Long sees room for improvement
University of Louisiana at Lafayette hoops standout Shawn Long has made his mark on the ULL basketball program last year and so far this year.
But the former Morgan City High School standout, who has 29 double-doubles in 53 career games as a Cajun, still sees room for improvement, even after recording a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday’s 79-70 loss to Western Kentucky in a Sun Belt Conference game aired on ESPN2.
“It was a rough night for me. Not one of my best nights. (I) kind of struggled on both ends of the floor. … I got my shoes in my hand,” Long said, raising them up as he speaks less than an hour following the game, “I’m bout to go to the gym and work on some things.”
More work and improvement are things he spoke of the most frequently, even though he sports per game averages of 20.2 points and 10.9 rebounds this season.
While his per-game averages are better than a year ago when he had a breakout redshirt freshman season that ended with him earning such postseason honors as All-Louisiana and Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year awards as well as Sun Belt second-team honors, Long had little to say when asked if NBA scouts had watched him this year.
Simply put, the message was that he had too much to work on to worry about that.
“I’m probably one of my biggest critics, and right now I got a long way to go,” he said.
Where Long has come from his freshmen season, though, has been a transformation in his body.
Long has shed about 20 pounds on his 6-foot, 9-inch frame and now is down to 243 pounds.
He also has put in time in the weight room to get stronger.
“Last year I felt I couldn’t move as well because I had a lot of weight on me, so I trimmed down … and just worked on my body hard in the offseason,” Long said.
And of course: “I still got some things to work on,” he adds.
ULL head basketball coach Bob Marlin said that his standout big man’s work is helping him run better, too.
“He’s got a lot of weight on those knees, so (he) needs to make sure he’s as light as he can be and still be effective, and he’s done that,” Marlin said.
While Long was a known Sun Belt Conference threat coming into this season and a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection after his standout redshirt freshmen season in which he recorded per-game averages of 15.5 points and 10.2 rebounds, Long said now it’s been “all about learning how to adjust.
“And I think I still got time to do that,” Long said. “I got a long ways to go if I want to be the player I’m capable of being. I just got to work.”
Even if improvement is necessary, Long already is making his mark this year in national rankings and has continued his ascent up the school record books.
Currently, he is fifth nationally in double-doubles this year and is leading the Sun Belt in blocked shots (3.1), rebounds (10.9) and defensive rebounds (7.2). He also ranks second in the Sun Belt in scoring, third in offensive rebounds and seventh in field goal percentage.
He is 19th in school history in total rebounds for his career — three boards out of 17th place.
Long’s also less than 100 points away from surpassing 1,000 points in his ULL career.
Despite the impressive stats and while the NBA scouting visits came — at least as a freshman — Marlin downplayed their significance for now and said it is too early to begin talking about Long and the NBA.
“I think those guys come just like we watched him when he was a sophomore and junior in high school, where you try to evaluate where he is,” Marlin said. “When it’s time, it’ll be the right opportunity for him for sure.”
You certainly wouldn’t have heard Long talking NBA Saturday evening.
Like he said so many times, it was all about improvement.