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Men’s Basketball: UL’s Long prepares to make decision on next season

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 27, 2015


Shawn Long has a choice to make, and it is one that impacts much more than just him.

The UL basketball program’s fate next season could pivot in large part on what he decides.

With him, the Ragin’ Cajuns could have a super shot at a third straight postseason appearance and their fourth in five years.

Without, the task could prove taller.

That decision: Whether to turn pro and declare himself eligible for the June 25 NBA Draft, or to return for what would be his redshirt senior season.

Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said Thursday night that he hasn’t spoken yet with Long, a Morgan City product and UL’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, about the possibilities.

“We’ll sit down and talk in the coming days,” Marlin said after the Cajuns’ season ended with an 89-82 loss to Evansville in a quarterfinal-round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game at Blackham Coliseum.

“I’ve talked to some NBA guys, and I’ve got my opinion, but it’s not my decision. So, Shawn will make a good decision, an educated decision.”

Marlin said Long has signed, and the Cajuns will submit, a request to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee for feedback on draft prospects.

The NBA’s deadline for declaring early entry eligibility is April 26, and those who do declare have until June 15 to withdraw.

In between, those who do declare and who are invited can take part in mid-May’s mega-important NBA Draft Combine.

If Long already has made up his mind, he wasn’t saying so Thursday.

“I don’t really have a clock on it right now. I’ve got a lot of time to think about that,” he said at Blackham. “I will think about that, but right now I’m not really worried … about it.”

The advisory committee, composed of experienced NBA talent evaluators, analyzes prospects and provides them a conservative projection window of how high or low they might be drafted (if drafted at all).

“We’ll sit down with his family, and we’ll talk, and we’ll tell him what the feedback is we’re getting from the NBA,” Marlin said.

The Cajun coach said he would not steer Long in any particular direction, and would not lobby one way or the other.

But will he offer information and advice.

“It’s his choice,” Marlin said. “I mean, it’s his future — just like Elfrid.”

Ex-UL point guard Elfrid Payton of the Orlando Magic turned pro last year, after his true freshman season.

Payton declared for early eligibility and his draft stock soared during postseason NBA workouts, so much so that he would up being selected 10th overall in the lottery portion of the draft.

With Payton, UL won the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Tournament and played in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Without him this season, the Cajuns made their second CIT appearance in four years.

“Just like Elfrid,” Marlin said, “I’m gonna tell him (Long) that, ‘At a certain point in time, I think that you have to look at the returns and what people are saying, and it’s hard to fight if you’re not where you need to be.

“‘So you’re going to have to give yourself the best opportunity … when you get there.’”

With the pre-withdrawal feedback Payton was getting, the decision to remain draft-eligible ultimately proved easier than not.

Most mocks do not predict Long would go any higher than late in the second round of the two-round draft. None guess he will go in the first round. And some project he would not be drafted.

“I thought Elfrid,” Marlin said, “really went when he was hot, cashed in, and did a super job, and then played his way all the way into the lottery with his interviews and his workouts.

“But they’re different-type players, and it depends on what those guys (NBA player personnel) are looking for.

“But if this is the right time for Shawn,” Marlin added, “I’m all for it. But, from what I’ve heard, we’ve got to sit down and talk about it.”

Long scored 24 points and pulled 11 rebounds in 22-14 UL’s loss to Evansville.

He finished the season averaging a team-high 16.4 points and a Sun Belt-high 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

Long was the only SBC player to rank in the top five in conference scoring and rebounding, and his 52 career double-doubles are the most by any active player in the nation.

He had 20 double-doubles this season, and earlier in the season he became just the third player in UL history with at 1,000 career rebounds.

On Friday, Long was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-District 24 first team along with fellow Sun Belt players R.J. Hunter (a projected first-round NBA draft) and Ryan Harrow of Georgia State, Jelani Hewitt of Georgia Southern and Tylor Ongwae of UL Monroe.

Earlier this week he was named as one of 31 finalists for the Lou Henson Award, which honors the country’s top player from a mid-major program, and as a Henson mid-major All-American.