The Sun Belt Conference has produced two first-round NBA talents in each of the last two NBA Drafts.
Last season, R.J. Hunter was selected by the Boston Celtics from the Georgia State Panthers. One year prior, the Orlando Magic ended up with Elfrid Payton from the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
There could have been another player from the Sun Belt selected last season, but Ragin’ Cajuns’ forward Shawn Long opted to return to school for his senior season. The 6’9” forward was projected by some to be a first-round pick, while others didn’t have him being drafted at all.
His decision to return to school is starting to pay off for the Ragin’ Cajuns, as they put together a 2-0 week to make a statement in conference play. A big reason for their strong week was the play of Long, as he recorded back-to-back double-double performances to help UL-Lafayette improve their record to 7-8 overall, and 3-3 in conference play.
After his impressive showing over the past 7 days, UL-Lafayette’s Shawn Long is this week’s CCR Mid-Major Player of the Week for January 11th-17th!
Long is a 6’9”, 245-pound senior forward from Morgan City, LA who NBA scouts can’t seem to get enough of. He has the size to be an imposing force in the paint at the 4-spot at the next level, and is playing like a man amongst boys in the NCAA this season.
While some questioned his decision to return to school this season, foregoing the NBA Draft and the money that came with it, it looks as though it was the right decision.
In each of his years with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Long has averaged a double-double. So far in 2015-16, he is on pace for a career year. Long is averaging 19.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game as a senior.
To make his statistics even more impressive, he is averaging just 29.9 minutes per contest.
This past week, the Ragin’ Cajuns took on the Georgia Southern Eagles and Georgia State Panthers, both away from home. Here are Long’s stat lines from those two games:
Jan. 14th (Win @ Georgia Southern, 74-65)
33 min, 10-of-13 shooting (76.9%); 23 pts, 17 reb, 2 blk, 3 stl
Jan. 16th (Win @ Georgia State, 87-54)
34 min, 9-of-12 shooting (75.0%); 23 pts, 18 reb, 2 blk
Over the past 7 days, Long has averaged 23 points, 17.5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1.5 steals per contest, while shooting an impressive 19-of-25 (76.0%) from the floor.
His strong week helped the Ragin’ Cajuns get back to the .500 mark in conference play, and they did so away from the Cajundome in Lafayette, LA.
Long now has recorded a double-double in five straight games, and has pushed his season total to 11. He has the post move package that make him a huge problem to defend or navigate around on offense. Long has also shown flashes of some improved shooting range on the season, which adds yet another element to his game.
Come NBA Draft time, Shawn Long will be a coveted commodity in what should be a talented draft class. He is one of the nation’s premier big men, but doesn’t quite get the attention he deserves on a national scale, and that’s a true shame.
After a big week in Sun Belt action, UL-Lafayette’s Shawn Long is this week’s winner of the CCR Mid-Major Player of the Week award!
Jan. 4 – 10 – Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs
Dec. 28 – Jan. 3 – Tanner Plomb, Army West Point Black Knights