Despite losing their seniors and finishing with a record of 7-21 (3-13 in Big West Conference) last season, the Matadors hope to bounce back under the veteran leadership of head coach Bobby Braswell, now entering his 17th season as CSUN’s basketball coach, and their star guards, junior Josh Greene and redshirt sophomore Stephan Hicks.
This offseason was one of improvement for Northridge as they not only added seven freshmen, including center Brandon Perry, a former teammate of sophomore forward Stephen Maxwell. Perry averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game for Taft High School last year. They also got the opportunity to jell early as they took an international road trip to Canada for the first time in four years where they easily went 4-0 and built strong team chemistry.
“It was big. It gave us a chance to get ahead, to jell together, to bond together, and really gives us the edge over other teams,” said Greene, who averaged 12.4 points per game last season. “We are way ahead from where we were last year and the year before that.”
The crux of this season, however, is highlighted by the importance of Big West play and reaching the playoffs.
“I’m expecting big things out of my team,” said Hicks, who led the team in both points (15.1) and rebounds (7.1) per game last season. “We’re looking good right now, we’re gonna try to surprise and be at the top.”
Greene, who led CSUN’s offense against Long Beach State last season by averaging 20.5 points on 48 percent shooting (7-11 from downtown) against them in two games, hopes to topple the 49ers who won the Big West last season with an overall record of 24-9 (13-1 conference play).
“As far as the Big West, nobody expects us to be in the top,” Greene said. “Everyone is predicting Long Beach to win it again, Hawai’i to come in and win, and we’re the underdogs. I’m looking for us to actually upset some teams. We’re playing UCLA again. I played them my freshmen year in my first real division one game and it didn’t turn out so well, we want to rewrite history.”
This upcoming season marks the departure of veteran guard Vinnie McGhee, who got to experience the dream of partaking in March Madness in 2009 when the Matadors fell to No. 2 Memphis. McGhee, known as “the microwave” for his ability to heat up at any moment, was known as a team leader and mentor for younger players. Greene hopes to fill that role as the team currently has no seniors.
“(I had teammates in the past) showing me the ropes on what it takes to be a leader by leading by example. I feel like I’m ready and I want to take on the responsibility,” Greene said. “This year, my role has become bigger than just on the court — off the court, I have to be a big brother to the younger guys.”
Entering this season, Northridge was not only outscored by their opponents, putting up 68 points per game (on 38 percent shooting) while giving up 75, they were also outrebounded 1021-982. To fix this, Maxwell preaches defense and rebounding.
“(We want to improve defense) by fronting the post and getting in good position to rebound,” Maxwell said.