|LEWISTON, Idaho – Three seasons removed from a NAIA National Championship game appearance, only one player from that roster remains. Sixth-year coach Austin Johnson brings in eight new faces to a squad that has gone through a massive roster overhaul, but the high expectations remain.
Senior Sam Stockton did not play in that championship game, but has been the constant cog in the wheel that is Warrior Men’s Basketball. Stockton is the only member of the team who has been on the court for LC State for more than a season. However, the young talent that got thrown into extra playing minutes due to injury last year are poised to be a threat in the Cascade Conference for years to come.
The Warriors were picked to finish in a tie for third place in the conference alongside Oregon Tech in the preseason poll, each receiving 106 points. Defending NAIA champion College of Idaho earned all 12 first-place votes and 144 points. Eastern Oregon was predicted to finish second with 109 points.
“It’s still us versus us. LC State, did we have a great year last year? No, but LC State basketball is still the standard in our eyes, in our locker room, in our practice court,” Johnson said. “And that’s still what we’re chasing. We were six points away from being national champions two years ago. At some point LC State is going to win a national championship. And the challenge is, is it going to be this team or are they going to be a part of that process?”
While Stockton is the only long-tenured member of the team, the Warriors are not short of players who made big impacts on the 2022-23 team that finished 14-15.
Davian Brown, LC State’s leading scorer with 14.8 point per game last year, returns in a senior leadership role. Johnson said that he has grown mentally and has worked hard on the defensive side of his game.
Last season’s CCC Freshman of the Year John Lustig was second on the team with 12.8 point per game and looks to improve from a strong first-year campaign. Grayson Hunt started 21 of 27 games for the Warriors and was a strong threat inside. Erick Chaney and Anthony Peoples Jr. were part of last year’s freshmen quartet and also return. Peoples Jr. played in all but one game and was second on the team with 14 blocks. Chaney averaged 4.5 points in just 11.6 minutes per game.
Last year’s group of newbies are joined by a new quartet led by MaCarhy Morris from Long Beach, Calif. Jayceon Smith, a 6-foot-2 guard, and 6-foot-8 forward Alton Hamilton also joined the team from California. Josh Salguero, a 6-foot-8 forward, played in Morton, Wash. in high school.
“MaCarhy Morris, I think for a true freshman, will play a lot,” Johnson said. “He’s a point guard and he’s come in and just impressed with his demeanor. He’s never too high, never too low. You kind of know what you’re going to get from him, which is what you want from your point guard.”
Joining the group of freshmen are five transfers, one senior and four juniors. The lone senior-transfer, Jaedon Bradley, last played for NCAA Division II Alaska Anchorage. Bradley takes the same trip as Keegan Crosby, a graduate-transfer on the 2022-23 team, made to become a Warrior.
“We played four freshmen double-digit minutes (last year). There are teams in our league where their average age was over 24 years old. And you can be good at 19. But if you’re going against a guy who’s 24, there’s something you’re missing there,” Johnson said. “We wanted to get a little bit older as well, so we got some junior college transfers and I’ve been really pleased with how quickly they’ve picked stuff up and they bring some length. They bring some athleticism, some versatility defensively.”
Gorden Boykins (Cerritos College) and Lorenzo Marsh (Long Beach City College) are both natives of Long Beach, Calif. Quentin Raynor last played for Yakima Valley College and sat last year at LC due to injury, and Javon Jones played for Fullerton Junior College.
“Quentin Raynor is both returner and new. He didn’t play at all last year because of injury,” Johnson said. “He’s going to help us. He would have helped us a lot last year.”
The season opens with two exhibition games against two of the best teams in the country. The Warriors travel to Tucson, Ariz., on Friday to take on NCAA Division I No. 12 Arizona. Two weeks later, on Nov. 3, LC State travels to The Kennel to take on NCAA Division I No. 11 Gonzaga.
“It’s a chance to go represent LC State in a whole different environment and venue,” Johnson said. “It’s something our players won’t forget.”
The Warriors open play at the P1FCU Activity Center on Nov. 8 against Northwest Indian College. LC State will host Arizona Christian on Nov. 11.
LC State will participate in two fall tournaments before diving into conference play. The Warriors will play in the Montana Tech Fall Classic Nov. 17 and 18 and the Taco Bell Shootout in Caldwell, Idaho Nov. 24 and 25.
Cascade Conference play opens on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 with home games against Northwest and Evergreen State.
“I think the league is going to be a lot better this year. OIT got snake bit by the injury bug. So did we,” Johnson said. “Multnomah went out and signed some big transfers. EOU should be really good again. Bushnell returns literally every guy that played for them last year. And SOU returned some really good core pieces and had a big-time recruiting class. I think the league is going to be improved.”
The Warriors will get two cracks at the defending National Champion Yotes first on the road on Jan. 6 before hosting College of Idaho on Feb. 2.
“(College of Idaho) returns pretty much everybody from last year’s team, which is exciting, both obviously for them, but also for our league,” Johnson said. “There’s no question if you’re going to win a conference championship, you’re going to have to go through Caldwell.”
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