With Michael Caffey and Tyler Lamb both back, Long Beach State is expected to be one of the contenders for the Big West title. Unfortunately for head coach Dan Monson he’ll be without the services of one of his starters this season.
At the annual Wooden Award Basketball Tipoff Luncheon Wednesday, Monson announced that starting guard A.J. Spencer will miss the 2014-15 season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during a pickup game last week.
News of the injury was first reported by the Orange County Register last week, with Monson making an official announcement at the luncheon. Spencer will redshirt this season, returning as a fifth-year senior in 2015-16.
Spencer, a 6-foot-3 guard, averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season after transferring in from Hutchinson CC in Kansas. Spencer started 28 of the 49ers’ 32 games last season, providing Long Beach State with a solid supplementary scoring option alongside the likes of Caffey and Lamb. His best offensive outing came in a win at Hawaii in late January, as he scored a season-high 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field.
With Spencer no longer available a spot in the rotation opens for Long Beach State, with Branford Jones and McKay LaSalle among the perimeter players who enter the 2014-15 season looking to increase their opportunities. Jones started eight games last season, and his presence tends to allow Caffey the chance to operate off the ball on occasion. LaSalle played sparingly in 2013-14, averaging 10.6 minutes per game, and he was regarded as one of the team’s best shooters upon his arrival from Saddleback CC.
Once again Long Beach State will take on a challenging non-conference slate. Their season begins at BYU, and it will include a game at UCLA and a brutal six-game stretch against Stephen F. Austin, San Diego State, Texas, St. John’s, Syracuse and Louisville with all six being on the road. The non-conference schedule should result in a well-prepared team when Big West play begins in January.
After missing the final seven games of the 2013-14 season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, California center Kameron Rooks entered the offseason with hopes of not only getting healthy but also becoming a more integral figure for the Golden Bears. And with Richard Solomon out of eligibility, the door was open for the rising sophomore to step forward and earn more than the seven minutes he averaged as a freshman.
Unfortunately for Rooks and new head coach Cuonzo Martin there’s a good chance that the 7-footer won’t be able to play this season, with multiple outlets reporting that Rooks suffered a torn ACL in his left knee last week. And considering who the Golden Bears have in their front court, the loss of Rooks is a significant one.
While Cal returns starter David Kravish, who averaged 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season, he’s by far the most experienced front court player on the roster. David Behrens averaged 1.0 points and 1.4 rebounds per contest in 24 games last season, and Roger Moute a Bidias played 5.9 minutes per game in 15 contests in 2013-14.
The addition of 7-foot-1 center Kingsley Okoroh, who originally committed to join Martin’s program at Tennessee, will help the Golden Bears. However with the loss of Rooks (and the de-commitment of Idrissa Diallo when Mike Montgomery announced his retirement), Cal will enter the 2014-15 season without much margin for error in the paint when it comes to factors such as foul trouble and injuries.
Freshman forward Davonte Fitzgerald has been one of the bright spots this season for Texas A&M, as he averaged 7.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in just under 16 minutes of action per contest. And on Wednesday in the Aggies’ win over LSU the Atlanta native got off to a hot start, scoring 11 points and grabbing three rebounds in nine minutes of the playing time.
Unfortunately Fitzgerald suffered a knee injury late in the first half, and on Thursday the school announced that he will miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season as a result. In SEC play Fitzgerald averaged 8.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, with his best offensive performance being a 20-point outing in a loss at Mississippi State on January 18.
Texas A&M has just one player, junior guard Jamal Jones (12.3 ppg), averaging double figures this season with six other members of the rotation averaging between 6.0 (Shawn Smith) and 9.8 (Kourtney Roberson) points per game. Without Fitzgerald in the fold Texas A&M will need to account for the resulting loss in offensive production as a group, with forward Antwan Space and guard Fabyon Harris (who averaged 12.0 ppg last season) among the options to provide assistance in this regard.
After losing five straight SEC games Billy Kennedy’s team has won two of its last three, and they visit Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon.
h/t Jeff Borzello
Vanderbilt was able to hold off Marshall on Thursday night, beating the Thundering Herd 69-67 with Damian Jones and James Siakam leading the way with 15 points apiece. But the victory was a Pyrrhic one, as on Friday morning head coach Kevin Stallings announced that junior center Josh Henderson tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee.
That means the Commodores are down to eight scholarship players for the remainder of the season, and it makes the progression of Jones all the more important as they approach the start of SEC play. Henderson was averaging 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19 minutes of action per game, starting three of the eight games in which he played.
Jones’ 15-point, six-rebound performance came on the heels of a two-game stretch in which he accounted for a total of eight points and 11 rebounds. As a top-100 recruit out of high school Jones was expected to be an impact newcomer for Vanderbilt, but the presence of Henderson certainly helped in the newcomer’s adjustment to college basketball.
With Henderson no longer available, Jones will be asked to provide even more in the paint. Vanderbilt’s next four games are at home, beginning with Austin Peay on Tuesday night.
The collegiate career of LIU Brooklyn sixth-year senior forward Julian Boyd has hit another bump, as it was reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports that Boyd re-tore the ACL in his right knee this summer. According to the report the earliest that the one-time NEC Player of the Year would be able to return to action would be in January.
This is yet another serious blow for Boyd, whose career nearly came to an end following a freshman season in which he earned NEC Rookie of the Year honors due to a heart ailment. After sitting out the entire 2009-10 season as a medical redshirt Boyd returned to the court with a vengeance, earning first team All-NEC honors while helping to lead the Blackbirds to the first of their three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament.
Boyd was even better as a junior as he averaged 17.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest, winning NEC Player of the Year honors. But eight games into the 2012-13 season he suffered a torn ACL in LIU’s 97-70 win over Rice. Head coach Jack Perri was able to lead the Blackbirds to another NEC tournament crown due to the presence of veterans such as forward Jamal Olasewere (who won NEC Player of the Year) and point guard Jason Brickman.
And just when it seemed as if Boyd was on track to return to the starting lineup, he re-injures his right knee.
While Brickman is back for his senior season Olasewere is out of eligibility, meaning that LIU’s task of winning a fourth consecutive NEC crown gets even tougher with Boyd out of the lineup. Of LIU’s front court returnees sophomore E.J. Reed is the most experienced, as he averaged 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as a freshman.
Can Reed make a significant jump in production now that Boyd is unavailable (there’s also the graduation of both Olasewere and Kenny Onyechi to deal with)? He’ll need to, and junior college transfers Landon Atterberry and Chris Carter will need to hit the ground running as well. LIU also adds a pair of freshmen in Glenn Feidanga and Nurra Zanna, with the latter being the younger brother of Pitt senior forward Talib Zanna.
LIU won’t lack for bodies in Boyd’s absence, but the loss of a player as talented and experienced as the sixth-year senior is a tough blow to take less than a month before practice begins. What kind of player will Boyd be if he’s able to return to the court this season? That’s a tough question to answer, especially when it comes to serious knee injuries.
But given his career up to this point, if there’s anyone who can come back and ultimately flourish it’s Julian Boyd.