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