Head boys basketball coach Joshua Coley of
Garinger (Charlotte, N.C.)
has a certified freshman phenom in 7-foot, 250-pound Raekwon Long
And as is the case with many young talents, coaching Long comes with its own unique set of challenges.Very
unique in this case.
No, not pushy parents, handlers, hangers-on or an inflated ego.
"He wants to swim on the swim team," Coley said. "The problem is, swimming is at the same time as basketball. We've talked about letting him compete on the weekends. The meets are usually on Saturdays, but I'm not too sure about that yet."
Sidestepping the topic of a 7-footer in a Speedo, Long is as competitive about swimming as he is about basketball.
"He's very proud about being a swimmer," Coley joked. "You can tell him that he can't dunk, but if you tell him he can't swim you've got an argument on your hands."
If the novelty of a 7-foot swimmer doesn't open doors, it looks like Long could have a bright future on the hardwood.
Playing in North Carolina's largest classification, Long averaged around 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots per game in his rookie campaign at Garinger. He tallied four triple-doubles, including a spectacular 26-point, 22-rebound, 14-blocked shot performance against West Mecklenburg (Charlotte) in mid-January.
"He started off a little slow, which was just about being a freshman, getting adjusted to high school basketball and having bigger, older, more experienced kids pushing him around," Coley said. "Everything is different when you are walking out into a sold-out gym.
"Toward the second part of season, he really came on. He got comfortable with the offense, accepted his role and stayed within the confines of what we are trying to do as a team. At times, it was ridiculous, to say the least."
The Wildcats went 9-17 this winter but won a game in the state tournament and will have an intriguing cast of returning talent in 2013-14, including 6-8 junior Jamar Brewer
and 6-7 sophomore Davion Gamble
.See photos from the Garinger vs. Olympic playoff game
Coley – also a marketing teacher at Garinger – has received plenty of attention from tournament and event organizers in recent weeks. Garinger will play in the prestigious HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Classic in Raleigh next December, where a potential Long vs. Thon Maker
matchup could materialize. Maker is another 7-footer from Australia by way of Sudan who is now at Carlisle School in Virginia and regarded as a potential top 2016 prospect.
"We've put together as much of a national schedule as we can," Coley said. "He wants to play Thon, he wants to play Harry Giles
(of NCISAA 3A champ Wesleyan Christian Academy). At the same time, we don't want to put too much pressure on him."
More appearances in major showcases around the country are sure to come in the future – not that he hasn't been doing a bit of traveling on his own lately.
Long has taken unofficial visits to Charlotte, Clemson, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Wake Forest. On one of those recent trips, Coley was reminded of how much his young star has to learn.
"He's super humble and I think people forget that he is a ninth grader," Coley said. "We were driving down to Wake Forest and explaining to him about the recruiting process and telling him that when he releases his top five things will start to get crazy. He pulls me aside afterward and says, 'Coach, what's a top five?'"
Long will play on the summer circuit with the Carolina Diamonds and plans to attend Dave Telep's Carolina Challenge on March 23 in Raleigh.
That's if they can pull him out of the pool, of course.
Scouting video: Eighth grader Raekwon Long vs. Team Takeover 15s at 2012 Nike EYBL No. 2 from The Wolfpacker on Vimeo.