Although most of the faces are the same, Long Beach State men’s basketball is banking on big change for the 2018-19 season that starts Friday night at No. 20 UCLA. Homecoming is 4 p.m. on Saturday at Walter Pyramid against Menlo College.
LBSU is coming off of another disappointing exit in the Big West Conference Tournament, and is just 5-6 at Honda Center since winning the title and reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
“Because of the last couple of years, we needed some change,” LBSU 12th-year coach Dan Monson said. “It has to be from coaching to personnel and philosophies.”
When Monson signed a restructured five-year contract extension in March, the announcement came with promises from both Monson and athletic director Andy Fee that the program would be rearranged. A month later, Monson hired former Cal State Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell to take over the defense, and Myke Scholl was promoted to associate head coach. Braswell started his coaching career at LBSU, and led CSUN to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re going to dictate and disrupt with multiple defenses and pressure to make people uncomfortable,” Braswell said. “It’s an exciting time. I know the tradition and history and how much this community loves Long Beach State basketball.”
“Andy Fee and I both agreed I needed to bring in a contemporary who challenges me and gives me a little bit of relief on one side of the ball,” Monson said. “Defense was our calling card during those championship years, and it was our Achilles heel the last two years.”
Monson also said that last year his team was limited by depending too much on All-Big West forward Gabe Levin, who scored over 1,000 points during his career at LBSU and LMU.
“It was like Linus with his blanket,” Monson said. “We knew we had comfort in Gabe bailing us out of situations, and so did the other teams. We’re really working on trusting each other and having our go-to guy being the right guy, the open guy and the next guy.”
Senior Temidayo Yussuf is the unquestioned leader of this team. The 6’7” 265-pound Oakland native has averaged over nine points per game for the last two seasons, and had a career-high 6.1 rebounds per game and 16 steals last season. LBSU came back to beat CSU Bakersfield 73-70 last month in a scrimmage, and Yussuf said he was impressed by the way his team finished.
“I feel like we have a team that when it’s time to get stops, or have each other’s backs at the end of the game, we can be successful,” Yussuf said.
Seniors Deishuan Booker and Bryan Alberts are the most important guards on both sides of the floor. Booker led the Big West in assists last season, and they both averaged double-digit scoring, but the 49ers were routinely beaten at the other end by opposing score-first guards. Braswell said being accountable and stopping the ball up top are imperative to his defense’s success.
Junior guard Ron Freeman, one of a few talented junior college transfers, and sophomore Jordan Roberts, one of a few returning players looking to break out, both had good performances in the scrimmage win at Bakersfield. The 6’6” 180-pound Freeman scored a game-high 17 points, and the 6’8” 195-pound Roberts finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds in his hometown.
“If this team and last year’s team played right now, I think last year’s team would win,” Monson said. “But I’m hopeful that in two weeks that will change. And in a month or two we could kick last year’s teams butt.”
Monson also hopes that changing his scheduling philosophy will help his team stay fresh through March. LBSU plays 21 of its 32 games in Southern California— which is a drastic change from the long road trips against Power 5 conference opponents that Monson made a cornerstone of his program.
“That scheduling philosophy has been great for recruiting, but it hasn’t been improving us for the season like it had in the past,” Monson said. “The one thing that has taken a toll on our teams has been the travel.”
LBSU has also changed the floor stain at the Walter Pyramid, and gave both men’ and women’s teams new uniforms featuring the BE/\CH logo and gold “The LBC” designs. READ MORE about the new looks.
“We have a great program here that we’ve built,” Monson said. “After 12 years you shouldn’t have to rebuild, you need to reload. This place has given us all of the resources to be champions, and that needs to be our goal.”