Commentary, Men's Basketball, Men's Sports, Sports

The Long Beach men’s basketball team proves to be the real deal

What was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Long Beach State men’s basketball team has turned into a satisfying surprise, as the team currently sits in third in the Big West Conference at 6-3.  

No one knew what the team’s identity would be going into the 2017-2018 season after losing point guard Justin Bibbins to Utah last season. Things seemed to be on the decline from an organizational standpoint, but the battle had only begun. Despite the turbulence, the 49ers were able to land junior guard Bryan Alberts from Gonzaga in addition to a trio of transfers.

It was tough to watch the beginning of the first half of the season as the chemistry on the floor was nearly nonexistent, but as the team got accustomed to playing with each other, dividends began to be paid when conference play rolled around. Long Beach found its footing at the right moment and has been able to regroup and focus on playing tenacious defense.

It all starts with the returning frontcourt of senior forward Gabe Levin and junior Temidayo Yussuf. It was rare to see the duo play together last year due to Levin’s injury, but with the front court members healthy this season they have worked well together. The pair have become the embodiment of grit and grind, working off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to create a daunting two-man game.

Yussuf has proven to be a force down low, bullying his way to the basket and drawing double teams consistently. He has shown that he is able to find the open man when his shot is not available, leading to open jumpers and easy baskets. While Levin may not be as strong as his counterpart in the post, he has been able to spread the floor to open lanes for his guards and maneuver his way to the basket. His ability to spread the floor extends to the 3-point line where he has shot 38 percent beyond the arc on 42 attempts in the season so far.

One of the biggest surprises this season has been transfer junior guard Deishuan Booker who has taken the starting point guard position. Booker has shot an efficient 52.2 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point range and 82.7 percent from the freethrow line while averaging 30 minutes per game. He is averaging 10.5 points, 5.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds a game. He currently leads the Big West in assists and turnovers but has shown recent improvement in taking care of the ball.

There is a lot of individual talent on the team, but you can see that the players have bought into playing for each other. The amount of unselfish plays and unifying strategies have created a winning culture for the 49ers.

It is only the halfway mark of conference play, but it is safe to say that Long Beach is in route to having a strong season and making a deeper run this postseason.

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