Everyone’s dream begins somewhere. For Jewuan Long, his dream to play basketball began watching the Chicago Bulls with his dad.
The Murray State senior guard grew up watching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with his father during the golden era of NBA basketball and it was those times with his dad that planted within him a desire to take the court like the guys in the red and white on screen.
“I grew up wanting to be like my dad and he always watched the NBA,” Long said. “He said they were his favorite team so I decided they were going to be my favorite team. I wanted to be like (Jordan and Pippen) for the most part and that’s how I got started.”
Long, who wears No. 33 because of Scottie Pippen, played basketball at every level from 8U through high school with constant encouragement and support from his father. But during his junior year at Liberty Tech High School in Jackson, Tenn., Long’s life changed forever when his hero and father, Elmer Long, Jr., suffered a stroke and died two days later; just before the last game of the 2006 regular season.
“When he died it was real hard for us, me and my brother and my mom and my sister, it was hard for the whole family,” Long said. “We missed the game after that but we came back. He always told us that this was going to be the year we won our first state title, so, me and my brother, we kept that in mind and we had extra motivation then: we wanted to do it for him.”
The elder Long’s belief in his sons, Jewuan and twin brother Antwan who played basketball for Lambuth University and graduated in 2011, proved true as the team won back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007 with Jewuan named state tournament MVP in 2006 and first team all-state in 2006 and 2007, Mr. Basketball for the state of Tennessee in 2007 and ended his high school career as Liberty’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,500 points.
“One thing I remember playing in my head is him saying this was going to be the year and that helped me out a lot,” Long said. “His confidence in us is still carrying on today and every time I step out on the court I’m doing it for him.”
Long’s late father isn’t the only one who believes in him.
“My brother, he’s been a big help, especially in college,” Long said. “I almost look up to him, even though he’s my twin. If I need someone to talk to or just some words of encouragement he’s always there for me. He’s helped me out more than anybody. He helped me realize I’m still as good as he always thought I was even though I don’t play like that all the time at the college level. He believes in me more than I believe in myself for the most part. He is a big part of my life and he keeps me going.”
The winning tradition of Murray State (22-0, 10-0 Ohio Valley Conference) attracted Long to the program after being recruited by now head coach Steve Prohm.
“(Murray State) was close to home and I wanted to be close to my family and I’ve always been part of a winning team and I knew if I came here that would continue and I wanted to be a part of a winning program,” Long said.
Prohm is leading this year’s Racer team into the history books by setting the record for best start to a season in Murray State history as well as passing the OVC record for longest winning streak set by Western Kentucky with 21 consecutive victories in 1953-54 and 1966-67.
“Jewuan, first of all, is a great character kid, that’s what has made him the person he is today,” Prohm said. “I got to know Jewuan when he was a senior in high school, early in his senior year. His mom, Gloria, is a great lady; she’s done a tremendous job raising him and his twin brother, Antwan.”
Like so many others in his life, Prohm trusts in Long’s character and ability.
“Jewuan is the glue to our team,” Prohm said. “He’s the heart and soul of our team, he’s the best defensive player on our team, he’s the most unselfish player on our team and he is going to be sorely missed because he brings contributions to this program on and off the floor at a very high level.”
With the Racers picked to finish third in the OVC before the season began, the team came into the season with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove.
“I definitely think that us being picked No. 3 in our conference kind of hit us the wrong way,” Long said. “We felt a little disrespected by it and we wanted to do everything to prove everybody wrong and I think that’s a big part of our motivation too, to just keep pushing. I’ve been on a lot of teams where we felt like we were the underdog and we felt like we were the underdogs starting the year off and I believe we’ve handled that very well so far.
“I think our motivation also is that we know everyone else is the underdog and we know how that feels so we won’t take no team for granted because we know what that feels like to be the underdog. And everybody wants to take you down so we know that and we handle that the best we can.”
Before games, Long eats with the team at the pregame meal and is the first player to duck out of the restaurant.
“I’ll eat real fast, take a shower and tell everybody ‘don’t bother me, I’m about to take a nap.’ I’ll be the first one out most of the time and pretty much everyone knows what I’m doing by then,” he said. “We pray before every game and then right before we’re about to come out for the last time I have my own little prayer before the game.”
Majoring in civil engineering, Long described himself as strong-willed and someone who leads by example.
“I try to bring a lot of energy to the team,” he said. “A lot of times Coach Prohm puts me on the best player so I want to do the best possible job that I can. I try to leave it out there on the court and I think a lot of players respect me because they don’t hear a lot of arguing or complaining with other teammates so I just try to leave the best example I can by leading by example and I think they respect me for it.”
Laughter comes easily for the humble 6-foot-1 athlete who attributes his success to his mother, Gloria.
“My mama is the backbone of our family, she is a very strong-willed woman,” Long said. “She got me into church, believing in God and putting me on the right path so I can definitely say she’s been a big part of my life and who I am. She disciplined us right and without her there is no telling where I would be.”