As the first regular season game nears, it is very evident what the Long Beach State men’s basketball team is lacking: rebounding. The team has been without All-Big West junior forward Temidayo Yussuf due to injury as well as junior forward Mason Riggins in the two exhibition games to start off the year.
Friday night’s game at the University of San Francisco will be the first of many preseason tests for the 49ers. Long Beach will also get its first experience traveling on the road, opening the season as visitors for only the third time in the last 10 years.
USF is predicted to finish in fourth place in the West Coast Conference behind powerhouses St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU. The Dons are coming off a 20-13 overall record last year and bring back many key pieces. Sophomore forward Charles Minlend was named to the All-WCC Preseason team after averaging 10 points per game as a freshman.
In the charity exhibition game against Cal State Bakersfield, the 49ers lacked toughness and rebounding in the paint. Going with smaller lineups, Long Beach has been quick and athletic but the lack of an inside presence has outweighed that. While the absence of Yussuf for two more weeks makes a big hole in the starting lineup, the team will have to adjust and guys will have to step up.
“I think the biggest, glaring thing is our rebounding,” head coach Dan Monson said. “That’s all we did Monday [in practice]. If we can go [to San Francisco] and keep them under 10 offensive rebounds that’ll be something we can really hold our hat on.”
Long Beach is going to need some experience to rely on in the matchup against the Dons on Friday. Senior forward Gabe Levin will look to set the tone and carry the offense. Senior forward Barry Ogalue and junior guard Bryan Alberts can bring experience and leadership, much needed in a road matchup.
“It’s a real test for the first game of the year, to be disciplined enough, because that’s the thing most teams are missing right now, just doing the little things and being disciplined,” Monson said.
After practice Wednesday, Monson gave an update on the status of the injured Yussuf as well as freshman guard Jordan Roberts.
“Jordan is cleared but not ready, highly doubtful he will play on Friday but it’s just great to have him cleared,” Monson said. “Temi is still a couple weeks away.”
Once Roberts and Yussuf join the team after recovering from their respective foot and knee injuries, Long Beach will be able to get a measure on the team’s overall standing. Yussuf is a force down low who can become a rebounding and scoring machine. The addition of Roberts is going to bring another athletic, scoring wing who can stretch the floor.