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LONG BEACH STATE NOTEBOOK / JASON REID : For Starters, Greenberg Must Decide on Top 5

Anyone interested can check out the new-look men’s basketball team Sunday. The 49ers begin their exhibition season against High-Five America at 5 p.m. at the Pyramid, which likely won’t be a game for the ages but could have its moments.

But don’t go expecting to see a finished product. Or a familiar one.

Coach Seth Greenberg has questions to resolve and changes to make. He might be busy until Long Beach’s season opener Nov. 15 at Arizona in the Preseason NIT. They’re necessary because center Joe McNaull and power forward Terrance O’Kelley--the foundation of last season’s NCAA tournament team--have moved on.

They were the top scorers and rebounders, so it’s not a matter of Greenberg simply throwing in the first guys he sees. Such is life.

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Greenberg, though, isn’t overly worried. He’s got enough to work with. Beginning Sunday, he hopes to start putting it together.

“This team has tremendous potential,” Greenberg said. “We can play a lot of lineups and do a lot of different things.”

Except play an especially large lineup. McNaull (6 feet 10, 255 pounds) was the 49ers’ power guy. O’Kelley (6 feet 7, 245 pounds) wasn’t far behind. There is some height on this team, but nothing to match the force lost.

Then there’s the starting lineup.

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Forward Juaquin Hawkins, probably the most improved 49er, and guard Rasul Salahuddin are the returning starters, and guard James Cotton might as well be included in that group too. He would have started if not for a left ankle injury, which forced him to redshirt.

That leaves two slots. Not that Greenberg asked, but we think guard Brandon Titus and forward/center Akeli Jackson should complete the unit. Greenberg’s outlook?

“I think there is a question about where people are going to start at about four spots,” he said. “I haven’t made up my mind.”

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Not a big reader: Several national publications pick the 49ers second or third in the Big West Conference. Greenberg will take it on your word.

Greenberg doesn’t read the preseason annuals. Never has, never will, he said.

“Those publications are basically for fans, alumni and basketball junkies,” Greenberg said. “Championships aren’t won in media publications or [sports information directors] offices. They’re won by players playing hard and players getting better.”

Greenberg’s attitude, however, hasn’t rubbed off on his staff.

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“Yeah, [lead assistant coach] Clyde [Vaughan] reads them all,” Greenberg said. “He’s got every magazine since 1976.”

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Feeling better: Volleyball player Brita Schwerm, star senior outside hitter and undisputed team role model, likes the signs. True, she’s not ecstatic about the team’s performance. But she is more optimistic than a few weeks ago.

“The team looks pretty good now,” Schwerm said. “It’s progressing a lot faster than before.”

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Long Beach (16-5, 9-2 in the Big West) is ranked 15th. The 49ers defeated Loyola Marymount in a nonconference match Wednesday night, 15-3, 15-11, 15-8.

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Looking ahead: The regular season doesn’t begin for more than two months. But men’s volleyball Coach Ray Ratelle is looking forward to it so much, he sounds like it’s playoff time now.

“We might be favored to win it all,” said Ratelle, whose team finished 18-9 last season. “We’re certainly going to be right there--as long as the coach doesn’t screw ‘em up.”

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Ratelle’s first opportunity to contribute arrives Friday in an exhibition match. Long Beach plays host to Brigham Young at 7 p.m. at the Pyramid.

49er Notes

The women’s basketball team also plays an exhibition game Sunday at the Pyramid. The women play a team of 49er alumni, beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 for the women, $12 for the men. . . . The men’s cross-country team finished fifth at the Big West Championships with 121 points; the women were eighth with 182. Pat Bendzick, who paced the men in every meet, was 11th overall with a time of 26:23. Christa Ayuso, the women’s leader, was 12th at 19:02.


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