When Cleveland State star sophomore Anton Grady went down with a torn MCL last week which required surgery and a month of rehab, Vikings fans were rightly worried about who would man the center position for the team. It looks like junior Devon Long could finally of caught the break he was looking for under Gary Waters.
From the moment CSU basketball fans saw Long on the court, they could tell that he had no problems finishing around the basket. Displaying old-school post moves that are Kevin McHale-esque, Long hasn't had a problem with putting points on the board in the post. While being slightly undersized at center, standing at 6' 7'', Long utilizes his longer than average wing-span, his footwork, and his large frame to his advantage while he is battling in the post.
With Grady out, and an injury hampering fellow 5-man Ludavic Ndaye, Long has made the most of his first two career starts. His first shot came against Ball State and he answered the bell scoring 10 points on 5 of 8 shooting and grabbing 3 offensive rebounds in the road win. He followed up the performance yesterday with another solid outing against North Carolina State. Despite being at an enormous size disadvantage against the 24th ranked Wolfpack, Long connected on 6 of 9 attempts from the field and finished with 12 points while also grabbing 9 rebounds, six of those offensive.
While his offensive game has never been a problem, it is likely his work on the defensive end that has kept Long off the court. CSU head coach Gary Waters is a stickler about having his group of men playing solid on both ends of the court. Against Ball State, Long more than held his own against one of the top big-men in the MAC by limiting Majok Majok to both single digits in both rebounds and points. Majok had come in averaging nearly a double-double. Against NC State, Long battled the entire 33 minutes he was on the court and puts at ease some doubts that Waters may have had about the players conditioning as Long had started his career a little on the heavy side but in recent seasons has slimmed down his physique.
If Long can grow into a starting center, it solves a major problem for the Vikings this season whether or not Grady comes back from his knee surgery and does not have to be lost for the season because of a medical redshirt. Grady, a natural forward, would prefer to play a position he more comfortable with and would likely be more productive in.
In the coming weeks, Long will get a dress rehearsal and the results could dramatically change how the Vikings lineup looks when the team reaches conference season in January. If he performs well and retains his starting status, it would do wonders for a relatively thin but talented rotation that currently is at 7. The Vikings may have found their starting center who had been hiding in plain sight and may have found a silver lining in the injury that sidelined their top player on their roster.