Short-handed Salukis call for Long players

When the SIU men’s basketball team needed a backup point guard early this season, they called upon walk-on junior Colby Long.

Junior guard Colby Long drives into the lane Nov. 28 against Fresno State University at SIU Arena. SIU was tightly contested against the Bulldogs for most of the game before junior Desmar Jackson hit the game winning 3-pointer, giving the Salukis a 57-54 win. The Salukis were short on guards at the beginning of the season and are relying on Long, a junior walk-on, to provide protection as a back-up point guard. Long’s brother Caleb played a similar role with the team in 2009. Sarah Gardner | Daily Egyptian

However, he isn’t the first Long to aid the Salukis as a secondary floor general. In 2009, they enlisted the services of his twin brother, Caleb Long

Colby Long said he came to Carbondale to focus on his academics. He said he didn’t even attend the basketball tryouts.

“I heard the team was having tryouts (this year), but I came down here to be a student,” He said. “The team was thin on point guards, and the coaching staff was familiar with my brother Caleb. They invited me to do an individual workout with coach (Tom) Hankins, and I joined team shortly after.”

The Long twins played basketball at Mount Zion High School, where Caleb broke a school record by scoring 42 points in a game. He was named to the All-State team his senior year and received Illinois state scholar honors (4.1 GPA). Colby averaged 20 points per game, and he received All-Conference and All-County team honors in his final year at Mount Zion High.

However, Colby Long said neither of the brothers were the best basketball player to grace Mount Zion’s basketball court. Their older sister, Carlin, holds the record for most career points at the high school. She is also considered to be the best shooter in the school’s history as she holds the record for most 3-pointers made in a season (62), most free throws made in a season (121) and the highest 3-point field goal percentage in a season (47.5).

“We are pretty good ball players, but Carlin was a really special and talented player,” Caleb Long said. “She used to beat up on us in basketball when we tried to play her when we were younger.”

Both brothers joined the Saluki basketball team as walk-ons during their tenure, and Caleb said a walk-on has to work harder than most scholarship athletes because they have to earn playing time.

“Practice is much more intense (for a walk-on). You have to do more to prove yourself in order to get on the court,” he said. “Programs usually have a lot invested in the players on scholarship and they need to see how that investment performs.”

Caleb Long, who joined the team his freshman year, said Colby is a better athlete and more experienced than he was when he played for the Salukis.

“He’s gotten a lot better,” Caleb said. “He’s faster and stronger and at 22. He has some years on him.”

Fellow teammate sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels said Colby is a much better hooper than people give him credit for.

“Colby is a very good player,” he said. “Coach even agrees with the team that at some point Colby will hit a big shot for us. In practice, he wears the yellow jersey. He has the green light to shoot when he feels and he can pull up from about 35 feet away. He’s a tough kid and a good shooter.”

Colby said he struggled early adjusting to the speed of division I basketball, but with assistance from the Saluki coaching staff, he said he has become more confident in his abilities.

“The first few weeks, I wasn’t really in my rhythm,” the junior guard said. “Once I got used to how fast paced college ball is, I became more relaxed and comfortable in my role on the team.”

Colby said coach Barry Hinson’s coaching process has helped his team and him progress.

“Coach has done a good job at keeping us together,” he said. “ He motivates us because he’s so consistent and he is always so energetic. Coach Hinson is very honest though, he’ll tell you when you’re having a good or bad game. He takes away a lot of the pressure and I feel that he’s why we are a lot better this year.

Hinson said Colby has developed quickly and he may be an important piece to the Salukis success this season.

“We need better play from our guards,” he said. “We don’t have many point guards, but I’ll tell you, the walk-on Colby long is the leading candidate to help us out.”

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