“If we stop Gabe Levin, we stop Long Beach,” Fullerton sophomore forward Jackson Rowe said during [the Big West quarter finals].
This quote has been resonating with me ever since Thursday’s heartbreaking 76-74 Big West quarterfinals loss to Cal State Fullerton.
Levin became the face of Long Beach State basketball, and with his departure the 49ers identity needs to rebrand. What will the team look like in the post-Levin era? Right now, I’m not really sure.
Levin’s skills were huge for Long Beach the last three years. His ability to stretch the floor was unmatched in the Big West, and without his presence on both ends of the floor, the team will be looking a lot different.
He finished his final year averaging 18.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists, all career-highs.
Levin will be missed, but it’s time for head coach Dan Monson and his coaching staff to take a new direction and revitalize the men’s basketball team to get back into the NCAA Tournament.
Long Beach’s play style this year was front court-centric. Junior forward Temidayo Yussuf and Levin were a formidable tandem on the block, and their two man inside-out game gave other teams trouble, but it wasn’t enough to get the job done. As the saying goes, “three is more than two,” and something that the team will have to focus on is getting better looks from beyond the arc.
Returning guard’s junior Deishuan Booker and freshmen Jordan Roberts will have to transition into a guard-driven style of play. Long Beach had an uptempo beat this year, but there were too many times when the offense was stagnant, and the team would end up taking bad shots due to a decreasing shot clock.
Both guards can fix these problems by moving the ball around and consistently moving to find the open man. While Yussuf and junior forward Mason Riggins are strong presences in the post, their lack of stretching the floor and overall holding the ball too long has shown to be detrimental at times.
Like the NBA, college basketball is changing and Long Beach needs to change as well.
Aside from the basketball side of things, things are still in the air with Monson’s coaching career at Long Beach State after 11 years. This is his last contractual year as the head coach of the men’s basketball team, and there has been no talks of extending his contract or resigning him to a new deal. With that uncertainty, the team could face a completely new regime.
The post-Levin era is upon us, and it will be interesting. There are things to be excited for, such as freshman guard Edon Maxhuni who played valuable minutes this year, and freshman Milos Apic, who was sidelined this season, but has a lot of upside as a 6-foot-10 forward who can stretch the floor. Earlier in the season, two Maryland products in Joe Hampton, a 6-foot-8 stretch big, and 6-foot-5 guard Demetrius Mims both signed National Letters of Intent to play for Long Beach in the upcoming season. Both provide shooting and length which will benefit the team on both ends of the floor. There are no definite answers to what the team will look like or even play like, but it should be fun to see a lot of the young guys develop in the next couple of years.