The Long Beach State men’s basketball team finished its third consecutive season with a losing record and 15 total wins. While it appears mediocrity has sunk in as the norm for Long Beach, this season saw the most promise out of the last three years.
The 49ers showed enough fight at the end of the year to make us believe they were more than just a middle of the pack Big West bunch.
Looking back on the season, a six-game losing streak in the middle of conference play made the difference between Long Beach being a fifth place team versus competing right at the top for a second or third place finish. The 49ers ended the season riding a five-game winning streak into the conference tournament, but fell to eventual champion UC Irvine in the semifinal after beating Hawai’i in a spectacular comeback win in the quarterfinal.
Although Long Beach couldn’t find a way to take UC Irvine out (30-5, 15-1 Big West) for its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, it easily posed the biggest challenge to Irvine. No other team in the conference defeated the Anteaters, and the 49ers were the only ones to avoid losing by double digits to them.
Like many teams, the 49ers dealt with a few injuries throughout the season. Most notably was redshirt senior forward Temidayo Yussuf who was out due to a knee injury from Dec. 29 to Jan. 31, forcing the team to adjust without its most dominant interior presence.Yussuf returned and was not the same player he was in the preseason, moving slower and having a harder time getting up and down the court.
Looking ahead to the 2019-2020 season, Long Beach is looking at an overhaul of its roster. The 49ers will lose their top four leading scorers in seniors Deishuan Booker (18.8 ppg), Bryan Alberts (10.5 ppg), Temidayo Yussuf (10.4 ppg) and KJ Byers (7.6 ppg). Besides the scoring, losing their top three frontcourt players in Yussuf, Byers and senior Mason Riggins will put a big question mark on the forward and center spot for next season.
Key returners for the 49ers include sophomores Jordan Roberts, Drew Cobb and Edon Maxhuni. Long Beach will also return point guard Colin Slater, who sat out this season due to NCAA rules after transferring from Tulane. Slater will immediately take over the starting point guard position.
So far, five new players have signed to play for Long Beach next season. The recruiting class includes two centers, two guards and one forward: Trever Irish, Joshua Morgan, Max De Geest, Rodney Rhoden and Romelle Mansel. Irish is the only player in the class coming from a junior college, with the rest signing out of high school.
If Long Beach can get enough from its key returners, someone to step up at the center position and meaningful minutes from its younger players like Mansel or Morgan, the 49ers should be able to contend right at the top of the Big West, next season.
While UC Irvine will presumably remain the top team, the conference appears to be wide open. Fullerton, UC Davis and Hawai’i will also be in a rebuild after losing some of its best players. Re-establishing itself as a top team in the Big West is not far off for Long Beach.