LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette forward Shawn Long has had a nice summer, and Sunday he found out it’ll continue for a little while longer.
Long was one of 12 men’s basketball players selected to represent the United States in the 2015 Pan American Games, to be held later this month in Toronto. The team comprises eight collegians and four professionals, including former LSU standout Anthony Randolph.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to play against some of the world’s best,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said. “Being one of 15 collegiate athletes selected to even participate in the trials, to let alone make the team, it’s just another feather in his cap.”
Now that the roster is finalized, Long will join the rest of his teammates in Chicago for a brief training camp. The team’s first game is July 21.
“This is a group that’s got some versatility, and I think we should be able to play a couple different ways,” Team USA and Gonzaga coach Mark Few said in a news release. “I don’t think I’ve ever in my whole life been put in a situation where you’re choosing between 16 great guys. You could have made a call for any one of the guys on the list and it would have made perfect sense.”
Marlin was at Team USA’s Colorado Springs training camp for a couple of days and said he came away impressed with how his star forward looked during workouts.
“I felt like he was in good shape when I left,” Marlin said. “I was worried it was going to come down to him and another couple of guys, but he got it done.”
As Marlin was in the airport waiting to catch a plane back to Lafayette, he received a text from Long that read “I made it coach” followed by an emoji depicting clasped, prayerful hands.
Now that Long has made the team, Marlin said he would do well to follow the example set by former teammate Elfrid Payton. Payton turned heads with the U.S. Under-19 team in 2013 on a roster littered with future first-round NBA picks. The key wasn’t just to make the team, but to have an impact once you’ve gotten there.
“Now you need to be a difference maker,” Marlin said. “You need to go get in the rotation, which he will be, and contribute as much as he can and do what the coach is asking him to do to go win. It’s about winning.”
Long opted to forgo the NBA draft, where he was projected as a late second-round pick, to return to school for his senior season. He averaged 16.4 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Cajuns as a junior and now has followed that up with solid performances at the Nike Skills Academy and Team USA training camp.
“The opportunity for Shawn to help himself is going to be right there in front of him,” Marlin said.
“He just has to continue to take advantage, as he’s done so far this summer.”