Long Beach is home to many prominent professional athletes and has become a powerhouse city for college scouts to recruit players.
Despite Long Beach State being right in the heart of all the talent, it continues to struggle in bringing homegrown student-athletes to play for the city they grew up in.
Over head coach Dan Monson’s 11-year career at Long Beach State, he has only recruited four athletes from Long Beach high schools. Out of the 31 transfers that have played here, only one has come from a local junior college. It’s unacceptable that less than a handful of local talent has donned the 49ers’ uniform.
Recruiting is no easy task, especially as a mid-major school, but it’s time for the men’s basketball team to shift its recruiting methods into a more locally centralized system. One of the more positive aspects in Monson’s five-year contract extension were the new goals that athletic director Andy Fee set going forward.
“We need to be able to recruit the best possible student athletes and bring them here to the beach,” Fee said in his announcement. “This five-year extension allows [Monson] to go into homes and assure families that he will be here in place to coach throughout their son’s whole career.”
In his announcement message he goes into more detail on the new recruiting process by emphasizing the importance of building the foundation of the program with freshman that have great basketball ability, high IQ, high character and integrity. In the last few years, Monson’s win now mentality has shifted his priority into recruiting transfers. Picking up multiple transfers is an impatient way to recruit, and its backfired on the team.
More importantly, Fee hits the nail on the head by refocusing the program’s ideology on relentless recruiting with more freshman development and less reliance on transfers. When you look back at the 2012 team that made the NCAA Tournament, players such as Casper Ware and Larry Anderson, who played multiple years together at Long Beach, had the chemistry they needed to make a run in the tournament. The years together make a difference and you can see this in schools like Villanova, who have become a dominant college basketball program that runs off veteran players.
So the question is: how will the coaching staff be able to bring in talented freshmen to develop together for multiple years?
Monson and his staff have to start with what is available here in Long Beach.
Senior point guard Darryl Polk Jr. out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School is known as one of the top-rated guards in California, yet he only received one offer from Pepperdine. This was the perfect opportunity for the staff to recruit him, but nothing was done and Polk recently committed to Pepperdine. Mistakes like this are the reason fans are boggled on why Monson was given a new contract. There was a potentially talented player just waiting down the street for offers, but nothing was given to him by Long Beach State. The six-foot guard shoots from beyond the arc, has a steady mid-range game and is a great finisher at the rim. His ability to finish against big guys at the rim and find the open man transcends his game to another level. While Polk Jr. is on the shorter side, he is a fighter which is exactly what the 49ers need to get them over the edge.
There is still one player the coaching staff should look at developing in the coming years.
Sudan Thoms, a senior from Jordan High School in Long Beach, is a wing who can shoot from the three, drive to the basket and is a versatile defender. He currently has no offers, making him the perfect opportunity for Monson and his staff to develop a Long Beach product for the next couple of years.
A lot of high schoolers get caught up in the fact that they want to play for big schools, when often it’s not the best choice for them. It’s the coaching staff’s job to convince these players that student-athletes will have a much better opportunity to showcase their game at a mid-major school. Out of the top 50 recruits in the nation, Long Beach has none. This is concerning and a testament to how Monson and his staff haven’t been able to get the best recruits.
It’s time for the men’s basketball program to stop focusing its efforts on getting transfers and find local talent that could be developed throughout a number of seasons. If Monson and Fee both believe in building and sustaining a winning program, they should start right inside other Long Beach gymnasiums.