AS: Let's start with a loaded question. What is it going to take to get the Long Beach program of today to play like the Long Beach program of yesterday?
GoLongBeach: That is a loaded question. The politically correct answer is to give the program and new head coach Larry Reynolds and his staff a full three years to set the groundwork for the men's basketball program. Some suggest this is too long and others argue that it may be even longer for Larry to install his system, and attract his kind of athlete. We are a year and a half into the Reynolds era, and have yet to win a road game against a division one opponent. Yet, so far this season, we've managed to win three BWC home games over Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and most recently UCI. All three games we were a clear underdog.
It's difficult to tell if we are on the right track. We have some very young and inexperienced players that have shown signs of stardom; Loius Darby, Lucien Graham, Jabril Hodges to name a few. It would appear that Reynolds is going to build with primarily freshmen, with an occasional transfer or JC player to fill immediate needs. We have some interesting players joining the team next year, but we will again be strapped with a lack of experience in division one.
More specifically, the program needs to add some frontline players and some greater experience is needed at the point guard position. We will lose three frontline players after this season; Kevin Roberts, our leading scorer, and Marcel Jackson and Antoine Jackson, both the latter Jacksons make up 80% of our center position. Incoming we have Anthony Coleman, a 6'10", 210 pounder who plays any position from SG to Center. Coleman is coming from Xavier, where for two years he played very little. So while we see signs of progress, we have to wait and watch what develops.
It has been said that Larry Reynolds is on the hot seat. I believe that he has the support of the administration for a full three seasons. If the team makes it to the BWC tournament this year, we will have exceeded a lot of expectations. That should bode well for the comeback of this program.
AS: Senior forward Kevin Roberts is putting in 15 ppg, and averaging the most
minutes on this year's team. Does he get into foul trouble? What's the best
part of his game?
GoLongBeach: Kevin Roberts is foul prone because he is so emotional on the court. I'm sure every coach wants a kid like Kevin that plays his heart out every night. He has essentially played PF for this and last season, and at 6'5" has played over his head.
He's aggressive, and wants to win. He isn't afraid to bang it up with guys that are much bigger. In reality, Kevin is more likely a SF and can hit the three with the best of the BWC leaders. He's been forced, by roster issues, to be our PF. Kevin will finish his career as a top ten rebounder in 49er history. He's done a great job of playing out of position and making the best of it. If he is foul prone, in many cases he's defending a player that may be taller and bulkier.
While Kevin has occasionally received a "T" for various reasons, he's a team leader and inspiration. Larry Reynolds has benched Kevin for getting a ‘T", so I suspect that he has toned his enthusiasm accordingly.
AS: There seems to be a lot of talk and positive hype over sophomore guard
Louis Darby. What potential does he have in his career at Long Beach over
the next 2 1/2 years?
GoLongBeach: Louis Darby stands out on this team because he is so athletic and adds the "sizzle to the steak". Darby can create his own shot, which is not a prevalent trait on this team at this time. He's capable of hitting the three, driving to the basket and playing some very good defense.
We look for Darby to be a top BWC player before his days are over, and to be very entertaining in the process. His last second game winning shot against Santa Barbara certainly did nothing to quell the excitement 49er fans have for Darby.
AS: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this year's team?
GoLongBeach: Long Beach has show its' strength to be not giving up. In the Santa Barbara and UCI games, they came back from as many as 20 points down to win both. It appears that in victory there has been someone different taking the scoring lead, but in general, since the starting lineup remains flexible even at this late date, that any one player can step up and lead this team to victory.
Our weaknesses are clearly lack of front line strength to go against a tall front line and experience in knowing what it takes to win consistently.
AS: What are the 3 keys to this game that would result in a Long Beach
GoLongBeach: Well, (tongue-in-cheek) if you get off to a big lead (we've come back twice and beat UCSB and UCI) and then throw some object on to the court to get a technical foul (UCI managed to get a technical against a fan at our court), we are likely to win the game.
Honestly, we've won the games we shouldn't have in the BWC and lost the ones we thought we had the best chance of winning. To beat Utah State, we need to act like seniors in the bodies of sophomores and freshmen. Darby, Hodges and Graham are capable of scoring 20 each, and just as capable of scoring none. Our front line needs to play foul free and our centers (the Jacksons) need to concentrate only on rebounds and second chance shots.
We need to catch Utah State looking forward or injured or just an off night in order to win this game. Nonetheless, you can count on Roberts to score in double figures, we will probably out rebound you and if, as we did against UCI, keep turnovers in our favor, it will be close. We shouldn't have beaten UCSB, Cal Poly and UCI. We did. We shouldn't beat Utah State, but we can, if everything comes together.
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