Eva Long is a somewhat shy rising sophomore at Union High. She has a love for sports and all things basketball.
Despite her young age, Eva was Union’s varsity shooting guard this past season, and if the team’s success had been determined by how much heart the players had, then the Spartan girls would have brought home a trophy.
Long only tried out for the one sport this past year even though she played both volleyball and softball in middle school and with the recreation league.
“I just didn’t want to play volleyball, and in softball, my legs were tired from playing basketball. I had shin splints,” she said, but then quickly added, “Next year I’m going to try out for all three.”
Shin splints is common among athletes who run a lot, and it is, she attested, a very painful condition. The pain is in the lower part of the leg between the knee and ankle.
But she played through the pain during basketball season because of her deep love for the game.
So what was so great about basketball?
“I guess the coach and the team,” Long quickly pointed out. “I liked shooting the ball, and practicing with the team was fun,” she explained. Andrea Kendall is Union’s head basketball coach.
While some players see basketball drills as work, Long called it fun. “We do passing drills and we try to get 100 layups without missing. I like being with the team. They‘re fun to be around.”
During basketball season, the team practices 90 minutes every day and even on some Saturday mornings.
Eva said she also practiced at home all the time, too, shooting at her backyard goal. “Most of the time, when I’m outside at home, I’ve got a basketball with me,” she stated.
This past spring, her parents, Caren and Robert Long, put down a cement basketball half-court for their daughters to play and practice on, and now, whenever Eva is outside, she’s usually bouncing a basketball, and if the weather isn’t too hot, she can count on her dad and 12-year-old sister Roxie for a spirited game of two on one.
During the game, Long can be counted on to take the shot and usually make it, but she admitted that her weakness is dribbling, the thing she works on most when she’s practicing at home.
Her best memory of this past season wasn’t one from on the court. “We went to a UNC-Chapel Hill girls basketball game,” she said. Eva said it was a standout moment for her because they did it as a team. She couldn’t remember who UNC played, but she did remember how the Carolina girls pulled together as a team.
As for an actual best game recollection, Eva recalled, “We were down by a few points at halftime. We went back out there and started working as a team and passing the ball to get to the open players so they could make some shots, and we won.”
Eva added, “During halftime the coach told us we could do it, and we went back out there and worked really hard and we did it.”
Eva has the backing of her parents and grandparents when it comes to playing sports. They go to all her games, and her Grandpa Charles (Maynard) even buys food for the cheerleaders and basketball players when they are at the games.
In speaking of her grandpa, Eva said with a smile, “He’s always at my games and he’s always trying to help the team. He gives us candy, too.”
She said he also gives her advice. “He tells me, “Make sure you dribble the ball without looking at it,” she said with a laugh.
Eva added that Coach Kendall has also been a big influence. “She’s always trying to get us to practice hard so we can get better.”
Eva made the Tri-County All-Conference team and is an A-B student. She also got the Physical Education Award for being the best student in that class and won an English award.
In middle school she was named Most Valuable Player on the basketball team.
What is the one thing Eva has learned, so far, from playing sports?
“If you work really hard and pull together as a team, you can always do it,” she asserted.
Other than sports, Eva’s interest include photography and drawing.
She hopes to attend college one day, but as for what she wants to be, she was adamant when she said, “I haven’t figured that out yet.”