2016 Intro: Raekwon Long

RALEIGH, N.C. – It's hard to miss Raekwon Long when you walk into a gym.

At just 15 years old, Long, a Charlotte native, towers over players who are considered giants to people of average size.

He was 6-feet tall at age 8 and, on his 12th birthday, the same height, 6-9, as UNC freshman Brice Johnson.

Long has always been the tallest person in the room, and it's something he doesn't mind.

"My sixth grade year, that's when I really realized I was tall," said Long, a 7-foot center in the class of 2016. "I was so used to being around smaller people, I thought I blended in. In reality I really didn't."

"When I first started playing, (my height) bothered me a little bit. I was really uncoordinated for a while, but I'm starting to get used to my body. (Being tall) has never bothered me because I knew once I started to get into the gym more, they would see what kind of player I am."

Last season at Garinger High School in Charlotte, Long had a streak of three consecutive triple doubles and was the bright spot on a team that didn't have many. He led Garinger in blocks and rebounds and was an all-conference selection.

Not bad for someone who is still learning the intricacies of the game.

"I didn't really start playing basketball probably until my seventh grade year," he said. "They still tell me I have a ways to go. I've accomplished a lot this year, but it's nothing to me. I want to be all-state and be in the McDonald's All-American game. I want to keep working on my game and improve."

Attending camps like Dave Telep's Carolina Challenge, held this past weekend in Raleigh, is one way Long can improve.

For a relative newcomer to basketball, Long said the camp provides a chance to catch up to the speed of the game. He said it's also a place to work on moves against the top competition in the state.

"I've been working on my sky hook and my hook shot," he said. "I want to be able to score anywhere on the court. Being tall, most people want you to just dominate in the paint. I really want to be a Kevin Durant type player, driving to the basket and shooting threes. I want to be able to do it all."

At the Challenge, Long showed nice touch on his mid-range jump shot and, defensively, was able to alter shots with his length. However, like most young big men, he realizes he's a work in progress.

"I need to work on a little bit of everything," he explained. "My quickness, getting rebounds, being able to spin off defenders when I post. I just need to keep working."

Naturally, college coaches have already begun to monitor Long's progress. Among those? North Carolina.

Earlier this year, a UNC football assistant was recruiting at Garinger and saw Long in the locker room. Kemmi Pettway, the football player, eventually committed to UNC as a preferred walk-on and took a visit for a Carolina basketball game. Long joined.

"It was awesome, we got so see the football field, went to the basketball and all that," said Long. "After the game we were in the locker room with the players and I met Coach Williams."

"He was basically just telling me to keep my grades up and to continue to work hard. He said he'll wait on me."

Xavier, Wake Forest, Clemson, Marist, West Virginia, Duke and Louisville are schools interested in Long. He's already taken visits to Wake Forest and Duke.

Over the summer, Long will run with both the Karolina Diamonds 16U and Charlotte Nets 17U teams. One of his teammates with the Diamonds is UNC target Edrice "Bam Bam" Edebayo.

"It's fun going against him in practice," Long said. "When we practice it's like a war. We practice how we play, so if you're not careful you're going to get dunked on."

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