A lot goes into validating that the decision to forgo a season of Division I competition—decided internally or otherwise—was not a step backward.
As the Long Beach State men’s basketball team continues to work nine newcomers into its system for the upcoming season, they also face the task of bringing back three redshirts.
Whether due to a season-ending injury, transfer regulations or simply opting to take extra time to prepare, the season spent sitting out for the redshirts required a year-long collective effort within the program to continue their development.
“It’s difficult because you owe it to your team that is eligible to get them to their best ability,” head coach Dan Monson said, “so I think [developing redshirts] falls a lot on the assistants and managers. An ongoing concern is that development during that off-year. The weight room helps, the conditioning people, so it’s a team effort.”
The Daily Forty-Niner’s player spotlights for the 2019–20 Long Beach State men’s basketball roster continues with the program’s three players returning from redshirt seasons.
Colin Slater, 6’1”, 190 lbs, Guard, Junior, Tulane Univ. (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Following NCAA regulations to take a year off as a Division I transfer from Tulane University, Slater is poised to step in as the team’s starting point guard.
Slater said the most valuable part of the redshirt process was the perspective gained along the Beach’s sidelines during play.
“There were certain things I would watch and I [would be] like, ‘Wow, I would’ve done the same thing,’” Slater said, “but [then] understand the result could’ve been [better] if there was an alternate option.”
Despite not yet seeing a second of action for the Beach, Slater’s previous 60 games of limited time in the AAC has elevated him into a new role for himself as one of the team’s leaders.
“I like [Colin Slater’s] leadership,” Monson said. “I think he’s really matured into a true point guard instead of a combo guard. This is his fourth year of Division I basketball and he hasn’t played significant minutes yet and he’s hungry to get out there and prove that he can play at this level.”
On the court, Slater will be called upon to find the open man with drive-and-kick opportunities and knock down shots as the team’s primary ball-handler. Slater said he’s enjoyed playing under Monson so far and believes he is a player’s coach.
“He’s the only coach I know at this level that will let his guys go out there, play and make mistakes, and continue to play and will encourage you too,” Slater said. “Like, ‘OK. You did that wrong this time, I’m going to let you get out there and do it again. Let’s see if you can redeem yourself.’ Coaches really don’t do that at this level.”
Breyon Jackson, 6’7″, 235 lbs, Forward, Junior, Cloud County CC (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Making his return after receiving a medical waiver eight games into last season, Jackson said it was tough watching the team go through its low points at times.
“I couldn’t do nothing but sit on the sideline and trust my teammates and just cheer them on,” Jackson said. “I took it as a learning year, not necessarily as a loss year.”
Despite losing weight compared to where he was around this time last season, Jackson said he’s learned to trust himself and see how he can fit in when he returns, especially on the defensive side.
Focusing on cleaning the glass and taking charges, as opposed to his point forward-role in high school and junior college, Jackson has had to learn how to be effective off the ball.
Monson said he believes Jackson’s experience last season before the injuries piled up was invaluable and can see him becoming a key contributor for the team.
“He played against some really high-level competition,” Monson said, “and when you get your feet wet like that and have an offseason to know what it’s like and where you have to go to play at this level, I think that really helped him.”
Buying 110% into the coaching staff’s role of being a junkyard dog, Jackson said his main goal is to provide maximum effort each time he checks in.
“[I want to] have somebody damn near carry me to the locker room every single night,” Jackson said. “How I see it, I kind of want some revenge against a couple of teams.”
Jeffrey Yan, 6’9″, 275 lbs, Center, Redshirt Freshman, Capistrano Valley Christian School (Shanghai, China)
With four seasons of eligibility left to play for the Beach, Yan will be a part of the active roster for the first time in his Division I career.
Although he hasn’t played basketball as long as the rest of his peers and is still adapting to the language barrier, Yan has been viewed as more than just a steady worker within the program.
“Last year, some of the concepts and stuff got lost in translation,” Monson said. “Jeff is kind of the team comedian that keeps everybody light. In the meantime, if he keeps developing, I don’t know how much he’ll contribute this year, but I do know if he continues to improve, at some point in his career he’s going to be very valuable.”
Possessing a true center’s frame, Yan also developed a camaraderie among the program as a big team chemistry guy for a locker room which now includes a player from China, Serbia and New Zealand.
“Yeah, I’m the strongest guy on the team,” Yan said. “I bench the most I think, and nobody can push me around in the paint.”
Heading into this season, Yan wants to see the team stick together, especially with it being a rebuilt group of mostly new guys.
“We got to have each other’s backs,” Yan said, “especially like this is my first year actually playing and with six new freshmen, this is their first year playing too. We’ve never experienced playing Division I basketball, so there’s a lot of stuff to learn, a lot of stuff to prepare for. We got to follow our leaders [like] Colin Slater. We need to play as a team.”