Long Beach State is a team that is clearly on the rise, with four starters returning as seniors coming off a season in which the 49ers won the Big West regular-season title. Think there's some pressure on coach Dan Monson to lead this team to the NCAA tournament? On the 49ers' website, here's the opening line to the season preview: "The mission is simple for the 2011-12 Long Beach State 49ers. Nothing less than a trip to the NCAA tournament is acceptable."
That because as Monson enters his fifth season at Long Beach State, he's still in search of his first NCAA tournament bid with the 49ers. They've come close in the past two seasons, falling to UC Santa Barbara twice in the Big West tournament championship game. Now they just have to get over the hump, and as a sign of their commitment to that goal, they all wear team wristbands, according to the Gazette Newspapers.
The message is clear: FINISH. Those six letters are embedded into bracelets that every player on the team will wear on the court this year.
"The FINISH band means a lot, especially to us seniors," [guard Casper] Ware said after a recent morning practice. "We've been to the places and never finished before, so it's just a reminder that we need to finish this off."
It may as well be tattooed onto their foreheads.
"It sunk in last year when we lost in the championship in the Big West tournament," says Ware. "I thought to myself, ‘I’ve only got one more chance to get this done.'"
For the 49ers last season, it was a bitter end losing to UC Santa Barbara. They had worn wristbands that read "NOW" in hopes that it was their time to go dancing, but it wasn't to be.
Now for those senior starters -- Ware, Eugene Phelps, T.J. Robinson and Larry Anderson -- it's one last chance to dance. Whether or not they can do so to finish out their careers will be something to watch.