The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
During preseason interviews last year, coach Dan Monson said that his Long Beach State men’s basketball team would only go as far as Colin Slater, Jordan Roberts and Drew Cobb could take them.
That senior trio used its cohesiveness and up-tempo style to lead the Beach to its first outright Big West Conference regular season championship since 2013.
According to Monson, the names may have changed but the recipe stays the same for this season.
“This team is going to go as far as Aboubacar Traore, Jadon Jones and Joel Murray can take it,” he said. “These are guys who were integral in turning the culture of this program around and turn into the kind of guys we want to coach.”
LBSU starts the 2022-23 season on Monday at Cal Baptist, and after visiting UCLA four days later, the Beach hosts Montana State on Sunday, Nov. 13 for the home opener at Walter Pyramid.
“I feel like we’re going to be that fast team that everyone likes to watch play super hard,” Murray said. “Getting out and going is our DNA. It’s a fun environment to play in.”
Murray is on the Preseason All-Big West team after leading the conference with 16.7 points last year. The senior guard was also the first LBSU player to be NABC All-District since 2016.
“I honestly don’t care about (the awards) because all anyone is going to talk about is what happens in March,” Murray said. “That’s what I focus on.”
Monson knows Murray will have to expand his role as point guard while also being the main scoring option.
“Murray can’t just be a scorer,” Monson said. “He’s going to have to run the basketball team. He doesn’t want to be known as one of the best point guards to ever play here who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.”
Jones, a Long Beach native, was named Big West Defensive Player of the Year last season after finishing the conference season in the Top 5 in both steals and blocks. The sophomore was tied for second on the team while making 66 3-pointers on 37.1 percent shooting.
“We’re obviously still holding ourselves to the standard of being a championship caliber team, it’s just getting guys to realize this is serious,” Jones said. “We have a target on our backs… Right now I’m a leader. I’m one of the veterans who has been here the longest so it’s about holding myself and everyone else accountable… basically being the best person I can be, always, because I know my teammates are looking for me to contribute in all ways and kind of be a coach on the floor.”
Monson is expecting even more from Jones (pictured).
“Jadon can’t just be a one-trick pony and just shoot threes and try to hawk balls,” Monson said. “He’s going to have to be a better rebounder and a better playmaker off the bounce.”
It’s the same situation for Aboubacar Traore, who led the Big West with 9.9 rebounds per game during conference play last season.
“Aboubacar can’t just be a rebounder this year,” Monson said. “His offensive game is expanding but we’re going to need him to do other things.”
Aboubacar Traore will be joined by 6’10” transfer Lassina Traore in the front court. The Traore’s aren’t related, but the high school teammates from Ivory Coast have shown similar energy in the paint during practice.
“(Lassina Traore) gives us a different dimension that we didn’t have last year with a true back to the basket post presence,” Monson said. “He can also help rebounding, he’s a load in there.”
The other impact starter coming out of the transfer pool is combo guard Marcus Tsohonis from VCU and Washington. As a freshman he played 23 games for the Huskies and averaged 10.4 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field.
No matter the newcomers, Monson wants to maintain the up-tempo style that opened everything up last season by attacking the basket within the first seven seconds of the shot clock. However, he knows that cohesiveness is key to success after last year’s return to the top of the Big West.
“We’ve had a lot of good players here, but (last year) was probably one of our less talented teams we’ve had here in awhile,” Monson said. “Their success was because of their culture, character and chemistry… (This team) has got good attitudes, good talent and they work hard so we’ve got a chance.”