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Reloading vs. Rebuilding: Different Paths for 49ers Teams : Basketball: Men's Coach Seth Greenberg will have six key players returning next year. Women's Coach Glenn McDonald must look to replace three starters.

March 26, 1992|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — The men's and women's basketball teams at Cal State Long Beach appear to be headed in opposite directions.

For second-year men's Coach Seth Greenberg, who guided the 49ers to an 18-12 record and berth in the National Invitation Tournament, the future looks bright. The 49ers, who won seven more games in 1991-92 than they did in 1990-91, return six key players who generated two-thirds of the team's offense and rebounding.

But the future for first-year women's Coach Glenn McDonald could be rocky. The 49ers, once a national power, finished 21-10 but were ranked only briefly this season and made their earliest exit from an NCAA tournament in school history when they were defeated by Creighton, 79-66. Previously, the 49ers had won 10 consecutive first-round games.

Long Beach loses three starters who accounted for more than half of the team's scoring and nearly half of its rebounding.

"I've got to do some serious work to do to replace them," McDonald said.

Greenberg predicted that the 49ers would be improved after they finished 11-17 in his rookie season. After a 2-3 start, Long Beach won nine of its next 11 games. Among the highlights: The 49ers were 13-0 at University Gymnasium and were seeded third in the Big West Conference tournament, but were eliminated in the semifinals by New Mexico State, 80-72. The 49ers lost at Texas Christian, 73-61, in the NIT.

Although Long Beach did not gain a berth in the NCAA tournament, Greenberg remains upbeat.

"We're excited about our future," he said. "This year I was pleased with what we did, but I was not satisfied by it."

Four junior starters return: swingman Lucious Harris (19.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists), forward Bryon Russell (14 points, 7.5 rebounds), center Chris Tower (13 points, six rebounds) and guard Rod Hannibal (7.5 points, 3.6 rebound, 2.2 assists).

Harris, who is third on the school's career-scoring list, needs 389 points--an average of 14 a game--to surpass No. 1 Michael Wiley, who scored 1,962 points from 1977-80.

Gone will be point guard Bobby Sears, who averaged 10.7 points and five assists a game. Greenberg said sophomore Jeff Rogers is expected to replace Sears. Rogers averaged only 2.4 points and 1.7 assists, but his turnover-to-minutes-played ratio (1.4 in 14 minutes a game) was second on the team to freshman center Mike Atkinson. Arizona State transfer Brian Camper might also play the point.

Greenberg was not happy with the team's defensive rebounding and is hopeful of strengthening the front line. Although Atkinson, who averaged 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds and only 1.2 turnovers in 12 minutes a game, returns, Greenberg is looking at community college and high school players and transfers to help the inside game.

The 49ers red-shirted four players last season. So now Greenberg's search will be limited to team players with personalities that will blend with the team.

"I've got such a good group of kids," he said. "I don't want to do anything to hurt our chemistry."

The 49ers also plan to press more next season and add more half-court traps.

"We need to shoot the ball more consistently," Greenberg said of a team that made only a third of its three-point shots and 46% of its shots from the field. "I thought our ability to get the ball to the open man was excellent, and as the season went on, our half-court defense got better and better."

Even McDonald questions whether the women's team can maintain the winning tradition set by former coach Joan Bonvicini, who was 325-71 with 10 conference titles in 12 seasons before she accepted a job at Arizona.

"I look at what I have to do, and I say to myself, 'OK, Glenn, let's see how good of a coach you really are."'

McDonald will have a new recruiting pitch this year: Long Beach will place earning a degree ahead of playing basketball. In the previous five seasons, only 10% of women's basketball players earned diplomas.

To win, however, the 49ers must replace leading scorer Trise Jackson (17 points), forward Kari Parriott (12.3 points and 10.9 rebounds) and center Bolivia Gaytan (10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds). Without the three, "We are looking more at an open-court game similar to what Creighton ran against us," McDonald said.

Long Beach returns several talented backcourt players, so McDonald is considering running a three-guard offense. Lakewood High's Akia Hardy, a 5-foot-6 point guard who averaged 8.5 assists, signed with the 49ers during the early signing period last fall. Loyola Marymount transfer Princess Murray, another point guard, becomes eligible in December. Marsheela Harriston, a 5-foot-10 junior who was a reserve off-guard, may also remain in the backcourt. Inconsistent starter Sherri Thormahlen, a 5-foot-7 junior guard who played on the 49er women's volleyball team, will play only basketball next season. Community college transfer LaTisa Rush is also expected to play a lot as an off-guard.

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