Rising to the Top
BY: CHASEN DOERR
The Long Beach State men's basketball team has had one incredible season. After two bitter consecutive season-ending losses in the Big West Conference finals to the UC Santa Barbara, the team has bounced back with an unbelievable undefeated run through their conference schedule. With a handful of big wins against ranked teams to start the season off, this team has been primed for success. From the talent of the team's veteran seniors, the dedication of their coach Dan Monson, the consistency from the bench and the roars from the enthusiastic crowd, the Long Beach State team has turned into one of the most feared mid-major teams in the nation. The Seasoned Veterans
- Casper Ware, senior point guard, (5', 10", 175 pounds)
Casper Ware's season has gone just as expected. After being chosen as one of the 50 best overall players in the Wooden Watch list this preseason, Ware hasn't disappointed. Ware has won four Big West Conference Player of the Week awards this year and tied Long Beach State's record for most 3-pointers made in a game with eight. Ware also moved into first on the career assist list for Long Beach State. He's also a finalist for the Bob Cousey Award among 10 other players this year.
- Larry Anderson, senior shooting guard, (6', 5", 210 pounds)-
Ware would be nothing without his big man counterpart Larry Anderson. Anderson entered the season ranked as the tenth-best mid-major shooting guard. He's also one of the team's double-figure scorers.
- T.J. Robinson, senior forward, (6', 8", 205 pounds)
T.J. Robinson has maintained the intensity he's had throughout his career with his third straight double-rebound season. Robinson is certainly Long Beach State's second most feared player behind Ware, and now holds the record for most career rebounds in the Big West Conference. Throughout Robinson's career he's had more than 50 double-double games.
- Eugene Phelps, senior forward, (6', 7", 225 pounds)
Eugene Phelps has been a force down-low all season long. Phelps has been a Big West leader in rebounds, blocks and scoring throughout his career and this season hasn't been anything different. Phelps is also not far from joining Long Beach State's 1,000 career points club.
- James Ennis, junior guard/forward, (6', 6", 190 pounds)
After scoring more than 1,000 points in just two seasons at junior college, James Ennis was expected to break into the Long Beach State starting five this season. Ennis did just that without skipping a beat. Ennis has been a big-time player in some of Long Beach State's key wins this season, including the home game against rival Cal State Fullerton. Ennis is also another one of the team's consistent double-figure scorers.
- Mike Caffey, freshman point guard, (6', 0", 170 pounds)
The young Mike Caffey has big shoes to fill once Ware leaves. But Caffey's play this season doesn't have Long Beach State faithful worried about the future. Caffey was named one of the top five mid-major newcomers entering the season. He hasn't disappointed providing great backup for Ware. Caffey has also been Monson's number one choice off the bench netting at least twice as many minutes as anyone on the on the team besides the starting five this season.
Long Beach State at (9) Pittsburgh
The 86-76 victory over highly ranked Pittsburgh certainly placed Long Beach State on the map early this year. Monson made sure the bulk of his team's first games would be against tough teams and this game was one of them. Casper Ware had 29 points, two rebounds and six assists in this win. The game was televised on national television and made many aware Long Beach State was a talented mid-major team.
Long Beach State at (15) Xavier
After three consecutive losses to ranked teams, Long Beach State's tough schedule was taking a toll. But in this low-scoring 68-58 victory, rookie Mike Caffey shined with 14 points, two rebounds and two steals in the Diamond Head Classic win in Honolulu, Hawaii. The team would eventually lose to the Kansas State Wildcats on the tournament's final Christmas Day, but once again Long Beach State proved to the nation they could play with anyone.
Long Beach State vs. Cal State Fullerton
Once Long Beach State reached the Big West Conference they were instant favorites to take it all. In dominant fashion, the team put together an undefeated streak for the ages. One of their biggest wins in conference play came against cross-town rival Cal State Fullerton. In front of a record setting 5,649 spectators in the Walter Pyramid, the game was tight until James Ennis went off during the second half totaling 19 points, four assists and two blocks in the 75-61 victory. The crowd couldn't have been more loud and proud that night.