LONG BEACH STATE BASKETBALL
Long Beach State's Donovan Morris put the clamps on Justin Dentmon of Washington last month.
Morris brings experience to Stan Sheriff Center
Playing in the Stan Sheriff Center tomorrow will be something new for most members of the Long Beach State basketball team.
Donovan Morris is a notable exception.
Tomorrow's nonconference game between Hawaii and Long Beach State, set for 5:05 p.m., will mark the third appearance in the arena for the 49ers' junior guard, who enjoyed several big games against the Rainbow Warriors in another uniform.
Prior to transferring to Long Beach State, Morris played two seasons at Fresno State and broke the 20-point mark twice in his tenure with the Bulldogs -- both of those performances coming against the Rainbows his freshman year.
"It is kind of fun," Morris said of returning to the islands. "I was telling my teammates it is good to be back out here.
"I told them this is a good crowd and a fun environment to play in -- hopefully we're ready."
In his first encounter with UH in 2004, Morris went 7-for-7 from the field, hitting all five of his 3-point attempts, to finish with 20 points in a 79-78 Bulldogs win in Fresno. Later that season, in his first appearance at the Sheriff Center, he hit four more 3-pointers and led Fresno State with 21 points in a loss to the Rainbows.
The following year he scored 13 points in his return to Honolulu -- he enters tomorrow's game shooting 61 percent (19-for-31) from the field, going 13-for-24 from 3-point range, in his career against the 'Bows.
Morris sat out last season due to transfer rules, and leads the 49ers (2-5) this season with 14.1 points per game. He's coming off a career-best 22-point performance in Long Beach State's win over Loyola Marymount on Wednesday.
"He has the most experience of any of our guys, so we've leaned on him a little bit to stabilize us," said first-year Long Beach State coach Dan Monson, who is rebuilding an LBSU team that lost its top nine scorers off last year's team. "He's emerged as a leader for us."
Hawaii senior Bobby Nash was on hand for Morris' games against the Rainbows, and also played with and against him in high school summer camps.
"He was labeled the Hawaii killer. There's a lot of people who said it's like he's playing at home over here," Nash said. "But one person can't do it by themselves, so we have to stop every one of them. That's how we're preparing. We know he's a good player and he's going to get his shots. ... But we have to go out there and battle and compete and do the best we can to get a victory."
For his part, Nash's career includes a 15-point outing in UH's win over Long Beach State last season, and he enters tomorrow's game averaging a team-high 18 points per game for UH (2-4).
"I've known B-Nash since before college and I hear he's playing pretty good, so it's going to be a good challenge," Morris said.
Monson also has some history against Hawaii. The former Gonzaga and Minnesota coach is 1-1 against UH, both meetings coming in the National Invitation Tournament. Gonzaga lost to UH 78-70 in the 1998 tournament in Honolulu. Monson got a measure of revenge in 2003 when Minnesota eliminated UH from the NIT with an 84-70 win in Minneapolis.
What might have been
UH guard Riley Luettgerodt also has connections to members of the Long Beach State team. Luettgerodt, from Gladstone, Ore., played against 49ers forward Brandon Johnson (Vancouver, Wash.) in high school. He also got to know forward Brian Freeman (Oregon City, Ore.) in high school and while they played at rival junior colleges.
"He's a skilled post player," Luettgerodt said of Freeman. "For a big man he's a very good passer. He lets the game come to him, he'll hit shots and he's an all-around solid player."
Freeman nearly joined Luettgerodt as a Rainbow Warrior. Coming out of Clackamas (Ore.) Junior College, he narrowed his choices to Hawaii and Long Beach State. But with both schools undergoing coaching changes, he chose LBSU. He's made an instant impact for the 49ers, averaging 10.1 points and a team-high seven rebounds so far.
"I know it was a very hard decision for him," said Monson, who was hired at LBSU shortly before Bob Nash was granted the UH job.
"He's done a nice job. I probably begged him more than they did because we really didn't have any players. So I was groveling."