Sept. 30, 2013
Long Beach, Calif. - Long Beach State's men's basketball team started the 2013-14 season officially on Saturday evening with their first practice. The 49ers return two starters from last year's squad that won the Big West regular-season title with a 14-4 record in conference play.
The 49ers opened up practice at an earlier date this season. New NCAA regulations allow for 30 practice days in the 42 days preceding a team's first competition. Thus Long Beach State kicked the tires on the 2013-14 season in the first allowable minutes, at 5 p.m. on Saturday, six weeks from Long Beach State's Homecoming opener against Hawaii Pacific.
Long Beach State is seeking a fourth consecutive regular season championship, as well as the team's second trip to the NCAA tournament in the last three years and its fourth straight postseason appearance.
That effort will be led by the 49ers' two returning starters, Mike Caffey (G, 6-0, 175) and Dan Jennings (F, 6-9, 245). A junior, Caffey was a first-team All-Big West selection a season ago, trailing only NBA Draft pick and Big West Player of the Year James Ennis in scoring for the 49ers at 12.0 points per game, while also handing out 126 assists and making 47 steals on the year.
Caffey's leadership will be a key for the 49ers, as will be the post presence of the senior Jennings. Jennings started 30 games for the 49ers in his first season with the 49ers after transferring in from West Virginia. Jennings averaged 8.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game, and looks ready to again be a force in the middle for Long Beach State.
The 49ers return just one other player with significant experience in junior Kris Gulley (G/F, 6-7, 195), who started 10 games for Long Beach State in 2012-13, who comes back as a letterwinner along with Nick Shepherd (F, 6-9, 220) and Edgar Garibay (F, 6-11, 250).
Despite the lack of depth in returning experience, the 49ers have high hopes for the season in the leadership of Caffey and Jennings along with a large group of newcomers, as the 49ers welcome back two redshirts along with eight other newcomers.
Two promising guards highlight the returning redshirts for Long Beach State, as Branford Jones (G, 6-1, 185) and Javion Watson (G, 6-2, 190). Jones had a promising season cut short with a broken leg during the first game of the season last year, and Watson was a highly-touted recruit out of San Diego, and the pair should provide much-needed depth at guard for Long Beach State.
At the wing, the 49ers will have to wait until December for Tyler Lamb (G, 6-5, 205), but the versatile UCLA transfer will become eligible at the end of the first semester of classes. As a freshman at UCLA, Lamb averaged 9.0 points per game for the Bruins while handing out 2.81 assists per game.
With additional spaces to fill, the 49ers turned to the junior college ranks, where they have found key contributors in the past such as Ennis and Gulley. Shoring up the frontcourt will be Christian Griggs-Williams (F, 6-7, 260), Charles Lockett (F, 6-6, 235) and David Samuels (F, 6-7, 225) who will all compete for time with Jennings, Shepherd and Garibay. In the backcourt, the 49ers welcome in A.J. Spencer (G, 6-3, 200) and McKay LaSalle (G, 6-3, 190) who will compete for a shooting guard spot with the two redshirts.
Finally, the 49ers add two freshman in Desmond Ross (G, 6-3, 190) and Anson Moye (G, 6-0, 175). Ross will work for time at shooting guard, while Moye provides additional depth at point guard behind Caffey and Jones.
Long Beach State opens up the 2013-14 campaign in the Walter Pyramid on Saturday, November 9, when the 49ers host Hawaii Pacific in the campus' Homecoming.
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