After a promising season that saw the Long Beach State men’s basketball team cut short after a six-game winning streak in the semifinals of the Big West tournament, the Beach comes into the year with what feels like a fresh start.
The program brought in nine newcomers—six of which are freshmen—while also welcoming three players back from redshirt seasons. The team’s shortlist of definite rotation returners consists of two juniors and one senior.
With the roster bidding farewell to six cornerstone seniors before being overhauled with new personnel, it’s hard to project how well this team will stack up against the rest of the Big West Conference and how long into March they will play. Reflecting the uncertainty of outsiders looking in, the Beach was projected to finish the regular season sixth out of nine in the Big West preseason poll.
Heading into this season, head coach Dan Monson and the program appear to be all-in turning heads and embracing the underdog role.
“People don’t know our team,” Monson said. “People don’t know who we have and that’s a good thing and it’s also a bad thing. We’re inexperienced and those votings tell you on paper, we’re not good enough, but I watched the Washington Nationals get away with that, so hopefully, we can pull something like that off.”
While the storylines of raw talent and inexperience are things the Beach will try to prove are not problematic this season, there is a buzz around the players and coaching staff that the team’s chemistry developed and displayed in-house (thanks in part to the Costa Rica-extended training camp) will translate to newfound success on the hardwood.
The team will open the season Nov. 6 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion for the second year in a row. Other standout games on the season schedule include the Homecoming affair against the University of San Diego, a long-awaited return to the Wooden Legacy where the Beach will take on No. 21 Arizona, as well as interconference tests against No. 20 Saint Mary’s and USC, and a lone east coast visit against Florida in December.
The Daily Forty-Niner’s player spotlights for the 2019–20 Long Beach State men’s basketball roster concludes with the program’s three key returners.
Jordan Roberts, 6’9”, 200 lbs, Forward, Junior, Ridgeview HS (Bakersfield)
Roberts returns for his third season as the lone Long Beach nominee in the Big West preseason all-conference team media poll. After impressive increases in his listed height and weight, Roberts seems to be primed for what could be a breakout year with the Beach.
Roberts showed consistent growth throughout his sophomore campaign, scoring 15 or more points in five of the final eight games en route to establishing his spot in Monson’s starting lineup.
“My role has definitely changed,” Roberts said. “Now that I’m looked upon as a captain, I got to keep a better mental aspect of the game. Encourage these younger guys to stay focused, keep going to practice, pay attention to the details and it will all pay off in the end.”
After finishing fifth behind four seniors in average minutes and points per game last year, Roberts will likely jump to the top of both spots on the stat sheet as the team leans on him to find its footing on the offensive side early on.
Jordan Griffin, 6’3″, 165 lbs, Guard, Senior, Centennial HS (Corona)
Returning as the team’s elder statesmen, Griffin embodies what it means to be yourself and play your game.
“He’s not a leader, but doesn’t try to be,” Monson said. “He makes open shots, he plays hard, he works hard, so I guess you could say he leads by example, but that’s not what he’s out there doing. He’s out there just doing his job.”
For a team that appears thinner on perimeter shooting than in recent years, Griffin will have the green light offensively.
“I’m an experienced guy,” Griffin said. “I know the system well, so I feel I can come in the game and just know what I’m supposed to do and affect the game that way.”
Drew Cobb, 6’4″, 205 lbs, Guard, Junior, Fresno CC (Sacramento)
Climbing up the ranks as a standout worker after initially walking on to the team, Cobb was voted as a captain by his teammates along with Roberts and Colin Slater, and will be a key contributor to this team’s success on the defensive end.
“He’s a defensive-first guy,” Monson said. “He’s out there because he can lock down their best player. You can have four offensive-minded guys out there, but you better not have five. You have to have somebody that is setting a tone on that end and Drew Cobb does that for us.”
In addition to his do-it-all attitude, Cobb hopes to contend for Big West Defensive Player of the Year, an award last brought back to Long Beach by Larry Anderson in 2012.
“I love playing defense,” Cobb said. “That’s something I’ve always been doing in my career. That’s always been a staple of who Drew Cobb is when it comes to basketball, so of course that’s something I’m always striving for. … That will be a big goal of mine to get that defensive player of the year this year.”
The Daily Forty-Niner will begin coverage of the men’s basketball team Nov. 6 at UCLA available on Daily49er.com.