LAFAYETTE – Before running back Elijah McGuire arrived on Louisiana-Lafayette’s campus as a prized freshman in the fall of 2012, he expressed interest to coach Bob Marlin about also trying his hand at basketball.
At a speaking engagement that summer, Marlin delivered a message to football coach Mark Hudspeth.
“ ‘If you redshirt Eli, you know he’s going to play basketball,’ ” Marlin recalled telling Hudspeth. “I don’t know if Coach took me serious or not.”
McGuire didn’t redshirt that year. Instead, he went on to become the Sun Belt Conference’s Newcomer of the Year after rushing for 863 yards and eight touchdowns.
But that itch to play basketball never went away, and now he’s getting a chance to scratch it.
The Ragin’ Cajuns star is joining the men’s basketball team, effective immediately. His role with the team won’t be clear until he has been through a few practices, but Marlin said he’s going to give him an opportunity to show what he can do.
“We’re going to have to wait and see,” Marlin said. “I’m going to get a look at him (Monday). He’ll have to wear off a little rust, certainly. We’ll have to get a look at him and see how he progresses.”
What is known about McGuire is that he has what it takes athletically.
He is one of two active college players with more than 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his career. He’s quicksilver on the gridiron, a trait Marlin said should carry over to the court.
“Just a great athlete, really good defensively, great speed,” Marlin said.
Marlin also expressed confidence that McGuire would be able to pick up the mental aspect of the game fairly quickly, despite having missed out on the first several months of the season.
McGuire announced earlier this month that he was returning for his senior season after submitting his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
Though basketball season runs into the very beginning of football spring practice, which begins March 7, Hudspeth said McGuire has his blessing.
“Eli loves to compete, loves this university and feels like he can be an asset to the men’s basketball program,” Hudspeth said. “If this will help our basketball program … as they compete for a Sun Belt Conference title, then Eli and our basketball program has our full support.”
To close an interview last week, Hudspeth had a knowing grin when he revealed that there was a “fun surprise” in store this week, saying nothing more. He confirmed Monday that surprise was about McGuire.
McGuire will have to work his way into a team dynamic that has already been molded through the course of 15 games and many practice hours. His status as the football team’s most recognizable player should help in that regard, though.
“I think they’re excited about it; they’re all friends,” Marlin said. “Shawn (Long) offered his locker — we don’t have another locker in the Cajundome — and Shawn said he could split his locker with him. There’s not much room in there when Shawn’s sitting down, actually, so I don’t know how that’ll work.
“They played together back in bitty and AAU basketball. Our guys know Elijah. He’s obviously one of the best, if not the best, athletes on this campus. I think it’s a good opportunity that we’ll get a look at him and see if he can help our team.”
Long’s brilliance recognized
Long turned in back-to-back stellar outings against Georgia Southern and Georgia State last week, averaging 23 points and 17.5 rebounds while shooting better than 75 percent.
It resulted in a lengthy list of weekly honors.
On Monday, Long was named the Sun Belt Conference and LSWA Player of the Week, the CBS Sports National Player of the Week, the College Sports Madness Mid-Major National Player of the Week and the National Player of the Week by CollegeInsider.com.