Men's Basketball, Sports

The five best men’s basketball players to grace the hardwood at Long Beach State

Long Beach State men’s basketball program was implemented back in the late 1960s season, when the conference was called the Pacific Coast Athletic Association. Since then, CSULB has sent more than a dozen players to the NBA.

Combing through the school’s history, here are five of the best men’s basketball players that have come out of CSULB:

5. Bob Gross

Gross arrived at CSULB in 1973 for his sophomore year after one year at Seattle University.

In Gross’s junior and senior years at LBSU, he averaged 16.0 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 50% overall and 82.8% from the free-throw line.

He played a pivotal role in helping the team achieve a 19-7 record. He also took home the 1975 PCAA Player of the Year award and made the 1987 LBSU Hall of Fame class.

In the 1975 NBA draft, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Gross in the second round as the 25th overall pick. Gross would go on and help the Trail Blazers win its first NBA championship in 1977. In 2018, the Trail Blazers retired his No. 30 jersey.

4. Leonard Gray

Gray played for CSULB from 1971 to 1974 and made a mark at the power forward position.

Gray averaged 14.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 58.8% overall in 1974, leading him to become the PCAA Player of the Year that season. He is in the 1995 LBSU Hall of Fame class.

Gray had developed skills to the point where the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL drafted him to play tight end. However, he joined the Seattle Supersonics after being drafted by them.

Gray appeared in 224 games over three seasons, a relatively short NBA career, but his career averages of 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds are the highest of any CSULB player who made the NBA.

3. Craig Hodges

Hodges played all four of his collegiate seasons with CSULB from 1978 to 1982, where he averaged over double-digit points every season and was known for his deep shooting ability.

Hodges shined the most as a senior when he averaged a college-high 17.5 points to go with 3.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals while converting on a solid 47.5% of his field goals.

He would develop into one of the better scorers the program had, especially his senior year, despite taking home no major accolades. In 1989, Hodges was inducted into the CSULB Hall of Fame.

The San Diego Clippers selected Hodges in the third round of the 1982 NBA draft—back when there were more than two rounds—with the No. 48 overall pick. He played for 10 seasons, most notably winning two rings with the Chicago Bulls.

2. Bryon Russell

Russell played three seasons with CSULB from 1990 to 1993 before declaring for the NBA draft.

Russell was named to the All-Big West Second-Team in 1992 when he averaged 13.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks while shooting 55.5% overall. He was the second-leading scorer for the program in 1992 and 1993, trailing only Lucious Harris, and helped the team to an NCAA Tournament berth in 1993.

In 2000, Russell would enter the CSULB Hall of Fame. He also had his No. 32 jersey retired in 2010 because he was one of the most prominent forwards to emerge from the university.

In the 1993 NBA draft, the Utah Jazz selected Russell in the second round with the No. 45 pick. He played for the Jazz for nearly a decade and 841 games in the NBA, the most of any player who came through CSULB.

1. Lucious Harris

Harris played all four of his collegiate seasons with CSULB from 1989 to 1993, and ended up with the all-time record for points scored for the program (739).

Harris had a monstrous senior season when he averaged 23.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 52.5% overall, 41.2% from 3-point range and 77.4% from the charity stripe. He led the team to a 22-10 record and an NCAA Tournament berth in 1993.

The shooting guard made the All-Big West First Team twice in his college career and had his No. 30 jersey retired by CSULB in 2007. Harris is in the 1999 CSULB Hall of Fame class.

In 1993, the Dallas Mavericks would select Harris with the No. 28 overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. Harris would play for four different teams and made two NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets. Unfortunately, Harris never won a title.

Harris played 800 NBA games, the second-highest number for any CSULB player, just behind his college teammate, Russell.

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