AMES — If you expected Naz Mitrou-Long to be anything but ahead of schedule in terms of he rehab from double hip surgery, you don’t know Naz.
His first-year coach, Steve Prohm, does — and he said ISU’s slick-shooting senior leader appears to be on track to be fully healed for the Nov. 13 season opener against Colorado.
“Naz brings a different level to this team and it may not be scoring all the time, it may not be shooting,” Prohm said Tuesday during media day festivities. “He just brings a leadership and a toughness to this team, and a mindset that every great team has.”
Long underwent his first surgery in late March. The second came in May.
He’s had good days and bad days throughout, but said the former have overshadowed the latter.
“I definitely feel like I’ve got to take some more necessary steps as far as my shot, just getting it consistent,” said Mitrou-Long, who drained 77 3-pointers last season. “Defensively, I know I’ve got to get quicker. I’ve got to get my stamina up so I know there’s still areas of improvement I need to make. For the most part, though, I think I’m getting somewhere. I know I gave a couple guarantees and I definitely feel like I’m going to be ready for the first day, but I don’t want to say something and then something crazy happens and I’m not, so I definitely think I’m on pace for it, though.”
Long said the toughest part about being on the shelf was watching his teammates work to get better while he was out, then limited.
He was happy for them, but longed to be on the floor with them.
“I love this game so much, man,” Long said. “It’s done so many things for me. I’ve sacrificed a lot of my life for it and it’s done nothing but bless me. So just not playing the game and then seeing these guys play on top of that with a bunch of new faces and stuff like that, you just want to play so bad. Not being able to do that is what sucked the most.”
Now it’s about easing back into it.
Obviously, Long needs to be at his best down the stretch, not simply at the start, so necessary precautions will continue to be taken as the mending continues.
“I’d rather have Naz really good (in) January, February, March, April than (in) October and November,” Prohm said.