With six freshmen, three incoming transfers and three redshirt returnees listed on the Long Beach State men’s basketball team’s 2019-20 roster, the message is loud and clear — the program is beginning a new chapter.
CSULB Athletics director Andy Fee announced March 29, 2018, that men’s basketball head coach Dan Monson signed a five-year extension with the program. One of the main goals then was a concerted effort to bring in more freshmen who would set the foundation to get the team back into Big West championship contention.
“The most important thing is bringing in good guys and good players,” Monson said. “If they have four years in your program, then that’s certainly a bonus.”
The program has not only had the luxury of traveling to another country but also being able to start practicing earlier.
“A lot of players love what basketball brings,” Monson said. “The notoriety, the new shoes, the exposure, but these guys love the game. They’re in here at night, they just play all the time and love to play basketball and that enthusiasm for the game becomes contagious…They’re not looking at the clock hoping [practice] is over, they’re like ‘we want more.’”
Tipping off the Daily Forty-Niner’s player spotlights for the 2019-20 Long Beach State men’s basketball roster will be three of the team’s six incoming freshmen.
Max De Geest, 6’3”, 185 lbs, Guard, Freshman, Christ’s College (Christchurch, New Zealand)
De Geest was the first player to commit to CSULB this offseason.
“The coaches just welcomed me, and all the players, when I came on my visit,” De Geest said. “My parents loved [Long Beach] so that was a big thing for me as well, and it’s one flight away from home so it was a pretty easy decision.”
De Geest is expected to be the premier shooter of the new faces joining the team this season. With a proven international track record out of New Zealand’s high school scene and experience with the youth national team, De Geest will be asked to provide an immediate impact to stretch the floor for the Beach.
“You have to have somebody to stretch the defense with the bounce, you have to have somebody to stretch the defense with post play,” Monson said. “But the ultimate stretching the defense is somebody that can shoot the ball from a distance, and Max out of that nine-man class gives us that the most.”
After starting two of the three exhibition games during the team’s Costa Rica trip, it will be interesting to see what becomes of De Geest’s shot and role in the offense opening night.
“I think I just have to get [the three] off a lot quicker just because these guys are able to jump a lot higher and contest a lot more shots than people could back home,” De Geest said. “The pace as well is just a lot faster.”
Romelle Mansel, 6’9″, 230 lbs, Forward, Freshman, St. Bernard HS (Playa Del Rey, California)
When evaluating high school basketball talent, local prospects such as Romelle Mansel signing for the program they grew up supporting are rare.
“[Romelle has] been somebody we’ve known about and [have] been recruiting for several years,” Monson said. “And for him to want to stay home and play in front of his mom and his grandma and his family is really exciting for all of us.”
At any level of basketball, 6-foot-7-inch wings who are comfortable handling the ball, athletic and quick on both ends with the ability to score inside and out are at a premium. As showcased during his years at St. Bernard High School and in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, Mansel has the versatility and potential to take his game in many directions.
“I most definitely want to see [my game] develop as in the inside, nobody can guard me,” Mansel said. “Every time I get in [the paint], it’s a bucket. And as far as outside, I just want to see my jumper grow consistent and get a good three-ball so I could expand my game so people really can’t guard me anywhere.”
As a former volleyball player in high school, Mansel said he’s looking forward to supporting the rest of CSULB athletics. Additionally, with his brother helping him with the weight training side, lifting four days a week, Mansel said transitioning to Long Beach State has been great.
“[The] opportunity that I felt coming here would be being able to play coming in as a freshman, making sure I worked hard,” Mansel said. “Just proving to myself that I’m ready for it, I’ll get ready for it as time comes on and I’m going to show them what they wanted.”
Joshua Morgan, 6’11”,195 lbs, Center, Freshman, Sheldon HS (Sacramento, California)
With the departures of big men Mason Riggins and Temidayo Yussuf, Joshua Morgan should step right into a major role for the Beach. Morgan’s size and athleticism proved problematic for opposing Sheldon High School players, and the same will be said for the rims at the Walter Pyramid.
“[Coach Monson] wants me to be a rim-to-rim runner,” Morgan said. “He wants me to help pretty much everywhere. I am going to be that guy who is getting the blocks, hustle for rebounds on offense and defense. I felt I always had a really high motor when it comes to that, but now that I’m in college I have to really kick it up a notch.”
With Morgan’s presence down low, the perimeter defenders will not only have the ability to be more aggressive but also have a safety blanket to erase their mistakes.
“Whether Riggins or Temidayo were still here,” Monson said, “Or Dan Jennings or Eric McKnight…Eugene Phelps when we last went to the tournament. Regardless of any of those guys that were here, Joshua Morgan would still be different. We haven’t had anybody like him because his timing and length is such a presence behind your defense. He helps protect the rim as good as anybody I’ve seen for his age.”
Coming out of Sheldon High School, the Sacramento native said he’s enjoyed the intensity during practices so far.
“In high school, it could be how the team feels, if they come out hard or if they’re just walking around,” Morgan said. “It’s actually refreshing to play with people who want to play all the time, 100%, 24/7.”
In addition to the intensity, Morgan said that the Beach’s emphasis on team bonding has been special, especially after their summer international tour.
“Going to Costa Rica, it just went to another level,” Morgan said. “We got to spend so much time together that honestly, maybe we’re even closer than brothers at this point. It’s just a really tight-knit family.”