Conference Rank: #1 Big West
2008-09: 15-15, 10-6
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Dan Monson (21-40 at Long Beach State, 191-163 overall)
One year after winning just six games at Long Beach State, Coach Dan Monson led his 49ers to the second seed in the Big West tournament, which gave them a bye to the semifinals. Once there, the team lost a close game to Pacific, but the message is clear to the rest of the conference…Long Beach State is back.
Key Losses: F Brian Freeman, G Donovan Morris, F Cornell Williams
Four starters are back, but LBSU needs some more bodies, especially in the paint. Lin Chang, a 6-9, 235 pound forward might be the answer at center. He played one year at Mira Costa College and dominated the competition. Incoming freshmen Jules Montgomery and Kyle Richardson are also big men, as is redshirt freshmen Mike Vantrimpont. If Chang can start, the rest of the newcomers will not be asked to do too much. In the backcourt, Tristan Wilson and Jesse Woodard are the newcomers who can make an impact. Wilson, a junior college transfer, is a decent scorer who can also be an effective rebounder and Woodard, a transfer from Colorado State, should be a capable backup point guard.
Donovan Morris was a superstar in the Big West and replacing him will not be easy. While his outside shooting numbers took a drastic plunge during his senior campaign, Morris still led the squad with 14.8 points per game. Stephan Gilling and Larry Anderson will be asked to pick up their scoring in Morris’ absence. Gilling is a prolific outside shooter and connected on nearly three three-pointers per game last year. Anderson, at 6-6 and 215 pounds, is the more physical presence. While he can hit the outside shot, Anderson will do most of his scoring around the basket.
Freshman T.J. Robinson emerged as Long Beach State’s lone scoring threat in the paint last season. Not only did he average 11.4 points per contest, but he led the team with 6.2 rebounds. Without Brian Freeman and Cornel Williams, the experience in the frontcourt is lacking outside of Robinson. Eugene Phelps is a decent power forward who showed some promise during his freshman campaign, but it is little used senior Arturas Lazdauskas who needs to step up and become a shot blocking force under the basket. Robinson is not a shot blocker and the now departed Brian Freeman was really the only defensive threat under the basket and Lazdauskas or newcomer Chang have to fill that void.
Who to Watch:
The 49ers had a lot of contributions from freshmen during the 2008-2009 season, but perhaps none were as important, or impressive, as that of Casper Ware. The 5-9 point guard dished out 4.1 assists per game, kept the turnovers down to a reasonable level and did some scoring when he needed to do so. It was his ability to create plays for his teammates that turned Long Beach State into a dangerous team.
The Big West is improving in general and this is a young team, but Coach Monson has built this group up and they are ready to take the next step and win the Big West. It is their youth that could cause problems once again this year. Even if the team wins the conference, the pressure will be on during the Big West tournament and all of the talented sophomores that were not ready for the pressure as freshmen, will have to be ready this time around.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Casper Ware, Sophomore, Guard, 9.1 points per game
Stephan Gilling, Senior, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Larry Anderson, Sophomore, Guard, 10.8 points per game
T.J. Robinson, Sophomore, Forward, 11.4 points per game
Lin Chang, Sophomore, Forward, DNP last season