Junior Longrus shouldering two extra loads

PULLMAN -- Last season it was DaVonte Lacy who would count off reps in practice, and push his teammates to work harder. This season, the senior Lacy has passed down that torch to Junior Longrus, the third-year post from Oakland who will be counted on to fill the void left by D.J. Shelton.

The 6-7, 240-pound Longrus is emerging as one of the leaders of the 2014-15 Cougar men’s basketball team. It’s a role that takes some getting used to, he told Cougfan.com in a recent interview.

“You learn the sacrifices you have to make and kind of do things you don’t want to do,” Longrus said about being the leader. “Learning the different ways people respond and who can be pushed, who can’t be pushed, stuff like that I definitely had to learn for a couple years.”

WSU assistant coach Silvey Dominguez says Longrus is a true role model.

“Junior is a high-character man that has a very good work ethic and every day comes to practice wanting to please the coaching staff, so those are the ingredients every coach would love to have out of every player every year that’s we’ve ever coached," Dominguez says. "He’s a really good one to have in our program.

“The thing about developing leadership is after a few weeks in practice it (the leadership) kind of propels itself in the way that you perform ... A lot of guys don’t have that ability because they’re zoned in on just one certain thing so they lose sight on what it is to be a good leader and he’s been a very good role model in that respect because he does things right off the court, he does things right on the court and you can’t fault him ever for his effort. We’d love to have a lot of guys like him in our program.”

Leadership isn’t the only new weight he’s shouldering.

The graduation loss of fellow postman Shelton -- aka Mr. Double Double -- has Longrus feeling pressure to step up his production.

Shelton was a statistical force last season. He was second in the Pac-12 in rebounding (9.6 per game), was second on the Cougars in scoring (10.1) and first in minutes played (955).

Longrus averaged 20 minutes, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 points per game -- all numbers that doubled or more than doubled his production from his freshman season.

“A lot things that D.J. did, there’s a lot of things I’m going to have to do this year, so I definitely look forward to stepping in and filling that role,” Longrus said.

He said Shelton’s tenacious workout program prior to last season left a lasting impression on him because it resulted in Shelton becoming a relentless rebounder.

“It (the work ethic) showed in his numbers,” Longrus said. “I think those are definitely two things I can take from DJ.”

Longrus, who started seven games last season, is battling senior Jordan Railey sophomore Josh Hawkinson, and JC transfer Aaron Cheatum for PT in the post.

LONGRUS SAID HE KNEW he was coming into a rebuilding situation when he signed with the WSU 2012. “I come from a high school that’s traditionally known for excelling in sports and I knew it would be a challenge coming here,” Longrus said. “It definitely has been, but I’m still looking forward to conquering that challenge and being a part who takes this program to another level.”

After just six months under new head coach Ernie Kent, Longrus is a true believer in the new regime.

“I love Coach Kent man,” Longrus said. “He wants us to be successful in life and I honestly think he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around. Having him both on the court and off the court has definitely been an asset to everybody here and I think everybody would probably tell you the same thing.”

Kent’s system relies heavily on outside shooting. And that includes the big men, Longrus said.

For those who grimaced last season each time Longrus attempted a shot beyond five feet, that’s not necessarily comforting news. But Longrus says hitting shots from outside – which in his case means mid-range, not perimeter -- on a consistent basis has been an area he and his teammates have worked on since Kent arrived.

“He (Kent) talks about when he gives you the green light, he wants you to know it’s going in and he wants to know it’s going in,” Longrus said. “So it definitely puts pressure on everybody on our team to get in the gym …”

  • Longrus played AAU ball with the Oakland Soldiers, where he teamed up with Brandon Ashley, now a junior at Arizona, and Aaron Gordon, a former Arizona player who is now with the Orlando Magic.

  • Longrus had a spectacular career at powerhouse Bishop O'Dowd High in Oakland. He scored more than 1,000 career points and pulled down nearly 900 rebounds for a school record. He was also an honor student. O’Dowd advanced to the state title game in both 2010 and 2011 and lost both games in heartbreaking fashion.

  • Longrus played a little football and baseball as a kid, and says both sports have made him a better basketball player. “I think every kid should play football once in their life. It helps you get tough and you’re not afraid of contact -- baseball teaches you patience when you’re in the batter’s box or you’re pitching.”

  • The Cougars will open the season at home in an exhibition game against Azusa Pacific at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7. The regular season will begin Nov. 14 at UTEP.

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