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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

June 24th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


Long Beach State 49ers

Overall Rank: #137

Conference Rank: #2 Big West


2005-06: 18-12, 9-5, 3rd

2005-06 postseason: none


The 49ers of Long Beach State finished the 2005-2006 campaign on a seven game winning streak before losing to Pacific in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game.  Coach Larry Reynolds will look to use that momentum to take the next step and upend the Big West dominance of Pacific.  Not many teams can project five senior starters; however, there are major question marks in the frontcourt.


Who’s Out: The frontcourt loses Shawn Hawkins and Onye Ibekwe.  Hawkins scored 13.1 points per game and grabbed 6.0 boards per contest, while Ibekwe tacked on 4.1 points and 4.4 rebounds.  It is not easy to attract quality big men to the Big West, especially to a team that runs and guns so much that most big men would spend all game running between the free throw lines.  Hawkins fit in nicely with LBSU’s offense and will be difficult to replace.  The big loss though is Jibril Hodges.  The guard averaged 14.1 points per game and took all the big shots.  Look for returning seniors Aaron Nixon and Kejuan Johnson to fill in that role without much trouble.  Fellow guard Jazz Henderson has opted to transfer.  Henderson provided some depth last year for the backcourt, averaging 3.3 points per game.


Who’s In: Two years ago Travon Free averaged 3.9 points and 4.0 rebounds for the 49ers before succumbing to injuries.  Free will offer some much needed depth to the frontcourt and, if he can remain healthy, will battle for a starting job.  At 6-7, Free is a little undersized, but at 246 pounds, and an eye for cleaning the glass, the Compton, California product can be a very productive player under the basket.  Chris Fields can do a little bit of everything, as he has shown over the past two seasons at Long Beach City College.  Fields is better off on the wing, but he has the frame to play at the four if Coach Reynolds needs him to.


Who to Watch: The backcourt is solid with Kevin Houston, Johnson and Nixon starting and experience coming off the bench in the form of Louis Darby.  The key lies in the paint and the brunt of the expectations will fall on Mark Dawson.  Usually starting aside the now departed Hawkins, Dawson averaged 5.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest.  He is now the leader of the frontcourt and with that leadership should come a bump in the numbers.  If it doesn’t, LBSU could be in trouble. 


Final Projection: Can you score 84 points per game and be efficient enough to win the conference title?  Such high scoring teams tend to be streaky.  If the outside shot isn’t falling, there is nowhere else to go.  If LBSU can get hot at the right time, they could make a trip to the NCAAs.  Keep an eye on the battle of the four spot between Free, Dominque Ricks and Sterling Byrd.  It would be extremely helpful if one of those players could help Dawson fill the void of Hawkins.


Projected Post-season Tournament: none


Projected Starting Five:

Kevin Houston, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game

Kejuan Johnson, Senior, Guard, 11.5 points per game

Aaron Nixon, Senior, Guard, 14.7 points per game

Dominique Ricks, Senior, Forward, 4.3 points per game

Mark Dawson, Senior, Center, 5.0 points per game

#138 Ole Miss » Complete List » #136 St Joseph's

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