With beachside dorms and palm trees on every block, Florida Gulf Coast’s picturesque campus is an easy sell to many high school students. For John Carroll’s Elijah Long, the surroundings in Fort Myers, Fla., were secondary when it came to his college decision.
“The beach is cool, but … I’m the type of kid who has worked out his priorities,” said Long, who committed to the Eagles on Monday. “That stuff, the fancy stuff, palm trees and all that, it’s good to have that perk, but if I don’t get my jumpers up or don’t go hard in the weight room, I don’t deserve to be on the beach.”
Long, a 6-foot, 177-pound senior, picked Florida Gulf Coast over Old Dominion. John Carroll coach Tony Martin wasn’t surprised by his point guard’s decision.
“For any kid looking at the [FGCU] website with the dorms on the beach, that could be a distraction,” Martin said. “But I don’t think he has that mindset. He’s a kid who has goals beyond college. I think he goes down there with a purpose.”
A native of suburban Toronto, Long came to John Carroll for his sophomore year to improve his grades and play a more competitive basketball schedule. He was joined at JC by fellow Canadians and CIA Bounce AAU members Kimbal Mackenzie (a Bucknell commitment) and Malik Tyne.
“I didn’t do too well in Grade 9 when I was in Canada,” Long said. “My hometown, I know a lot of people and I wasn’t really focused on school, which is my fault. I felt like me leaving that place, that area, would help me in the future. By me leaving, my grades just got better. The basketball there is good and getting better, but John Carroll plays one of the top schedules in Maryland. I felt like it was a great opportunity for me on and off the court, education and basketball-wise. I took that opportunity. I know it was a big sacrifice, but it was for the best.”
On the court, Long played a supporting role for the Patriots as a sophomore, and then took over for Rodney Elliott Jr. (UMBC) at point guard as a junior. A Baltimore Catholic League honorable mention selection, Long averaged 10 points, four assists and four rebounds last season.
“I think he’s a kid that enjoys freedom on the court and plays with a little bit of flare,” Martin said. Florida Gulf Coast’s “style will be a good fit for him to continue to showcase his talents.”
Long, whose older brother, Naz Long, plays for Iowa State, knew of Florida Gulf Coast from the Eagles’ improbable Sweet 16 run in 2013. Before he visited Fort Myers, he did more research on the program, and watched YouTube clips to familiarize himself with FGCU’s style of play.
“When I saw videos of them, their point guard was just throwing up alley-oops and they were dunking everything,” Long said. “It’s just a family, a happy family. They push the ball, have lots of ball screens. It’s the same tempo I love to play in. They have a chip on their shoulder. That’s like me. When I went to campus, it ended up being amazing. I couldn’t see anything negative with the campus, the coaches or the players.”
Martin thinks Long can have an impact at FGCU comparable to other “under-recruited” John Carroll alums like Elliott (the 2013-14 America East Rookie of the Year), Jarred Jones (Loyola) and Malcolm McMillan (Central Connecticut State). Long is looking forward to following those footsteps, but acknowledges that it won’t be easy.
“I just feel like I have a lot of work to do. That’s no doubt,” Long said. “But it’s just good to see when you work hard, other people out there watching have faith in you. When they offered, it showed that hard work pays off. The campus is great and all, but we always got business to do. When I committed there, it wasn’t a relief. I’m never satisfied. But I felt like it’s a blessing. My hard work paid off, and there’s more to come.”