There is an old Jerry Seinfeld standup comedy routine about how being a sports fan is just cheering for laundry. You may boo a player on a rival team, but if he or she transfers and wears your favorite laundry, you cheer for them.
Long Beach State basketball fans will be cheering for different laundry this season, as both men’s and women’s teams debut new uniforms for the upcoming seasons full of change.
The four uniform sets use the new BE/\CH logo and a variety of darker tones. Specifically the new gold alternate uniforms with “The LBC” across the chest, and also the Walter Pyramid floor stain featuring the iconic LB at center court for the first time, are part of a rebranding the athletics department announced last month.
“We talk about the grit, blue collar work ethic here in the city of Long Beach, and we wanted to create something on our floor that embodied that feeling,” LBSU Athletics Director Andy Fee said.
Earlier this month, the video announcement of the uniforms shot at the Belmont Shore basketball courts was one of the most popular tweets of this year from the official athletics department account.
— LBSU Athletics (@LBSUAthletics) October 17, 2018
“Everybody likes (the new uniforms) and we love them a lot too,” LBSU senior Temidayo Yussuf said. “When you’re representing you have to have some swag. If you look good, you feel good and you play good. We appreciate the athletics department, and we’re going to try and make them proud by representing (the city) when we wear them.”
“I think the floor is really clean, and the players love the new uniforms, so I love them,” said LBSU 12th-year head coach Dan Monson.
The changes for the upcoming men’s basketball season started in March when Monson, the winningest coach in program history, had his contract restructured and extended after another disappointing exit in the Big West Conference Tournament. The announcement was a transparent multimedia rollout that included videos featuring Fee and Monson speaking directly to camera for more than 15 minutes about how the program would improve with new coaching and scheduling philosophies.
“Change is always good, especially when we’ve had two years in a row where we’ve not lived up to our potential, and kind of been stale on the defensive end,” Monson said. “Defense was our calling card during those championship years, and it was our Achilles heel the last two years. I think I needed to be challenged with some new ideas, and someone to give me a little bit of relief on one side of the ball.”
LBSU has brought back former assistant coach Bobby Braswell to take over the defense, and Myke Scholl has been promoted to associate head coach. Braswell began his college coaching career at LBSU in 1989, and made a name for himself at Cal State Northridge, where he took his team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001.
“We’re going to dictate and disrupt with multiple defenses and pressure to make people uncomfortable,” Braswell said. “It’s an exciting time. I know the tradition and history and how much this community loves Long Beach State basketball.”
That community will have more chances to see this team as LBSU plays 21 of its 32 games in Southern California— which is a drastic change from the long road trips against Power 5 conference opponents that Monson made a cornerstone of his program. He said he still wants to play elite teams—LBSU opens the season at No. 20 UCLA on Nov. 9—but just not as many.
“The one thing that has taken a toll on our teams has been the travel,” Monson said. “We’re not chartering planes or in first class. We’re on 6 a.m. Southwest flights battling middle seats at 6’10” and that can end up being more damaging to your season than you realize.”
LBSU has only reached the Big West championship game once since winning it in 2012— the only NCAA Tournament trip under Monson. The 49ers are 5-6 in the conference tournament with five semifinal appearances during that stretch while seven different Big West schools have won the title.
“We have a great program here that we’ve built,” Monson said. “After 12 years you shouldn’t have to rebuild, you need to reload. This place has given us all of the resources to be champions, and that needs to be our goal.”
The biggest change for Long Beach State women’s basketball this season is overall expectations. The program was left decimated after the departure of coach Jody Wynn, but last year coach Jeff Cammon took over and shaped a young team that finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
LBSU was picked to finished seventh in the Big West preseason coaches’ poll last year, and picked fourth this year, but Cammon is obviously hoping for a better finish than that in his second season.
Those hopes largely hang on the continued development of sophomore Shanaijah Davison, who was All-Big West as a true freshman last year, leading LBSU in scoring with 13.8 points per game while second on the team with 74 assists.
“Shanaijah is a special player and she had a great freshman year,” said Cammon. “As the game slows down for her this year I think she’s going to help us get to the next level.”
Standing in the way is a slate of familiar faces. The defending conference champion is Cal State Northridge, led by Bellflower native and former Long Beach State assistant coach Jason Flower. The Matadors have had more success recruiting Long Beach than the local university in recent years, and CSUN boasts a Long Beach Poly alum (Eliza Matthews) and a St. Anthony alum (Juliana Louis). The two teams’ meeting in the Pyramid on January 26th promises to be electric.
LBSU women’s basketball opens its season on Nov. 9 at Walter Pyramid against Cal Baptist, and the men’s team will play the annual Homecoming game on Nov. 10 against Menlo College.
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