According to CSUDH men’s basketball head coach Steve Becker, this year’s Toro squad is “right on the verge of something special.”
After a 2021-22 season that saw the Toros finish fifth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) and advance to the semifinals of the CCAA tournament, he feels that an NCAA tournament berth is an attainable next step for the program.
“We were one of the bubble teams that just missed getting into the NCAA tournament last year, and we retained a large majority of that team,” he continues. “Last year was a building time. We had some really good players and most of them stayed. We’re really excited about the group that we have now.”
The CCAA pre-season coaches’ poll picked the Toros to finish fourth in the Division II conference, which Becker considers the best in the country. The team had some success last year against the teams chosen above them–CSU San Bernadino, CSU San Marcos and Chico State–and the coach thinks the team has what it takes to challenge them for the top this season.
“What I’m looking to accomplish is to give our student athletes a quality experience where they’re having a blast playing basketball, representing the university the right way, and enjoying competing,” Becker says. “And I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty darn good, as well!”
On the court, the Toros run a motion offense, which Becker says “allows our guys to make decisions, react, and trust their instincts, but also provides structure and discipline. We want to push in transition and play fast. I want my guys to know that we have confidence in them. We’ve got some good size, and feel like we’re going to be able to put pressure on the rim and be aggressive and athletic.”
Defense is where Becker is looking to make a big jump. “We’re really locking in on being a tough man-to-man team, to grind you down with our physicality and athleticism.” A major factor in this will be the Toros strength in depth, he adds. He says this Toro squad is “by far” the deepest he’s had in his 10 seasons at CSUDH.
“I feel like we could play 11 strong right now and not really miss a beat,” says Becker. “I’m really going to be challenged during the early part of this year to maximize our depth and utilize the guys properly.”
One of Becker’s goals this season is to increase attendance at the team’s games. “We love the students’ support. When the Torodome is packed and there’s fans and energy in there, it helps us raise our level of basketball tremendously. We have a really good record at homecoming games–the energy and the ability to bring recruits into that atmosphere is incredible.”
One of the things that Becker is most proud of is his team’s success not just on the court, but in the classroom. Their cumulative team GPA has been above 3.0 for three straight years, with the squad achieving a 3.4 GPA last semester. “That’s hard to do with 15 players on your roster,” says Becker, “but we’re striving to do even better this semester.”
He adds, “My job is to win games and help mentor our kids, but also to help them become successful in their lives after college. I take that very seriously. We take a lot of pride in recruiting good people into our program and helping them become the best versions of themselves. Our guys really break the mold of what people expect from college athletes.”
The CSUDH men’s basketball team plays their home opener against Biola University, as part of a double-header with the women’s team on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Torodome. Their complete schedule is available at https://gotoros.com/sports/mens-basketball/schedule.