NBA draft: UL-Lafayette’s Shawn Long ‘just hoping for the best’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette forward Shawn Long drives to the basket during an NCAA basketball game against Louisiana College Friday, November 13, 2015, at the Cajundome in Lafayette, La.

LAFAYETTE — Hopefully Shawn Long signed up for frequent flyer miles.

The former Louisiana-Lafayette big man conducted private workouts with half of the NBA’s 30 franchises, many of which were backloaded into the final few weeks before Thursday’s NBA draft.

Just last week, he visited four teams in a grueling cross-country stretch.

“I had three in a row,” Long said. “I was training in New Orleans and then I had to go to New York. Then I came back to New Orleans the next day to work out for the Pelicans. Then from New Orleans I went to OKC (Oklahoma City). Then from OKC I went to Sacramento.”

If he makes an NBA roster, Long will have to get used to hectic travel schedules, and his workout schedule gave him a crash course in how to be at his best even if jet lag hits.

“I think it was just about getting rest. I found out that would be my biggest key in the process,” Long said. “When I felt good, I had a good workout.”

He did all of this because he is hoping for an opportunity. Long, considered a second-round prospect, isn’t going into the draft with any expectations.

His only plan is to latch on somewhere, somehow, then prove he belongs.

“I’m just hoping for the best — whichever opportunity presents itself, make the best of it,” Long said. “Whether it’s my name being called or a team giving me an opportunity in the summer league, just making the best out of it.”

The NBA draft is only two rounds, and Long’s name doesn’t pop up on most of the mock drafts littering the internet, though one NBA scout speaking anonymously said he believes Long’s name will be called at some point Thursday.

“Shawn has the ability to kind of stretch out the defense, then step away from the basket and make a shot,” the scout said. “He’s a pretty talented offensive player, and he can also really rebound the ball.

“He’s not a great athlete, but he kind of has a knack for cleaning up the glass. So there’s certainly some appeal there.”

It’s not as though the 6-foot-11 Long hasn’t proven that ability at the collegiate level.

He finished his career as the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time rebounds leader and second-leading scorer. He averaged a double-double in all four of his collegiate seasons, and closed with a monster senior year, earning Sun Belt Player of the Year honors as he averaged 18.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game.

It probably didn’t hurt that he amped up his game against some of the best opposition he faced.

He turned in at least 21 points and 13 rebounds in games against Miami, Alabama and UCLA, averaging 24 points and 14.3 rebounds against those three teams.

His offensive and rebounding ability is what will likely earn him a draft selection if his name is called. Long said the advice most NBA teams have been giving him is to continue to work on the defensive end.

When his season ended, Long then committed himself to fine-tuning his body.

He did all his training in New Orleans, shedding excess weight and surprising some teams when he showed up at their facilities.

“Probably the biggest thing that surprised them was how my body changed,” Long said. “I lost a lot of weight and got in better shape.”

He is planning to watch the draft at home in Morgan City, and he’s hoping all those far-flung flights pay dividends Thursday night.

“It’s just a humbling experience,” Long said. “I tried to make the best out of each opportunity I got, and overall I think I did a good job. I had a couple workouts I wish I could get back, but overall I thought the process went very well.”

Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.