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.