If this were a typical offseason, it would feel safe declaring that the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team was heading into a rebuild.
To say the Roadrunners, who saw their season come to a close with a 58-56 loss to UC Davis in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals Thursday, were senior heavy during the 2020-21 season would be an understatement.
One of the most veteran-heavy teams in the entire country, the Roadrunners, who finished 15-11, had seven seniors who all played steady minutes and accounted for nearly three-quarters of the team's scoring (74 percent), rebounding (71 percent) and assists (73 percent).
However, a ruling reached back in October has given that senior group an opportunity to extend their colleges careers, be it at CSUB or elsewhere.
Fearing the ongoing spread of COVID-19 would impact the season, the NCAA's Division-I Council ruled that all 2020-21 winter athletes could retain an extra year of eligibility, regardless of how their season was impacted by the pandemic. So despite playing 26 games with no postponements or cancelations since Dec. 28, all seven CSUB seniors are eligible to come back next season.
But will they? That's a question coach Rod Barnes doesn't currently have an answer for.
“We’re going to talk about it after the season," Barnes said following Thursday's loss to Davis. "I just told our guys ‘this is this year’s team and we’ve got to be focused on this year.’ After the season we’ll talk about the opportunity seniors have to come back."
Going into the conference tournament, players weren't ready to have such conversations either.
"As a team, we feel like if you worry about now, the future stuff will go how it's supposed to go," leading scorer and All-Big West forward Taze Moore said three days prior to tournament play. "I'm not worried about that and I don't think these guys are either."
Decisions will have to be made soon, though, as retaining the team as is won't be an option next season. Currently, CSUB has 13 scholarship players, the maximum amount allowed for a Division I basketball team.
But going into 21-22, the Roadrunners have already gotten a verbal commitment from a D-I transfer (David Walker) and signed two (Brian Washington and Dalph Panopio) from the junior college ranks. Jahveon Medearis, a freshman walk-on who redshirted this season, could also be in competition for a scholarship.
And with the NCAA making it easier for transfers to gain immediate eligibility at a new school, Barnes acknowledged it was possible that an influx of players could be coming in and out of the program. At the end of last season, CSUB lost three players to the transfer portal while adding four from junior college programs.
Though he wasn't ready to discuss it in the moments following a season-ending loss, Barnes knows serious talks regarding the future of his team will be coming shortly.
"We want the best for our guys," he said. "Whether that's seniors returning or other people transferring. We're upfront and honest with each other and we trust in (and) believe in each other. I would imagine over the next two or three weeks, we'll find out if there's anyone, not just our seniors, (who) will be returning for next year's team."