James Ennis, Solomon Hill

Long Beach State will take its lumps until help arrives on December 18

1 Comment

There’s been at least one guarantee during the Dan Monson era at Long Beach State: the 49ers are going to challenge themselves with one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules.

Even with heavy personnel losses from last year’s Big West champion squad (most notably Big West Player of the Year Casper Ware), Long Beach State ducked no one in putting together a schedule that has included a visit by North Carolina and a trip to Arizona. This week may take the cake however, as Long Beach State has road games against No. 4 Syracuse and No. 7 Ohio State.

For a team with just nine available scholarship players this season has taken a lot out of the 49ers, but they push forward with an eye toward conference play and the goal of repeating as Big West champions.

How does a team with a 3-4 record deal with such a tough schedule? The 49ers focus on themselves and what they need to do in order to get better.

“This whole trip is about us coming back with something to hang our hat on as far as our identity and playing against these teams and getting better,” said Monson, who admitted his team took a step in reverse Monday. “Last year’s team would go into these games looking for an at-large bid (in the NCAA Tournament).

“This team, we’re using this as a true preseason and, again, these are great teams for us to see because they’re going to expose any weakness we have.”

Long Beach State is coming off of a 64-59 home loss to Fresno State on Monday night, one in which the 49ers shot 3-of-14 from beyond the arc and 18-of-33 from the foul line. Those numbers, in addition to shooting 29.6% in the second half, proved to be too much to overcome despite 23 points and 13 rebounds from senior forward James Ennis.

But even with the loss to the Bulldogs and what could be two road losses, help isn’t too far away for the 49ers. December 18, when Long Beach State visits UCLA, is the day that transfers Keala King, Tony Freeland and Edgar Garibay are due to become eligible to play.

King will give the 49ers another perimeter scorer, thus helping out Mike Caffey, while Freeland and Garibay are expected to factor into the front court rotation alongside Dan Jennings. Those two will also allow Ennis more opportunities on the wing, as he’s had to deal with bigger players on both ends of the floor due to a lack of interior depth.

Taking on Syracuse and Ohio State are significant challenges for any team, much less a depleted one like Long Beach State. But with reinforcements on the way, these games can only help players such as Kris Gulley and Kyle Richardson.

And if that means another Big West title come March, the 49ers’ ambitious scheduling will have paid off.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

Leave a comment

Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Leave a comment

Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
Leave a comment

John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.