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.
The 2022-23 Long Beach State women’s basketball roster underwent the largest year-to-year overhaul of the Jeff Cammon era. In his sixth season as head coach, Cammon and his staff have six returners on the roster who’ve all played significant minutes, plus an incoming class of 10 new faces.
Following the departure of the team’s top three scorers from last season–Maddi Utti, Justina King and Jasmine Hardy–this version of the Beach had to look very different than it had in recent years. While much of the team may be new to Long Beach, they won’t be new to the college game. Cammon and Co. worked the transfer portal to bring in a handful of veteran players ready to contribute on day one to keep the Beach in the hunt for a Big West title and a return to the Big Dance.
“We have a great core returning, but we lost some potential firepower, and I felt like I couldn’t get that in a freshman,” Cammon said. “Thankfully, the (transfer) portal’s there. Obviously that can work both ways, but I like to try to look at the positives. Even though we lost some kids to the portal we also gained some great pieces … We were able to bring scoring in, and we were able to bring in some skill along with that experience.”
Among the returning group for the Beach is sixth-year senior Ma’Qhi Berry, who has been with Cammon since the jump. She’ll be the primary ball handler at point guard, with an innate ability to get downhill and blow past defenders. For the past few seasons, Berry has played off the ball while Justina King ran the point, but she’ll be back running the offense and showcasing her playmaking abilities.
“Ma’Qhi’s natural position is a point guard, and when she’s been able to dominate the ball, she’s been very successful,” Cammon said. “Her freshman year she had 16 and 8 against Tennessee … Obviously she needs to shoot it better from three to be able to open up other parts of the game, but she’s one of the best in our conference at getting downhill.”
Cammon also has high expectations for redshirt junior Kianna Hamilton-Fisher, who has played extensive minutes each year on campus but has yet to consistently tap into her scoring potential, averaging just 6.0 points per game in her career. She’s shown a knack for hitting big shots and had a career-high 17 points in LBSU’s final game of the season at Oregon State in the WNIT. Her development from role player to reliable scorer would be huge for the Long Beach offense.
Junior Kristyna Jeskeova is a hard-nosed player who will help on the glass and as a post defender with her 6-foot-2 frame. Guards Savannah Tucker and Patricia Chung have each appeared in 40+ games during their two seasons at the Beach and have shown flashes of their potential. Chung in particular has had a solid offseason and is looking to get back to the player she was as a freshman in the 2020-21 season.
Among the exciting crop of incoming talent is 6-foot-1 redshirt senior Tori Harris, who is a grad transfer from St. Bonaventure. Harris is the younger sister of current Philadelphia 76ers star Tobias Harris, and she averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season while making 86 three-pointers. That’s a key stat given that LBSU’s returning players combined for just 54 made threes last year, and it’s a needed area of improvement for the Beach.
Speaking of shooting, Malia Bambrick was a 1,000 point scorer at Pepperdine who led the Waves with a 33.0 percent mark from beyond the three-point line last season. She’s transferred to Long Beach for her final season, where she’ll be reunited with LBSU assistant coach Bryan Camacho, who was her head coach at Alemany High School in Mission Hills. Cammon loves her skill and competitiveness while gaining experience against a strong West Coast Conference.
Courtney Murphy is another grad transfer from Seattle U, where she ranks third all-time in three-pointers made. The 6-foot-1 Australian has good size, versatility and toughness to match with her shooting ability, and is expected to contribute in a variety of ways for the Beach this season as a scorer, passer and defender.
Other collegiate transfers include senior Iyree Jarrett, who was an NAIA All-American at nearby Westmont. A prolific scorer and capable ball handler, Jarrett averaged over 15 points per game last season and helped lead Westmont to an NAIA National Championship as a sophomore. LBSU is also welcoming in sophomore guard Sydney Woodley, an intra-conference transfer from CSUN who was second in the Big West with 2.9 steals per game.
Cammon also brought in some exciting freshmen to the program, and he has high expectations of 6-foot guard Kennan Ka out of Mission Hills HS in San Diego. She’s got a high motor and is physically ready to contribute at the college level. Also, 6-foot-3 Davai Matthews out of Detroit has great potential inside.
With half of this year’s roster standing 6-foot or taller, the Beach should have more size and length across the board. The team may not present a conventional “post” player, but with Cammon’s up-tempo, harassing style of defense, that’s not a big concern for the program.
“We're going to overwhelm you with length in our zones, we're going to speed you up and make you play faster, or in some cases we’ll slow you down,” Cammon explained. “We just want to keep you off balance and get deflections and steals. Every year we’ve averaged double digits more possession than other teams, and that's with getting out-rebounded pretty much every game. So we know we're gonna give some stuff up, but we're getting it back, and we just have to convert on the offensive end.”
Long Beach State started last season 16-3, but lost six of its last nine games to finish 19-9 and third place in the Big West. Cammon says this team is deeper than in year’s past, perhaps making them better prepared to endure the stretch run and reach the 20-win plateau for the first time in his tenure.
The Beach have some tough road games in the non-league schedule which should prepare them for Big West play. After opening the season at Gonzaga on Thursday, Nov. 10, the Beach will also play road games against No. 19 Arizona (Nov. 20) and No. 18 Baylor (Dec. 21). LBSU’s home opener is Saturday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. against La Sierra.