The usual stoic face of Brian Long contorted into a child-like smile. The normally cool-natured senior jumped up and down. Being offered this particular college basketball scholarship was “like a dream come true,” he said.
Texas-Pan American was on Long’s radar long before he was on the Broncs’.
“Coming into my junior summer, my (summer league) coach told me I’ve got to narrow it (the selections) down to 10 schools. That’s what I really did, I just focused on the 10 schools that I really liked and UTPA was one of them,” said Long, a 6-foot-4 wing at Killeen.
“They were on my mind to begin with, since the middle of my sophomore year.”
Following an official visit to the campus in Edinburg, less than 20 miles from the Mexican border in South Texas, Long verbally committed Friday.
“I just want to go somewhere where I can be part of something bigger than myself,” Long said. “I just thought if I could go help UTPA and make a name there, I can help … put that school on the map.”
Long is a three-time all-district selection and the Runnin’ Roos’ leading scorer the last two seasons. He averaged 17.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game last season and 14.9 points per game his sophomore year. The three-year starter was a District 8-5A first-team pick this year as a junior and is a two-time Daily Herald all-area first-team selection.
Long said Abilene Christian, Denver, Sam Houston State, Texas State, Tulsa and Weber State were among the other programs he was considering before giving his solid verbal commitment to Broncs head coach Dan Hipsher.
“It was really hard because I had a lot of other schools coming to me, but when he came, I just thought, this is the school I’ve liked since I was in the middle of my sophomore year. So, I just thought, hey, might as well go for it,” Long said.
UTPA is a Division I school that does not compete in football. The Broncs were 16-16 overall last season and 5-3 in the Western Athletic Conference, losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
The Broncs coaching staff introduced themselves to Long while the senior played in a summer league tournament in Las Vegas. They immediately offered him a scholarship, Long said.
During the visit, Long felt at home almost instantly.
“The coaching staff, first thing, they showed they really loved me when I first got there. Then, the teammates, I really bonded with them, I really liked that,” Long said.
“It’s real nice down there: an hour from the beach — that I really liked. I like the water. It’s a place where I can really focus on school, that’s another reason I liked it. I’m not going to a place big on partying, I just focus on basketball and school.”
Long admitted that while it is possible another school could sway his opinion, it’s not likely. And, getting a committal out of the way before the school year allows him to focus more on his senior year.
“I really think it’s going to help me focus on school and help me focus on the SAT, get me ready for that,” Long said. “I don’t have to worry about what college I’m going to go to or nothing like that. … I can work with my teammates, work on them with their game. It’s really going to help me a lot.”