Long awaited men’s basketball season begins

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Even though it is an exhibition game, basketball is back at CSUN, as the Matadors take on the CSU Los Angeles Golden Eagles tonight on Wells Fargo Court at the Matadome at 7 p.m.

“It will be nice to play against somebody else,” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “We will have a good opportunity to evaluate individual players, groups and competition.”

CSUN finished last season with an overall record of 18-13 and a 12-6 conference record, which was good for third in the Big West. However, the Matadors lost to Pacific for the second straight year in heartbreaking fashion at the semifinals of the Big West Tournament in Anaheim.

The Golden Eagles finished last season with a 1-26 record, which included a winless conference record and the end of Dave Yanai’s nine-year coaching career at CSULA. The Golden Eagles interim head coach, Stephen Thompson, spent three years as an assistant on the Golden Eagles bench.

CSULA returns only four players from last year’s team, including senior Gene Myveet. Myveet led the California Collegiate Athletic Association in steals per game at 2.4 and was second in the league in scoring, averaging 17 points a game. Myveet scored double digits in 20 games, including 34 points against CSU Stanislaus on Mar. 4. Myveet played for CSUN from 2001 till 2003. He averaged just under two points and two rebounds per game as a Matador freshman.

The Golden Eagles also return 5th-year senior David Lester, who averaged five points per game and won the team’s “Coaches Award.”

CSULA has three seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen on the 2005-06 roster.

“I don’t know much about Cal State L.A.,” Braswell said. “We are going to have to show up and play.”

The Matadors went on its first foreign tour this season, traveling to Vancouver, British Colombia in September to play three exhibition games. The Matadors went 2-1 on the trip, including an 88-86 victory over Trinity Western. After losing to the University of British Columbia 85-61, CSUN won later that night, 75-71 over the Burnaby Mountain All-Stars.

“The Canada trip helped a lot,” said assistant men’s basketball coach Joel Sobotka. “Some of our new players progressed nicely.”

The Matadors return eight players from last season’s squad, including sophomore Jonathan Heard, who is the leading scorer of returning players from last season, at 8.4 points per game. Also returning for CSUN is junior Thomas Shewmake, who averaged 8.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. There had been some speculation that Shewmake may have torn something in his knee and could miss the entire season.

However, Braswell noted that there were no tears and he does not need surgery. Shewmake will not play against CSULA and Braswell declined to go into details about his injury.

After tonight’s game, CSUN will play one more exhibition game against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Matadome. The Matadors will play its first regular season game of the 2005-06 season at USC on Nov 20, with the first home game on Nov. 22 against Tulsa.

“It would be nice to have a third exhibition game,” Braswell said. “It takes the offense longer than the defense, which is why it is nice to have exhibition games. But I am thankful for the Canada trip.”

Overall, the Matadors have played CSULA 55 times, with the Golden Eagles holding a 28-25 advantage.

Justin Satzman can be reached at justin.satzman@csun.edu.