Josh Christopher Embracing Pressure, Expectations

Photo courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics

On April 13, Arizona State was the center of the college basketball recruiting world. Guard Josh Christopher became the highest-rated player to commit to Arizona State since some guy named James Harden. 

Looking back, Christopher reflects fondly on the day. Only his family and high school teammates knew the decision was coming. After much anticipation about his verdict among fans, coaches, and media, Christopher picked ASU over UCLA, Missouri, and Michigan in a release video. 

“When I was talking with my brothers and my dad and going over all my options, they were like, ‘It seems like you’ve already had your mind made up,'” said Christopher recalling the day. “I just wanted to make the best decision for myself and take in all the factors, and I set that 4/13 date to put some pressure on myself and make a decision…That was a great day. April 13 was a great day.”

It was indeed a great day for Sun Devil hoops fans as well. It was one of, if not the biggest recruiting wins of Bobby Hurley’s tenure since his arrival and full rebuild of the ASU program in 2015. 

Christopher was influenced by the infamous “Guard U” brand that has been built in Tempe under Hurley, as well as getting a chance to reunite and play with his brother Caleb Christopher. 

However, with all of the positives and expectations that came with Christopher’s recruitment, the time is now coming where Christopher has to prove the hype that has surrounded him. Expected to be a one and done player in Tempe and then ascend to the NBA, the expectations can start to mount. 

Adding to it is Christopher’s jersey number, as he will don Harden’s number 13 while in maroon and gold. For a guard who many already put in the same breath as Harden – both because of their high recruiting status and NBA aspirations – this pressure could seem like a lot to handle for an 18-year-old freshman that is expected to shine and help lead the Sun Devils to a Pac-12 title. 

Nevertheless, when asked about the hype going into this year, Christopher kind of just cracked a smile and chuckled. This is what he’s been waiting for. 

“I don’t really believe in the whole pressure thing,” Christopher said. “I live for this kind of stuff. If I was worried about pressure, I wouldn’t have asked to wear number 13 with it hanging in the rafters and stuff like that. This is why I am here. This is exactly why I came here. The pressure stuff, that stuff is all fun to me. Pressure has been a part of me all my life, but pressure makes diamonds.”

Christopher has embraced that mentality too, urging Hurley to give the former Mayfair High School product all that he can handle in practice. Whether it’s getting in his ear about small details or simply going over plays, Christopher wants to get any criticism and critiques he can get from the coach to become the best player that he can be. 

“I told Coach Hurley the day I committed to push me as hard as you can. Whatever you got, empty it,” Christopher said. “The man got paid to play basketball. He’s been on the court with legends. He’s one of those guys. If I can pick his brain as much as possible, that’s why I came here. This is Guard U. I’m a guard. If I can get as much as possible from him, then I need it.”

During a scrimmage the other day, Hurley got on the guard about a miscue during practice. Christopher had a reminder go off in his head. 

“In my head I was like, ‘What’s going on?'” Christopher said with a laugh, “and then I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I asked for.'”

ASU tips off its season on Nov. 25 against No. 2 Baylor in the Mohegan Sun Tournament in Connecticut. If the Sun Devils pull the upset, they could get to play No. 3 Villanova in the following game. In just his first couple of games, Christopher will have his opportunity to showcase himself to the college basketball world and embrace that pressure that has been discussed. 

“We got to hit that court. Everything we do in practice is leading up to that,” Christopher said. “That’s why I think it’s good that we go out to Mohegan Sun and we get put to the test right away. They have us at No. 18 in the AP polls, I think we can be way better than that. It’s all a matter of getting on the court and seeing what you’re made of.”