When you get asked in a post-game press conference whether you would rather “dunk on someone’s face” or put up a three-pointer, you know things are going well.
When you have people coming to watch you play, you know you’ve made an impression.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette redshirt freshman Shawn Long has had both happen during his short playing career at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The former Morgan City High School standout leads the squad in scoring with 15.7 points per game, rebounding at 9.8 boards per game for an average of nearly a double-double per game. He also leads the squad in blocks with 38.
But it gets even better.
As of Monday, he is among the Sun Belt Conference leaders in defensive rebounding with 7.1 per game, total rebounding with 9.8 per game, scoring at 15.7 points per game and also ranks seventh in offensive rebounding at 2.7 rebounds per contest.
As of Monday, nationally, he is ranked fourth in double-doubles, one short of the national leader and also leads the nation’s freshmen in rebounding.
Not bad for a kid who didn’t play during his true freshman season after signing with Mississippi State out of high school.
Long, who transferred from Mississippi State to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette after a semester in Starkville, said he decided to leave because he “didn’t think Mississippi State was a fit for me. As you can see, they love me here. It’s close to home, so it’s just a good environment to be in.”
Because he was granted a waiver of the NCAA transfer rule, he didn’t have to sit out a full year before taking the court in live action.
That meant he was able to start the season with the Cajuns in November instead of in early December.
Now that he has played, Long said he isn’t surprised what he has been able to do.
“I’m not much of a boaster, but I know my capabilities,” he said after recording his 10th double-double of the season Saturday night in the Cajuns’ Sun Belt Conference win against Arkansas State. In the contest, he had 17 points and 16 rebounds. The rebounding total was one off his career high.
Morgan City High School coach Jeremy Whittington, who was at Saturday’s game, said he’s not surprised either at what Long has done.
“Having a year (redshirt season) to kind of prepare for this … he’s really come a long way,” Whittington said. “I think he can still come a long way with strength and condition. The stronger he gets, the more he’s going to dominate.”
University of Louisiana at Lafayette coach Bob Marlin said Long has made his mark.
“He’s obviously one of the best rebounders in the conference, a great defensive rebounder,” Marlin said. “We’re on him to go to the offensive boards more.”
Marlin noted that Long had a better night on the offensive boards Saturday when he pulled down four offensive rebounds.
Whittington was not the only local representative at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ game as the Morgan City Junior High School girls’ basketball team also attended.
The team’s coach, Allise Jennings, said her squad was in awe when they saw Long.
He gave the group a wave after he made his first bucket of the game, a three-pointer.
“I appreciated them coming out and supporting me,” Long said. “It felt good to have somebody from home, especially the kids.”
While naturally the competition is tougher at the collegiate level, Long has continued to put up impressive numbers like he did during high school where he averaged nearly a triple-double his senior year with per-game averages of 21.4 points, 15.2 rebounds and 9.1 blocks.
While Whittington said NBA scouts already have attended Long’s games, he said he’s not ready to tab the former standout as ready for the pros. He said he still sees room for improvement on Long’s quickness, strength and especially his defense before he can make that jump.
“He defends probably like most freshmen do in college,” Whittington, who played college ball at Louisiana College, said. “You’re not going to see a great, great post defender when you first start because it takes some work. You’ve got to be able to be strong and grind.”
Marlin also sees good things ahead for Long.
“He’s a young man with a bright future if he’ll continue to work,” Marlin said. “He’s accepted coaching, and he’s definitely improved in the last four or five months.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering what his favorite is between dunking and shooting a three-pointer, Long quickly answered a reporter’s question, “Dunking on him.”