The LBSU women’s basketball team will try to pick up where they left off last season, posting their best record (19-9) since head coach Jeff Cammon took over, but will do so with 10 new players.
Last season, The Beach posted a (12-6) conference record, placing them third in the Big West conference led by former players Maddi Utti, Justina King and Jasmine Hardy.
That same success led them into the Big West Tournament, where they lost in the quarterfinals against UC Davis and then in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament against Oregon State.
Even though they lost those two games, it came with a positive outlook. Since Cammon took over the head coaching job in 2017, their record has steadily improved because of the returning players that knew his system.
Now the team will look substantially different, adding transfer students Malia Bambrick, Tori Harris, Iyree Jarret, Courtney Murphy, Casey Valenti Paea and Sydney Woodley. They also added incoming freshmen Kennan Ka, Davai Matthews, Olivia Moore and Abby Shoff on the team.
Cammon spoke about the new arrivals on the team and mentioned that having the privilege of the returning players from a year ago that knew the system will be beneficial to the team’s success.
“This year is a lot of teaching and it’s a lot of trying to speed up the process of learning our system, but we have a lot of pretty good players and it’s been fun trying to figure out what this team is going to be about so our identity doesn’t change,” Cammon said.
Cammon is confident that the team will have a great year this upcoming season, but said that it will be a process.
Long Beach guards Kianna Hamilton-Fisher and Ma’Qhi Berry are two of the six returning players from last year’s team and both are excited for the new players to fit into their system.
“It’s just exciting to see all these different people where they come from, a lot of them had individual success at their other schools so I feel like they can really come out and help us,” Berry said.
The team was successful last year because of the former players but now, “challenges the new people to step up so we can be that successful or even better again this year,” Hamilton-Fisher said.
The camaraderie is something that Cammon enjoys seeing from the new player additions, as it seamlessly fits into the culture they have already built.
Cammon said that the new players give an added ability of shooting the ball and allow the team to have more threats on the offensive end. After being a predominantly defensive minded team, their new additions now give them another element to their game.
And to keep the same continuity of winning from the season prior, both Hamilton-Fisher and Berry know that their teammates have to learn the team’s style of play that has kept them in position to win and grow as a team.
“We’ve just been rubbing a lot on all of our concepts just so they can fully understand, so then in the game, it’s just instinct,” Hamilton-Fisher said.
Defense is something they pride themselves on because it’s what helped them win games last year as Berry mentioned.
“They’re kind of complex so that’s something that we’ve really been repping over and over, just getting new people to understand different concepts that we do,” Berry said.
Cammon wants the returning players to set the precedent and the tone that the teams in year’s past were able to do. He knows that their roles on the team will change, but they understand what the standard is and know what it takes to win.
Cammon also noted that they’ve never won the conference or have yet to go onto the tournament and it would take, “some adversity and pushing through some challenges,” but will count on the returning players to get them over that hump.
As they prepare for their first game against Gonzaga University this season, the coaches and players are excited to finally step out onto the court and see exactly how well they match up.
Hamilton-Fisher knows that it will be a good challenge for them, seeing how Gonzaga is one of the favorites to win their own conference and feels that it will prepare them for conference games later in the season.
For Berry, she wants people to see what they are made of, saying they don’t back down from anyone, and is excited for people to see that they can compete and win games against any team.
“Gonzaga is a pretty good school, they’ve been good for a long time, but we’re a good school too,” Berry said.
Cammon wants the team to live up to the standard of LBSU basketball and focus on how they can get better.
Scheduling these games is what they want to do, in order to be one of the best mid-major schools out there by saying it’s their mission, “to be able to compete against those Power Five [conference teams] and feel like we belong and we have,” Cammon said.
The Beach will begin their season on the road in a non-conference matchup against Gonzaga on Nov. 10, before playing their first home game on Nov. 12 against La Sierra University.