With the men’s basketball season starting Saturday at the Walter Pyramid, we continue our look at the 49ers position by position. With the team introducing eight returning players, the new personnel should give fans some different play styles this season. Here is a breakdown of the big men that will contribute to this year’s team.
#0 PF Gabe Levin (Senior): The 6-foot-7 big man out of Oak Park, Illinois. is arguably the best player on the team. Levin is one of the most athletic men in the entire Big West Conference, creating many mismatches with his speed and leaping abilities for his position. Last season, he led the team in rebounding with 6.2 per game and was second in scoring at 12.2 points per contest. The key for Levin this season will be to stay healthy, as last year he missed all of conference play after going down with a season-ending knee injury. If the 49ers most explosive man can stay healthy, he should be a walking double-double come conference play. Levin was named to the preseason Big West All-Conference team by the media.
NBA Comparison: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
#4 PF Temidayo Yussuf (Junior): Meet the squad’s most dominant inside presence, a 6-foot-7, 265 pound forward out of Oakland. The dominant man played in all 34 games last year, averaging 9.4 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds. Like Levin, Yussuf has an injury history and it will be key for him to stay healthy throughout the course of the season. Yussuf and Levin have never played a Big West Conference game together and could establish the most feared front court in the entire conference. Both are predicted to be first team all-conference players this season. If the two are healthy come Big West Tournament time, don’t be surprised for Long Beach to make some noise down low.
NBA Comparison: Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings
#5 PF Mason Riggins (Junior): Another returning player that is in for a statement year is Riggins hailing from Whitewright, Texas. As a sophomore last year, Riggins was one of four players to play in every game of the season. While only averaging 2.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, the athletic post man flashed signs of potential with a nice interior game and ability to go and get rebounds. Riggins has also started against top teams such as Wichita State and North Carolina, giving him experience and some confidence heading into this season. If Levin or Yussuf go down with injuries this season, expect to see Riggins on the floor a lot.
NBA Comparison: Taj Gibson, Minnesota Timberwolves
#22 PF LaRond Williams (Sophomore): Williams has things to prove this year. The 6-foot-9, 205 pound forward has showed some immaturity on the defensive side of the ball, struggling to stay down on defense and keep out of foul trouble. After a redshirt year in the 2015-16 season, Williams played in his first season for the 49ers last year. Utilizing his long wingspan, Williams tied for second on the team in blocks with 15 on the season. If he can fix some defensive tendencies, Williams can pose a big threat on defense down low and in transition.
NBA Comparison: JaVale McGee, Golden State Warriors
#35 PF Milos Apic (Freshman): One of the most interesting freshman players head coach Dan Monson brought in this year is Milos Apic. At 6-foot-10, Apic has the frame and skillset of a true “stretch-four.” Originally from Novi Sad, Serbia, Apic moved to Maryland for his last two years of high school. As a senior last year he averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game while setting the school’s career scoring record with 1,072 points in only two years. As impressive as his high school stats are, Apic will take some time to adjust to the physicality of Division I basketball and will potentially redshirt this season. However, don’t forget about him as he is an intriguing prospect that could end up flourishing in a few years.
NBA Comparison: Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns
#12 PF Quentin Shropshire (Senior): Once a member of the Long Beach State track and field team, Shropshire joined the basketball team after a fall tryout in 2015. The former high jump and long jump athlete out of Los Angeles brings energy, defense and an aggressive pursuit for rebounds to a team lacking toughness. Last season, Shropshire gradually earned more minutes and scored 11 points and 18 rebounds throughout the 12 games he played in. While undersized at his position at 6-foot-6, the 205 pound forward look for him to be up for the challenge and compete down low when given the opportunity.
NBA Comparison: Quincy Acy, Brooklyn Nets