howard, who has worked with Tummala the last year and also trains ASU sophomore point guard Jahii Carson. "ASU's new assistant coach Stan Johnson was recruiting him at Drake and has done an outstanding job. He's a great recruiter, very personable. That and I think coach Sendek has done a good job with Jahii and Sai has confidence it'll be a good situation for him to continue to develop."
As a senior at Brophy Prep, Tummala averaged 17.7 points and 8.1 rebounds but was lightly recruited and decided to attend Michigan, where coach John Beilein called him arguably his most athletic player. He then dropped down to the junior college level, where his game and recruitment exploded.
"His improvement has been dramatic," Howard said. "He's gotten better and better. There's high expectations. Even now there are a lot of things he's going to have to work on. They're going to want him quicker and things of that nature (at ASU). I'm telling you, he's the kid that can get it done.
"It's a great fit. Jahii is going to have a lot more help. His skills are a little different than Carrick (Felix.). At one point, he was leading the country in 3-point percentage. He can shoot it, create it own shot, still has post moves, that's never changed. I think the team will be even better than it was last year with the skill set and obviously Jahii having a year under his belt and everyone else coming back."
The focus for Tummala moving forward will be getting more laterally quick so that he can more effectively guard small forwards on the perimeter. Offensive he's already capable of playing the position at the highest level according to Howard.
"That family, the Tummala family, every one is unique," Howard said. "I tell his parents, I'll send my kids with you any time. Their work ethic is on a different level. One of the kids is at Harvard, the other is capable of going to Harvard. You talk about a work ethic, I've never really seen anyone like Sai. I didn't think he was very good to be honest with you, especially early in high school, but I always teased him, his sister (Shipa) was an All-American, state player of the year twice in a row. But I've never seen people who do everything you ask them to do and want to do it. He and his sister, and there are maybe only a handful of others I've worked with over the years, have that type of ethic. It can be 110 degrees out and they're like, 'Okay, I'm ready. Lets go.' And then he'll have a smile on his face afterwards."
Howard, who also trained former Phoenix North star Alan Williams, who went under recruited and signed with UC-Santa Barbara, where he averaged 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds last season as a junior, believes Tummala has a bright Pac-12 future.
"He'll be an all-conference player by the time he leaves, that's how strong his work ethic is," Howard said. "I guarantee it."