By Matt Bracken
The Baltimore Sun
5:47 PM EST, November 4, 2012
Lavon Long didn’t want to stay in Maryland for college, and he told Loyola assistant coach Greg Manning as much. But despite the sincerity in Long’s desire to “expand his horizons” beyond Baltimore, the Greyhounds’ staff apparently didn’t get the message.
“They were at every single game this spring and summer, from the April period to the July period,” said James Lee, Long’s AAU coach with Mid-Atlantic Select. “Either Coach [Jimmy] Patsos himself, Coach Manning or Coach [Luke] D’Alessio [were there]. Those guys made Lavon a No. 1 priority. They showed a lot of commitment.”
Long, who had 20 scholarship offers, rewarded the Loyola staff’s persistence Saturday night with his commitment. The Oakland Mills senior picked the Greyhounds over Kennesaw State, Rider and Wagner, among others.
“They said, ‘Just come visit.’ And I’m glad I did,” Long said. “It really opened my eyes. … That just shows their dedication. It shows their dedication and how they really wanted me, how they were confident I would work there and my skills would be [utilized].”
Long spent the first three years of his high school career playing the role of unsung hero for Mount St. Joseph. Kam Williams (Ohio State) and Phil Booth – two of the East Coast’s top guard prospects – were the focal points of the Gaels, the Baltimore Catholic League tournament champions. Long, meanwhile, played with his back to the basket and did all the dirty work that was asked of him.
But while he floated under the radar during the high school season, Long made a name for himself during the spring and summer on the AAU circuit – first with Maryland 3D and then with Mid-Atlantic Select this past spring and summer.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward proved himself to be a “very versatile player,” Lee said. “He can, with his size, go down and take on bigger players. And he has the versatility and skill-set to play on the perimeter, which was very intriguing to me. What I like about him the most is his competitiveness. No matter who he’s playing against, he’s going to compete to the fullest on both ends, offensively and defensively.”
Long earned MVP honors at a Hoop Group Elite camp over the summer, and played a major role in Mid-Atlantic Select wins over the D.C.-based Team Takeover and Under Armour B’more’s Finest. When it came to recruiting, Long’s mother searched for a situation where her son could play a similar role to what he did with MAS.
“The most important thing was trying to make sure he was going to a place where it fit his game,” said Lisa Long, who played at Iowa and overseas. “I made sure he was going to a place that really loved and appreciated his game, and [where he would have] the opportunity to compete for time and be an impact player. That’s what we looked out for.”
Long said he’s more comfortable as a face-up player, and the Greyhounds will offer him a chance to stay in his comfort zone as a small forward who can “be an energy guy, get points, rebound and just push it.” Every time he watched Loyola practice, Long said he was struck by the competitiveness.
“It’s really the way I would like to practice. It’s not a traditional practice,” he said. “They work on stuff you wouldn’t expect them to work on. It seems like the whole team just loves to work hard, especially for a coach that looks out for them the whole time.”
Long’s commitment continues the Greyhounds’ run on local talent. When he begins his college career as a freshman next fall, Long will join a roster that features six other Baltimore-area players: shooting guard Maurice White (St. Frances), combo guard Dylon Cormier (Cardinal Gibbons), power forward Josh Forney (St. Frances), wing Jarred Jones (John Carroll), power forward Jordan Latham (City) and point guard R.J. Williams (St. Frances).
“They go close to home for talent that’s already here instead of going off and looking for everyone,” Long said. “The talent is right here.”
Lee said he thinks that Long, who plans to study business, is a “perfect fit” for Loyola. Whatever the Greyhounds ask him to do, Long says he’ll be ready.
“They can expect me to play hard right away,” Long said, “and lead the team to a championship.”
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