Coming off of a tough loss last season to California State University, Fullerton then winning the Big West Championship, Long Beach State men’s basketball is hoping to pick up where they left off.
The 2021-2022 season was something of a Cinderella story last fall, as The Beach was first in the Big West by going 12-3 in conference and 20-13 overall after a few shaky seasons.
“This is a whole different team, a whole different year, but we know how close we were and how far away we were,” said Dan Monson, head coach of LBSU men’s basketball. “We have good talent, good character and they like each other.”
This year’s roster is filled with players who already know the system, as well as new additions who Monson feels will bring what’s needed to have a successful season. He said there are eight new guys who all fill missing pieces to last year’s puzzle.
Some of the new players include junior guard Marcus Tsohonis, a transfer student from Virginia Commonwealth University, and sophomore forward Lassina Traore, a transfer student from Saint Louis University, who bring a whole new dynamic to the court.
Three junior college transfers include junior forward Amari Stroud, sophomore guard Tone Hunter and junior center Chase Polynice.
Monson said these transfers will bring depth to the team, as well as those that weren’t able to play due to injury, like sophomore guard AJ George.
Players like freshman guard Jason Hart Jr. come ready to work with a clear goal in mind. Hart’s father is currently the head coach of the G League Ignite, which is a team in the NBA’s official minor league, and also had a legendary stint while playing college basketball for Syracuse University.
Having come from a family background which involved basketball, Hart said he was subjected to know everything as far as what it took to be a professional athlete. He also said that he pretty much has the answers to the test of basketball because of his fathers background and expertise.
“Knowing the pros and cons of what to do as a basketball player and a division one athlete as well, is basically just maintaining the determination and willingness to get better,” Hart Jr. said.
Upperclassmen such as senior guard Joel Murray are looking forward to the season as their time as college basketball players come to an end.
Murray is eligible for the 2023 NBA draft and some of his accolades during his time at LBSU include the first player from The Beach to earn All-District honors in five years, First-Team All-Big West and even leading the team in scoring and assists per game last season.
“I wasn’t focused on how good or how bad anybody in the league were. I just knew everybody in the league is here for a reason and so I just have to show myself where I’m coming from and what I did,” Murray said. “I just want to make it to the NCAA tournament. I know if I do that, everything else that I have planned on my goal board will come true.”
The upcoming season will also see different focuses being worked on in practices.
Monson said that the COVID-19 pandemic brought light to mental health and how much of an impact it has on players. The team is going to continue to have mental health practice days, where coaching staff works to make players better people off the court.
Monson also wants to add emphasis on the weight room, keeping players healthy and helping them train to physically endure blows.
“I think Jadon Jones, Joel Murray and Aboubacar Traore came in here and changed the attitude and culture of the program… I think as they go, we’ll go this year,” Monson said.
The Beach will kick off this season with a home exhibition match against Biola University on Oct. 21, with the first official game of the season being against California Baptist University on Nov. 7 in Riverside.