COLLEGE BASKETBALL 1995-96 : 49ers Have the Pyramid, Are Climbing : Long Beach: Last season exceeded expectations, and Greenberg has high hopes for this one.
Reality exceeded expectations last season at Long Beach State. So much so that the 49ers’ dreams are even bigger now.
The students are excited and the administration wants more. Coach Seth Greenberg embraces lofty goals and is determined to deliver.
“We want to be thought of with the best,” Greenberg said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it.”
A few more seasons like the last will help, although it didn’t start that way.
Greenberg wasn’t sure about his team because of injuries and inexperience. But he got almost everything possible out of it.
Long Beach finished 20-10 and tied for second place in the Big West Conference at 13-5--the best conference record in Greenberg’s five-year tenure as coach.
And Long Beach was better in the postseason. The 49ers won the conference tournament for the second time in three seasons, again earning the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament berth.
The 49ers hoped their new 5,000-seat on-campus arena, the Pyramid, would stir some excitement. Long Beach set a school record, averaging 4,254 in attendance.
Center Joe McNaull, point guard Tye Mays and power forward Terrance O’Kelley were the foundation. They played their best basketball as seniors, providing the difference in many close victories.
Greenberg said the trio can’t be replaced. But he likes what he has left.
“We’re obviously going to be a much different team,” Greenberg said. “But do we have players? Yes, we have players.”
The Long Beach lineup is among the most athletic in the Big West. Fortunately for Greenberg, guard James Cotton rejoins the group.
Cotton--the 1993-94 Big West freshman of the year--played in only one game last season. He became a medical redshirt after suffering a severely sprained left ankle.
Cotton averaged 11.4 points and 4.2 rebounds two seasons ago.
Greenberg believes Cotton will be a star.
“My biggest concern is that James is such a perfectionist, he puts so much pressure on himself,” Greenberg said. “James just needs to go out and enjoy playing basketball again.”
Forward Juaquin Hawkins and guard Rasul Salahuddin were voted the Big West’s best defensive players by their peers. Their offense will be as good this time, Greenberg said.
Guard Eric Brown is the 49ers’ best shooter. He seized his first opportunity to play, averaging 7.7 points per game and making 38.1% of his three-point shots. He made several clutch shots in the Big West tournament.
“I like our first seven or eight [players],” Greenberg said. “I’m comfortable with E.B. [Brown] starting or bringing him off the bench. He’ll give us great scoring as our sixth man.”
Guard Brandon Titus redshirted last season after transferring from Louisiana State. He will back up Salahuddin at point guard.
Akeli Jackson and Marcus Johnson are quick forwards who must provide rebounding and defense. Burly center Brian Yankelevitz added muscle and improved his stamina. He is an excellent passer and might be a factor.
Long Beach will run a lot. That’s out of character for Greenberg, whose success has come through solid half-court offense and defense. His personnel dictates change, so Greenberg will adapt.
Long Beach lost its last two regular-season conference games last season and first place in the process. Conference coaches believe the Big West is improved, Greenberg included.
“The team that wins the conference will be the team that handles playing on the road and kind of stays together,” he said. “I really think that’s important. The season is long. It wears on coaches and it wears on players.”
Greenberg knows. Despite the 49ers’ success, he was openly criticized by players for his handling of the team. He held the group together, which might have been his biggest feat in his best season of coaching.
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Long Beach State Facts and Figures
No Player Pos Hgt Wgt Yr 32 Gerry Branner F-C 6-8 245 Sr. 12 Eric Brown G 6-6 230 Sr. 14 Alberto Buzzavo F 6-6 190 Fr. 21 Scott Catania F 6-9 210 Jr. 44 James Cotton G 6-5 200 So. 24 Jamie Davis F 6-6 205 Sr. 55 Tommie Davis G 5-9 170 So. 15 Mike Fields G 6-1 190 Jr. 5 Juaquin Hawkins F 6-7 195 Sr. 3 Akeli Jackson F 6-8 220 So. 10 Marcus Johnson F 6-9 210 So. 33 Corey Saffold G-F 6-7 200 So. 4 Rasul Salahuddin G 6-3 185 Sr. 22 Brandon Titus G 6-4 190 Jr. 53 Brian Yankelevitz C 6-8 245 Jr.
No Comment 32 Non-scholarship 12 38.1% on 3-pointers, 6th man this year 14 From Treviso, Italy 21 JC transfer 44 Averaged 11.2 points in 1993-94 24 Averaged 6.5 points in 18 minutes 55 Los Angeles prep 15 JC transfer 5 Will play as graduate student 3 11 minutes a game 10 JC transfer 33 Transfer from Oklahoma 4 11.2 points and four assists a game 22 Transfer from LSU 53 JC Transfer
Date Opponent Time Nov. 15 Lost to Arizona, 91-57 Nov. 25 at Detroit 4:30 Dec. 2 CS Hayward 1:00 Dec. 6 Hawaii 9:00 Dec. 9 at Oregon State 1:00 Dec. 16 Miami of Ohio 6:30 Dec. 19 St. Mary’s 7:30 Dec. 22 George Mason 9:00 Jan. 2 UC Santa Barbara 7:30 Jan. 6 at Nebraska 11 a.m. Jan. 10 CS Fullerton 7:30 Jan. 13 at Las Vegas Nevada 8:00 Jan. 18 Utah State 9:00 Jan. 20 Nevada 7:30 Jan. 22 at New Mexico State 9:00 Jan. 25 at San Jose State 7:30 Jan. 27 at Pacific 7:30 Feb. 1 at CS Fullerton 7:00 Feb. 3 at UC Irvine 7:00 Feb. 5 Nevada Las Vegas 9:00 Feb. 10 New Mexico State 7:30 Feb. 12 UC Irvine 7:30 Feb. 15 at Nevada 7:30 Feb. 17 at Utah State 6:30 Feb. 22 Pacific 7:30 Feb. 24 San Jose State 4:30 Mar. 2 at UC Santa Barbara 7:30 Mar 8-10 Big West Tournament at Reno TBA
All times Pacific and p.m. unless noted.
Coach: Seth Greenberg, 6th season at Long Beach St., 88-60 (2 NCAA appearances).
1994-95 Team Record: 13-5 in Big West (2nd tie), 20-10 overall.