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Men’s Basketball: Cajun Center Long hope to improve stock at UL

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, April 24, 2015


He got the feedback. He knows what he must improve. And he’s staying at UL to do it.

Pro-prospect big man Shawn Long’s decision Thursday to remain in school, and to not declare early eligibility for this year’s NBA Draft, should allow the redshirt junior to complete his general studies bachelor’s degree.

But it also will help him to master his craft, something talent evaluators feel needs more honing if he is to be something higher than a second-round selection in the 2016 NBA Draft.

“I’m not an NBA guy. … But it certainly can help,” UL coach Bob Marlin, who delivered the news to team members at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ annual awards banquet Thursday night, said of Long staying. “He’s just got to be consistent on both ends of the floor.”

The two-time, first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection from Morgan City High averaged 16.4 points, a Sun Belt-leading 10.2 rebounds and an SBC-high 1.6 blocks game last season, and was the only player ranked in the top five among both Sun Belt scoring and rebounding leaders.

He was a finalist for the Lou Henson Award, which recognizes the nation’s top player from a mid-major program.

He will start next season as the country’s active leader in NCAA Division I double-doubles with 52, is one of only three players in UL history with 1,000-plus career rebounds and already ranks in the all-time Top 10 among Cajun leaders in scoring and blocks.

With 1,036 career boards to date, he needs only 29 more to pass the late Roy Ebron and become UL’s all-time rebounding leader.

But it’s perhaps not the numbers Long is back to chase as much as it is trying to make his game more NBA-ready.

The 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward/center sought an evaluation report from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee that included a projected range for his draft stock this year.

It also included things he needs to do better.

Long was not immediately made available for comment as requested through a team spokesman Friday. But Marlin did shed some light on just what it is that the NBA scouts want to see.

“One of the things that everyone acknowledged is he (Long) can improve on is defending the pick-and-roll,” the Cajun coach said. “That’s what today’s game is at that level, and even the college game has turned into that a lot.

“So he knows he needs to improve in that area,” Marlin added, “and that’s something he can get better at.”

Some respectable mock drafts had Long pegged at one point or another as a possible second-round pick, but none guessed he would go in the first round of the two-round NBA Draft.

Marlin indicated that feedback from the NBA’s advisory committee also suggested Long probably would not get drafted any higher this year than in the second round – if he got drafted at all.

The road to riches is a rather rough one for undrafted prospects.

That all could change, however, with an extraordinary senior season. And if that were to unfold, it could drastically alter the course of Long’s potential pro career.

“He wants to be ready,” said Marlin, who’ll now return all five of his starters and seven of his eight top scorers from a team that went 22-14 in 2014-15. “He wants to be in the best position possible to get into the draft.

“So, I think coming back, from that standpoint – he knows that he has more work to do. That’s what he told me (Thursday).”