By Peter Castillo
In a season that has culminated with a trip to New York City for a chance to win the National Invitation Tournament, the CSU Bakersfield men’s basketball team has been driven by performances from some of its brightest stars.
Perhaps the most unsung of all those stars is junior swingman Shon Briggs.
Briggs’ performance throughout the NIT has propelled the Roadrunners to reach the Big Apple.
Throughout the season, Briggs has come off of the bench in all but six games and averaged a modest 7.4 points per game. However, during the Roadrunners’ three-game NIT run, Briggs has averaged 17 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest.
“It’s fun, we’re playing our best basketball right now,” said Briggs. “Being in Madison Square Garden is something you dream of as a kid, it’s going to be exciting to get to play there.”
The unselfish nature Briggs’ plays with has been apparent during the Roadrunners’ recent streak.
“He’s so unselfish,” said CSUB assistant coach Jeff Connaroe. “He plays hard and is taking charges, and then, he has the courage to make a big play when his team needs him the most.”
At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Briggs is officially listed as a guard-forward. However, Connaroe said he believes Briggs’ versatility allows him to play numerous roles for his team.
“He’s most comfortable playing a face up game,” said Connaroe. “He’s really a forward in our offense but he can play in the post or on the perimeter. He’s really a versatile threat.”
While most of the attention is paid to other players such as senior guard Dedrick Basile and redshirt-senior forward Jaylin Airington, it is Briggs who is leading the team in rebounding and is second in scoring during the tournament.
Briggs is a native of Brentwood, California, a small town roughly 50 miles east of San Francisco.
“It was fun growing up in Brentwood,” said Briggs. “It’s a small city, everybody knows everybody. I had a lot of support there and I am proud to have grown up there.”
Briggs received offers from several Division I schools upon his graduation from Heritage High School in 2014.
However, Briggs spurned the offers from San Jose State University, the University of Nevada and Boise State University amo
ngst others and chose Casper Community College in Wyoming instead.
“[Casper] recruited me, and when I took a visit there, I was impressed,” said Briggs. “It was a great program.”
However, after one season at Casper, Briggs decided to return to California and attend City College of San Francisco.
“I wanted to be closer to my mother,” said Briggs. “It was a little bit of being homesick, too. But I feel that I made the right decision to come home.”
During Briggs’ sophomore year at CC of San Francisco, the Rams finished the season 33-1 and captured the state title. Briggs averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 31 games.
“I had a great time in San Francisco,” said Briggs. “We had a whole bunch of winners there and guys knew how to play together.”
Upon the conclusion of his sophomore season, Briggs faced another big decision — choosing which college to transfer to.
“It was kind of tough [the recruiting process] in the beginning, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go,” said Briggs. “I just decided this was the place for me. I saw that they were building something here.”
Briggs struggled early on in the season.
However, Briggs said the Jan. 28 game on the road against the University of Kansas City-Missouri was a turning point.
He totaled 14 points in 30 minutes off of the bench.
“I feel like from that game on, my teammates and coaches just told me to keep playing with confidence and to stay aggressive,” said Briggs.
That confidence has allowed Briggs to shine in the NIT.
Briggs put up 17 points and 9 rebounds against Cal in the first round of the NIT on March 14. He followed that performance with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists against Colorado State on March 20. He led CSUB to a win over the University of Texas at Arlington with a team-high 19 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.
“My team knew what I was capable of, and they’ve just been waiting for me to contribute in a better way,” said Briggs. “I try to go out there and play the point, but they tell me to go out there and stay aggressive. My team gives me confidence and I just go out there and play my game.”
Now, Briggs will be looking to continue his strong performances against Georgia Tech Tuesday, March 28 at 4 p.m.
The game is scheduled to be televised on ESPN.