The Louisiana-Lafayette basketball coaching staff was touring the program’s facilities several months ago with a couple of prospects when they arrived at the team’s practice facility and were later met by a beaming head coach Bob Marlin.
Marlin wanted to know the status of the unofficial visits and whether his assistants had made any progress toward potential commitments that day.
Marlin didn’t figure they could possibly top the news he just received minutes earlier when 6-foot-10 center Shawn Long informed him of his intentions to return for his senior season.
“Shawn came in and asked me if I wanted him back, and I said sure,” Marlin said Wednesday, while attending the Pan American Game tryouts in Colorado Springs where Long is on hand. “I asked the coaches if they were getting it done. I told them I had just got a 6-10, all-league guy that averaged 16 (points) and 10 (rebounds). That was a pretty good sign if you want to look at it that way.”
Although the staff had secured a couple of early signees in November, including 6-4 guard Tyrone Wooten of Itawamba (Mississippi) Junior College, the decision of Long to spurn the NBA was tantamount to a UL-Lafayette recruiting class that started to crystalize over the past couple of months.
UL-Lafayette added size in 6-11 center Larenz Stalcup of Snow (Utah) College, along with length and athleticism on the wings in 6-6 forward Jerekius Davis of Jackson-Provine and 6-7 forward Jay Hedgeman of San Jacinto (Texas) Community College.
The Ragin’ Cajuns also found themselves in the market for another point guard when Lafayette High guard Corey Davis, who signed in November, failed to qualify and will now attend San Jacinto.
Davis, a second-team Class 5A all-state selection, averaged 14 points and nine rebounds last season. He was also a first team All-Metro selection by the Acadiana Advocate.
“We’re disappointed that he didn’t qualify,” Marlin said. “He told me last week he was going to sign with San Jac. We will monitor his progress on the court and in the classroom and hopefully recruit him back.”
That opened the door for Marlin to bring in another in-state guard last month, landing 5-11 Kadavion Evans of North Caddo, whose father played collegiately at Centenary when current UL-Lafayette assistant Kevin Johnson was the head coach at the Shreveport school.
The addition of Evans gives Marlin five newcomers, excluding Brigham Young transfer Frank Bartley IV of Christian Life Academy, who must sit out the upcoming season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He recently suffered a broken thumb and is out of summer workouts for six weeks.
“We tried to address size, and we got that with Stalcup,” Marlin said. “We wanted some length and a guy who could guard multiple positions and score the ball. We got that with Hedgeman. We wanted some depth and speed at the wing and we got that in Wooten.
“We fell in love with Jerekius when we saw him in December,” Marlin said. “We’re fortunate to get him. He’s big and can score. He has a chance to be a really special player, and Kadavian’s just a winner. We would have liked to have had Corey in that class, but it didn’t work out.”
A year after winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship and reaching the NCAA tournament, UL-Lafayette found itself back in postseason play after a torrid finish behind a starting group that returns intact.
The Cajuns (22-14) took a seven-game win streak into the Sun Belt tournament before losing to eventual champion Georgia State in the semifinals.
Moreover, they advanced to the third round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament and wound up with nine wins in their last 11 games that ended with an 89-82 loss to Evansville in Blackham Coliseum.
Long, a first-team All-Sun Belt selection, was the anchor of the aforementioned starting group that returns juniors Jay Wright and Hayward Register, along with sophomores Jonathan Stove and Bryce Washington.
“We like the position we have at this time in our program,” Marlin said. “We’ve won 45 games the last two years. We’re trying to compete every year for the Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament championship and get to the NCAA tournament. We feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”