The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State basketball for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Nelson Farris.
The 2023-24 season was already expected to bring major changes to the Long Beach State women’s basketball program. With eight seniors on the roster who accounted for nearly 90 percent of the team’s scoring, things were bound to look a lot different out on the floor.
“They’ve come in hungry and ready,” Wright said of this year’s roster. “I think their attitudes have been amazing embracing what we’re trying to do/ We want to play fast, furious, and fun. We are going to try and push the ball on offense and get after people on defense. But they’ve really embraced it.”
In LBSU’s modest group of returners, only four saw significant minutes last year, while two others (guards Casey Valenti Paea and Sydney Woodley) used redshirt seasons.
That returning core is led by sophomore Kennan Ka, who appeared in all 33 games and averaged nearly 12 minutes per contest. Ka is a hard-nosed player with an ability to guard multiple positions, and her style of play should fit in well with Coach Wright’s system.
“Kennan has been great in terms of leadership,” Wright said. “And she does a lot of the things that a lot of people don’t want to do on the court. She’s going to be an x-factor.”
Ka says she likes playing fast, and thinks the pace of this year’s team will be an advantage for the Beach.
“It’s a totally different style of basketball, it’s a whole new system, so it’s very different from last year–but in a good way,” Ka said. “We’re trying to get up and down the court and be very team basketball oriented. I think we’ve adjusted well as a team, and we have a lot of hungry players that are ready for the new challenge.”
Juniors Savannah Tucker and Patricia Chung return to the backcourt, and will have the opportunity to be bigger parts of the rotation this year. Tucker was a prolific scorer in high school, but has yet to hit her stride at the college level.
Last season, key grad transfers Tori Harris and Malia Bambrick helped deliver some instant offense for Long Beach State, but now there’s a scoring void to be filled with the team’s top six scorers all departing.
Wright doesn’t expect one or two players to carry that load, but instead hopes to say a balanced offense where production can come from anyone on the roster on any given night.
After sitting out with injury last season, Sydney Woodley has made great strides this offseason, according to Wright, and is looking like a strong perimeter defender. The Beach also have some size to deploy this season, with 6-foot-3 returner Davai Matthews joined by the incoming 6-foot-2 Jada Crawshaw out of Sydney, Australia.
Six-foot junior guard Lovely Sonnier should be an impact transfer for the Beach. The San Francisco native averaged 9.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game at South Carolina State last season. She was used to a more set offense at her previous school, but is liking the fast-paced style Long Beach has offered.
“Everything’s just been completely different, and I’m enjoying my time here at Long Beach, I love it,” Sonnier said. “The new coaching staff and everything, I just really enjoy it here … Here it’s just nothing but pace, get the ball, push it, get back on D. And that’s pretty much my game, just hopping. Get the ball and go.”
Long Beach State begins the 2023-24 season with a pair of home games this week. The Beach will host Biola on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. before welcoming Nevada to Walter Pyramid on Sunday afternoon.
After hitting the road for more than a month–culminating in a game at Texas on Dec. 6–the Beach will play some quality opponents at home this season. In addition to the Beach Classic against Colorado State and Pacific, LBSU will host San Francisco and USC on Dec. 19 and 21, respectively, to close out their non-conference slate.
Long Beach State was picked to finish seventh in this year’s Big West Preseason Coaches Poll. A season ago, the Beach led the conference in wins but was controversially denied a Big West championship.
With so many new faces on the roster, and all of them adjusting to a new coaching staff, Coach Wright said she wants to keep things simple, and not look too far ahead.
“We just want to get better every day, because it is a new team, it is a new system,” Wright said. “We want to be able to look back and say, ‘From day one, did we get better?’ We’re gonna look back at this practice and say, ‘Did we get better than yesterday?’ So I think keeping short term goals is really important for this group because everything is new.”
With so much uncertainty, it’s tough to say where Long Beach State will end up this season. But if Coach Wright has her way, they’ll be getting there in a hurry.