Raekwon Long finally is home, and finally comfortable, he said.
Long is a 7-foot, 270-pound senior basketball player at Lincolnton, his fourth high school in as many years.
“It took a big weight off my shoulders coming here,” said Long, who has committed to play in college for Division I Florida International. “This is my hometown, and there’s not so much pressure on me than there is excitement that I’m here.
“This is my senior year, and I’m going to play every game like it’s my last. To come home and win a state championship, that would be the best feeling in the world.”
It took Long the past few years to realize where he should be, he said.
His travels began in 2013, after a freshman season at Garinger High that saw him average 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks, earning MaxPreps freshman All-America honors. But instead of prepping for his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Long followed former Garinger assistant coach Keith Ison to Kentucky.
Long played for Scott County High, whose Billy Hicks is Kentucky’s winningest active high school coach. With the 7-footer in the lineup, the Cardinals finished 35-4 and advanced to the final of the Kentucky High School Athletic Associations Sweet 16 tournament.
“Every game was almost like a college game. Nearly every game was sold out,” Long said. “It was crazy. I enjoyed it up there, but I wanted to come back home. My family wanted to see me play more.”
Almost as soon as Scott County’s season ended with its 59-51 loss to Covington Catholic, Long was on the move again.
He considered heading back to Charlotte, but he instead chose Mount Zion Christian, a college preparatory boarding school in Durham.
Long now admits it was wasn’t a good fit at Mount Zion, which produced future NBA stars Tracy McGrady and Amare Stoudemire. He left after a half-year and completed the academic year in home schooling.
“I listened to the wrong people,” Long said. “Honestly, I wanted to come back home last year. I actually thought it would be a different experience at Mount Zion, but it wasn’t, which is why I wasn’t happy. That’s why I came back home.”
Home is Lincolnton, where Long has relatives. He moved in with his grandfather Albert Bull Bunton, also his guardian. Bunton is a long-time resident and a Lincolnton High Wolves supporter.
“He kind of fell in our laps,” Lincolnton coach Bob Cowie said of Long. “It’s obvious he’s a unique player. It’s going to be a privilege for me. Not many coaches get a chance to coach a 7-footer, because there’s just not many of them out there.”
But Long won’t be a solo act this season at Lincolnton. The Wolves return three starters from an 18-7 team, which advanced to the third round of the NCHSAA 2A playoffs.
Back are 6-5 sophomore guard Robbie Cowie, 6-3 senior forward Alex Rhyne and 6-4 sophomore guard Cordell Littlejohn. Cowie and Rhyne made the All-Southern District 7 2A team last season.
Add Long and Lincolnton goes from being a solid No. 2 pick in the conference to a team that could give East Lincoln, last season’s 2A state finalist, a run for the conference title – and more.
“I know those guys are going to knock down their shots. I’ve seen them do it,” Long said of his new teammates. “I know I can score, so teams are going to have to double- or triple-team me to stop me.
“Everybody has the same dream and aspirations as we have. … We’re definitely going to be working towards that state championship.”