Long Beach State men’s basketball is projected to finish second in the Big West Conference coming into the season and head coach Dan Monson is determined to keep his players focused.
Monday’s practice was cut a few minutes short because Monson felt the players were out of sync three days away from their first exhibition game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys back, but we have some new guys that were trying to get incorporated into the system,” Monson said. “As a player, you lose focus because you get excited about playing. We’re just trying to find a middle ground right now.”
Last season, The Beach finished one game over .500 with an overall record of 17-16 and a conference record of 11-9. The Beach lost in the opening round of the Big West tournament in an 88-66 second-half loss to Cal Poly Pomona.
Long Beach State’s junior forwards Aboubacar Traore and Lassina Traore were nominated to the Big West preseason coaches’ team.
The dynamic frontcourt duo earned notable honors for The Beach last season, with Lassina notching an all-Big West first team nod and newcomer of the year award, while Aboubacar earned the Big West Best Hustle Player.
Lassina and Aboubacar said they didn’t place much importance on the preseason coaches’ team nominations and past awards; instead, they remained focused on their team’s bigger goals following a disappointing end to last year’s season.
“Honestly, I don’t really care about this stuff,” Lassina said. “I’m really focused on the team and how we can get better as a team and not make the same mistake as last year.”
Lassina was a double-double machine last season, ranking 10th in the nation with 17 double-doubles in 33 games. He averaged 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 53.4% from the field on 9.7 attempts.
“We’re really hungry and kind of mad because we played bad last season, not only in the tournament but in the conference,” Aboubacar said. “We’re just hungry and can’t wait for the season to start.”
In 33 games started last season, Aboubacar averaged 10.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
The Beach brought back senior guard Marcus Tsohonis, sophomore guard A.J. George and junior guard Jadon Jones.
Tsohonis notched a single-game Long Beach State scoring record in last season’s triple overtime win at UC San Diego with a 46-point performance. In 28 games last season, he averaged 14.1 points on 26.4% shooting from deep and 39% overall.
George averaged 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 41.6% from behind the arc and 56.2% overall in 33 games last season.
Jones averaged 8.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals. He shot 31.6% from three on 5.0 shot attempts and 34.8% overall in 27 games.
The Beach welcomes four additions to their roster — two transfers and two freshmen. Isa Silva, 6-foot, 4-inch junior point guard from Stanford; Messiah Thompson, 5-foot, 8-inch senior guard from Texas A&M; Eli Djordjevic, 6-foot, 8-inch freshman guard from White Rock, British Columbia, Canada and Varick Lewis, 6-foot, 2-inch freshman guard from Elk Grove, Calif.
Silva and Thompson are still adjusting to Monson’s system, with The Beach head coach speaking on their addition to the roster as key to their point guard depth.
“Last year, when Joel Murray went down, we never really figured out the point guard situation,” Monson said. “So between those two and Aboubacar, we also have playing some at the point.”
Coming out of high school, Silva was ranked 11th in the nation in his class. In two seasons at Stanford, he played 64 games with an average of 13.4 minutes played. He averaged 3.3 points and 1.4 assists while shooting 40.3% from three and 42.7% overall.
At Alabama A&M, Thompson was a consistent three-point shooter for the Bulldogs, shooting 40.8% on 4.8 attempts while averaging 10.8 points, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals.
The Beach will begin its campaign this Thursday in an exhibition matchup against Cal Lutheran at the Walter Pyramid at 7 p.m.