Cajuns basketball notebook: Summer spent abroad broadens Cajuns’ horizons _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- UL-Lafayette guard Jay Wright

LAFAYETTE — When Bob Marlin’s students share summer stories with their classmates, the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball coach is counting on time spent abroad and individual improvement to be a two-part plan for success.

As the Ragin’ Cajuns embarked Monday on the opening practice of the season, a handful of players showed skills learned during some seasoning abroad.

Senior forward Shawn Long was part of the bronze medal-winning U.S. team that competed in the Pan American Games in Toronto. Forward Bryce Washington and guard Johnathan Stove represented Athletes in Action and competed in New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Point guard Jay Wright traveled to China with Sports Reach USA’s friendship tour. And redshirt freshman forward Scott Plaisance and assistant coach Gus Hauser traveled to Europe for a basketball trip.

The immediate goal: to make the next five weeks of preparation go more smoothly.

“We have plenty of time to get our offensive and defensive philosophies in and get our game plans in and get ready for our first game,” Marlin said

That will be an exhibition against Mississippi College on Nov. 9, followed by the regular-season opener four days later against Louisiana College.

When the Cajuns hit the court, Marlin is looking forward to seeing those new tools on display.

“(Wright) has worked on a floater in the offseason,” he said. “He has worked on his ability to score when there are some larger defenders in the paint and he can’t get all the way to the basket. He has matured and grown, and I feel good about where he is right now.”

Long, who averaged a double-double last season with 16.4 points and 10.2 rebounds, made summer strides on the defensive end.

“He is getting low, he is defending the screen and roll a little better, protecting the rim better and running the floor better,” Marlin said. “I’m excited to watch him this year ... to be out there at practice and follow his progress and follow his maturity.”

A proven point

Marlin and his staff enter the season with Wright as the established point guard. It’s a different scenario from a year ago, when the team had to replace NBA first-round pick Elfrid Payton, Wright was in his first year with the program and Kasey Shepherd and Tiremone Williams also were trying to get a grasp on the position as potential starters.

“We played all three of those guys (last season), and we will continue to do that, but Jay has stepped up to the front,” Marlin said.

Wright averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists last year.

Family ties

Senior guard Matt Marlin, son of the coach, will be a walk-on after he had been taking classes at Texas. Marlin is one of six seniors on the roster.

“He wanted to come back (to basketball) and try to play,” his father said. “He wanted to walk on and help our scout team and compete. He had a good fall shooting the ball. He’s strong.

“Unfortunately, he’s got my quickness, so that doesn’t help him any. He’s a smart player, and it’s going to be exciting.”