Long earns start with defense and intangibles but hits eight 3s in starting debut

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When Melvin Ejim was injured in practice recently, Coach Fred Hoiberg had to decide how we would replace him in the starting lineup.

Several options were available. Hoiberg could go “big” or add another guard – Naz Long, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Monte Morris or K.J. Bluford were candidates – to the lineup.

Long was Hoiberg’s choice.

“The big thing is that you always know what you’re going to get with Naz and that’s defensive effort,” Hoiberg said on his post-game radio show Sunday. “He is a great talker and gets us organized. Especially with Melvin out of the lineup right now, (Naz) really communicates out there. He’s so positive and gets us on the same page when things aren’t going well.”

In the season opener vs. UNC-Wilmington, things were going well. That was largely because of Long’s play at the offensive end of the court. At one point, Long had outscored the Seawolves, 23-22.

For the game, Long hit eight three-point shots on the way to a career-best 26 points. The shooting success wasn’t part of the scouting report on Long. Hoiberg had touted Long’s defensive skills above all else.

But, on Sunday, Long showed much more.

“He had such great tempo and pace to his shot,” Hoiberg said. “He was in a rhythm and you need that to be a good shooter. I thought he rushed (offensively) in the Augustana game and we worked on that in practice.”

Hoiberg has always admired Long’s intangibles.

Knowing he can hit some shots, too, only adds to the potential of the Cyclones’ 19-year-old guard.

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