After a brief detour, featuring an assistant coach leaving and then a former assistant coach returning, our player profile series returns. After some good natured ribbing from my brother-in-law, I got back to evaluating and being one to see a job through to its end, it's time to pick up where we left off.
Today, we feature the reverential Nazareth Long, or as you may have come to know him by, 3sus of Nazareth. Taking the form of a swagger-dripping, clutch son-of-a-bitch, 3sus proved yet again that his mortal-given sobriquet is more than a silly moniker, but instead a cultish attraction of long-range leaps of faith into the realm of the inconceivable.
...which is another way of saying that this dude packs boulders in his shorts.
Season At A Glance
As a junior, Long didn't quite deliver the magnitude of clutch moments that established his legacy like he did during his sophomore campaign, but he did establish early on that he was both a better player and more importantly, a more consistent performer.
Averaging about 7 minutes more per game, Long's advanced numbers didn't take much of a hit, aside from his ORtg, which dropped about 7 points. With a nearly 3% uptick in his usage rate though, Long's eFG% came in at an astounding 60% for the year. His player efficiency rating (PER) also jumped by 3% and his assist rate, steal rate and rebound rate also saw similar increases.
As for the more traditional numbers, here is Long's season statistics:
Unfortunately, Long's junior season didn't feature the same type of clutch closing due to a recurring hip injury that began to surface midway through the conference season.
Long scored in double figures only one time in Iowa State's last 11 games and shot just 16-52 during that stretch (30.7%). Included in that span was a 6-25 stretch (24%) during Iowa State's four post-season contests. Prior to that end of the year cold spell, Long had been shooting 42% from deep.
The lasting image of Long's junior campaign will unfortunately be a 2-9 effort from deep against UAB in the NCAA Tournament, which included multiple wide-open misses from deep, most notably being a potential game-tying miss with 3 seconds left where there wasn't a defender within 8 feet of Long.
Summer School Curriculum
If you recall, Long had been complaining of pain in his hip dating back to Capital City League play last summer, which caused him to miss the end of the summer campaign. Somewhere in the midst of conference play, that chronic hip pain resurfaced and Long just wasn't the same at the end of the year.
Now that Long has finally had successful surgery to alleviate the nagging pain, he'll be sidelined for 5-6 months and as a result, will miss out on the entire exhibition schedule.
For 3sus, the summer plan is easy; get healthy.
Provided Long has a full recovery and comes back healthy, you have to wonder how quickly he can get back up to speed after such a long layoff. How long will it take the conditioning to return? What about the explosiveness and ability to move laterally on defense? And of course, will his outside shot suffer?
All signs point to Long being ready to go for the Cyclones' opener and with that contest coming against Colorado, he'll need to be 100%. Should Long need a little time to get back to fully healthy, Matt Thomas and Hallice Cooke can step in to shoulder a heavier load.
If there's one concern I have coming off the surgery, it's how effective Long will be defensively. Until the hip injury slowed his play, he was arguably Iowa State's best perimeter defender (situationally) and especially excelled at chasing active guards like Phil Forte III, Marcus Foster and Lester Medford. You have to wonder how well he'll be able to stay in the hip pocket of types like that, fighting through screens and face-guarding for 30+ minutes a night.
One thing for sure is that Long should have to spend a lot less time handling the ball next year with adding Cooke to the mix. As a freshman at Oregon State, Cooke was a featured combo guard and will likely spell Monte Morris during the brief stretches he's on the bench.
Once the '15-'16 campaign gets underway, I see Long rounding into form and settling into his familiar role, shooting 40% from outside, scoring in double figures and doing clutch 3sus things.