For the past four years, Caden Long donned the purple and gold while carrying the grit of a Bulldog on the hardwood.
From his first taste of varsity basketball for a few weeks of his freshman year, to being the team’s leader during his senior year, Long made an impact.
“He was vital, he grew a lot in the two years I’ve coached him,” Baker varsity coach Jebron Jones said. “He took more of a leadership role in those two years, so he progressed on and off the court.”
During his senior year in 2019-20, the 6-foot-4 Long led the Bulldogs with 17 points and eight rebounds per game.
He scored a game-high 25 points in his final game as a Bulldog, a March 7 playoff loss at Henley.
“It was an up and down journey,” Long said of his high school career.
With his days as a Bulldog ending soon, Long decided to be proactive in looking at his potential options to continue playing basketball in college.
Using the website Next College Student Athlete, he learned about prospective colleges in smaller cities. Bushnell University in Eugene — the school changed its name earlier this year from Northwest Christian University — came into Long’s crosshairs in part because two former teammates, brothers Kaden and Logan Sand, both play basketball for the Beacons.
Long had a closer relationship with Kaden Sand, who graduated from BHS in 2019.
“Just being able to play with him again because he was one of the best teammates I’ve played with,” Long said of Kaden. “He and I talked throughout this year about what the coaches were able to do.”
Bushnell coach Eddie Alexander was impressed enough with Long’s high school career to recruit him.
In a recent article published on the Beacon Athletics website, Alexander said he’s excited about what Long can contribute.
“We look forward to Caden developing as an integral part of our program and believe he will make a big impact on the court before he finishes his career here at Bushnell,” said Alexander, in his third year as head coach. “This will be a great year for Caden to learn and develop without a lot of pressure before he is expected to perform on a consistent basis later in his career.”
Jones, who coached Long and Kaden Sand, is glad the former teammates will have a reunion on the court.
“I think small town Baker, everybody knows everybody, they’re like a bunch of brothers playing together to be at college at the time, which is cool,” Jones said.
Transitioning to the college level, Long said he will rely on the traits he developed as a Bulldog, in particular his physicality.
“Throughout high school I was good at rebounding and being the person that did the dirty work, taking charges,” Long said.
He also knows he will need to improve aspects of his game.
“I need to shoot better, and I need to improve my quickness to just get in front of people, making sure I’m not a step behind everybody,” Long said.
Jones echoes his former star’s sentiment.
“Every college player, including Caden, needs to be able to shoot the basketball,” Jones said. “He has to be able to shoot the basketball at a high percentage because you can’t rely on solely athleticism to get to the hoop.”
A couple of weeks away from the first day of classes at Bushnell, Long will be moving to Eugene soon.
Though there is a level of uncertainty in the realm of sports right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, Long is focusing on what he can control, and working to become a contributor on the floor for the Beacons as soon as he can.
“I think it depends on what my coach is thinking when I get there, I have to talk to him,” Long said. “My expectation right now is to get as many minutes as I can, play as much as I can as hard as I can.”
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the organization the Beacons play in, still has not yet announced a schedule for the 2020-2021 basketball season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although he hasn’t decided on a major, Long said he will take some general courses and he has a strong interest in exercise science.