Five Questions: With Naz Long’s AAU coach

By Chris Williams, PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams goes one-on-one with Tony McIntire of the CIA Bounce. McIntire has coached the newest member of Iowa State’s basketball program, Naz Long, ever since he was in junior high. Learn more about Iowa State’s newest point guard in this five questions segment with Tony McIntire.

CF: Since he signed a financial aid agreement with Iowa State on Monday, I haven’t heard one bad thing about Naz Long the person. Can you comment on that and what type of a young man is joining Iowa State’s basketball program?

TM: He has a contagious personality. He is a winner. He really is. Everything about team that you have always emphasized growing up, he does. He is always the first one to practice. He stays late. I can’t explain it because I have had him now since he was a little kid. The growth that I have seen and the dedication has turned him into a kid who sacrifices everything for his team and family. He wants to be a part of something that is fun. He is very disciplined in what he does. I think that comes from his dad. His dad was at one point, the heavyweight champion of the world for kick boxing I believe. He is a disciplined kid. He is tough as nails. For us this summer, he took seven charges in a game at the Peach Jam. He got up after one where he got a knee to the groin and said, “Coach, I’m never taking a charge again.” He got up, checked back in and on the next play, took a charge. He is that type of kid. He does whatever he has to and he doesn’t disrespect anybody. He doesn’t fight. He doesn’t argue. He just moves on.

CF: When I look at Iowa State’s roster for 2012-13 with all of those guys who can score the basketball, Naz and this team first, tough guy/garbage man mentality just seems like a really good fit. Is that what Iowa State is going to get in Naz?

TM: The answer to that really is yes and no. He is going to be your blue-collar worker who is out there driving for loose balls. If he is on the bench and out of the game, he’ll be cheering his team on and maybe the only one standing up. He is kind of that hype guy too who gets everybody pumped up. When I look at it from a standpoint of can he play? Yeah. He can straight up play. He passes the ball so well. When he’s open, he can knock down a 3-pointer with no problems. He is a kid who can have that flash, but chooses to keep it really simple and gets the job done. As a coach, he’s that kid who you can always rely on and isn’t going to turn the ball over or go in there and play for himself. He is out there playing for what is on the front of the shirt, not the back.

CF: You’ve worked with Naz since he was a little kid. At what point during that process did you figure out that he was a high-major talent capable of playing ball in the Big 12?

TM: Honestly, I knew all along. Probably in grade nine, we went over to France. Every year, we went over there for an international tournament. He had 38 in the championship game against the U.S. That was when I thought that this kid is a high-major kid. Back then, I think it was pretty obvious that he would be a kid who moved on. His work ethic and his ability to get past thing, get over things and not dwell on things has always been there. I think that we knew right away that he could be something special. He went through some disappointment last year at Finlay Prep. I don’t think that they played him properly or enough. I think that they’d be the first ones, if you interviewed them, to say that we should have played this dude a lot more. With all of the intangibles that he brings, they would have been better off. At the end of the day, he was playing behind a McDonalds All-American in Myck Kabongo (committed to Texas).

CF: Assuming that he qualifies for the second semester, Naz told me last Saturday night that he’s really excited to be able to train and play with Korie Lucious at Iowa State this year. What do you think that playing side-by-side and learning from a guy like that can do for Naz’s game?

TM: Actually, when we first started talking about Iowa State, I sat down with Naz and told him that it was a good fit for him and that he should consider it. He asked me about who else they had. I said that next year when you come in, the main guys who you are going to have to worry about from a playing time perspective are Korie Lucious and Tavon Sledge. He said, “The kid from Michigan State? I love that kid.” If you look at it from him, he’s been watching Korie Lucious all of those years at Michigan State. He really loves his game. For Naz to be able to pick his brain and work with him and go against him in practice and work out with him when the team is on the road, that can do nothing but help him. From a confidence level, Naz is a confident kid but to be able to learn from that and build a relationship with Coach Hoiberg and T.J. and be able to do that stuff during that first semester, that really helps you get ready.

CF: I know that when Melvin Ejim originally committed to Iowa State that Greg McDermott was the head coach. But T.J. Otzelberger was involved in both recruitments. What was it like working with T.J. and Coach Hoiberg?

TM: Fred and I talked all through the summer in regards to the fact that he was recruiting my son Tyler. He was at a lot of his games, in fact, almost all of his games this summer. He got to see Tyler a lot and then he’d watch Naz, and then Tyler and then Naz. The opportunity came and he said that they needed a point guard for 2012. He asked about Naz and I told him that it was a no-brainer. Coach Hoiberg has a good eye for talent. I always describe Coach Hoiberg as that simple guy. He is the real deal guy who is going to tell you how it is. He’s not going to sugarcoat it or the situation that he is walking into. He is a great guy to work with and does a good job because he shows you that he is a real person. He’s been in the NBA and he knows what he is doing as a coach. That makes it really easy to work with. He’s easy for the kids to relate to and there is no hidden agenda. He never said that Naz would walk in and play 40 minutes a game with Korie Lucious and Tavon Sledge on the roster. You’re going to have to earn it. Nothing happens unless you work for it. T.J., guys love him. They love him. He is always there for them. He is always willing to work with them. He is straight forward as well. The entire coaching staff there makes it easy to want kids to go to Iowa State.