TEMPE – Arizona State’s Jeff Pendergraph felt that he was pushed around last season. Battling for rebounds. Jockeying for position. Defending the post.
The senior forward doesn’t expect a repeat this season after gaining nearly 50 pounds.
“Honestly, not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m in the best shape of my college career,” said the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Pendergraph, who has improved his bench press by 130 pounds. “I might be able to hang with anybody in the (Pac-10) right now; that’s just how I feel. I worked hard all summer.”
The Sun Devils are ranked No. 15 in the national preseason polls, but no one is sure how that will transfer onto the court. For now, one thing seems certain: They will be stronger, almost across the board.
Rich Wenner, associate head coach for sports performance, said players Pendergraph, James Harden, Ty Abbott and Derek Glasser are bench-pressing 315 pounds, the most on an ASU basketball team in 20 years.
“Part of it is what you do in the weight room, and part of it is just normal maturation,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “We played a lot of freshmen last year, and it’s been my experience that the year your body maybe changes the most is that freshman-to-sophomore period.”
Abbott, a sophomore, was listed at 200 pounds last season. This year he’s at 215. Harden (6-5, 218) grew a half-inch in the offseason.
Pendergraph recalls his freshman season, “when I was like, this big,” he said, spreading his hands about 8 inches apart and bringing them down the length of his chest.
“There were some girls on the women’s basketball team that could bench more than me,” he said. “I was not strong, just tall. I had never lifted in high school.”