The first of the transfer trio to join Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball this offsason was Mekhi Long. The 6’7 forward is from Bryans Road, Maryland and played three of his four years in college hoops to date at Old Dominion. Long made steady incremental improvements to his game each year as a Monarch, going from 4.7 points per game to 8.3 his junior year and 10.7 this past season as a senior.
Long’s 10.7 points per game came on 43.8% shooting from the field including 35.9% from behind the arc plus 66.1% from the free-throw line. Long has played in 111 college games throughout his career and started in 64 of them. It’s unclear what role Long will fill for the Hokies this winter, but his versatility to play as a big guard or pseudo-forward gives Tech plenty of flexibility.
Mekhi Long possesses some nice athletic tools that will serve him well against ACC competition. He has a solid frame, takes long strides, has great hops and can hang in the air to adjust for finishes.
A couple of those qualities were shown in the play above as Long makes a quick catch and turns to explode to the rim. After his final dribble, Long takes a quick hop before loading up. Long gets airborne, shields the ball well with his body and is able to finish around a defender using that hang time and athletic ability.
In the next play, we see Long’s natural qualities as a leaper. Long drifts into open space in the corner before setting up his drive. Off the catch, Long bursts through the gaping defensive hole. He plants himself around the low block before exploding into a two-handed dunk with two defenders around him. There’s no doubt that Long has ACC-level athleticism.
Long is rarely the primary initiator on offense, but he can still attack closeouts from the wing and put additional pressure on the rim with a solid driving game.
In this clip, Long takes it to the rack against a face all Hokie fans will remember. He jabs and drives past Justyn Mutts, taking two long strides after he picks up his dribble. Long plants himself in a peculiar position as he’s perpendicular to the hoop. Still, Long re-gathers himself and scoops up an underhanded finish before Grant Basile can block his attempt.
The rip and go drive is one Long is certainly familiar with as he consistently demonstrated his ability to get downhill at Old Dominion.
In this clip, Long takes advantage of a lunging defender by ripping the ball across his body and darting past his man on the weak side. Long manipulates a scrambling defense with his quick drive and soars past the one defender who tries him for a layup. Long’s second side driving game will blend nicely into a well spaced Tech offense.
This play isn’t in a traditional half court set as the Monarchs just got the ball back off a quick steal. The defense isn’t close to being set, but it's another example of a well paced drive and finish from Mekhi Long.
When he gets the ball, Long fakes baseline and slashes back to the middle which is more dangerous given that’s where extra defenders are lurking. Long can’t get by his man with pure burst off the dribble so he resorts to craft instead. Long lowers his upper body into the chest of his defender to try and get more separation. He picks up his dribble at an awkward angle to the basket. However, Long can still glide through the defense with amazing body control and cups the ball smoothly off the glass.
Long isn’t a great passer, but he showed the capability to feed an open man under the rim off of his drive.
Here, Long is the initiator going downhill in early offense from an opportunity on the fast break. He goes from slow to fast with the ball in his hands and attracts the help defense of an extra defender. Long stops his drive at the rim and pivots back so he can deliver the slick bounce pass to the open man for a layup.
One of Mekhi Long’s most notable strengths is his rebounding. Long averaged 8.7 rebounds last year at Old Dominion and 6.8 the year before that. Long was the Sun Belt conference leader in double-doubles with 11 in 2022. In a late January game against Coastal Carolina, Long even managed to haul in a career-high 19 rebounds.
Long averaged 2.4 offensive rebounds per contest in both his junior and senior seasons. He also put up 13 games of three or more offensive rebounds. The advanced stats go even farther to prove Long’s prowess on the glass. In 2022, Long finished 10th in the conference in rebound % at 21.3%. Tech having a 6’7'' rebounding force like Long will do them wonders this winter.
Outside Shot Making
Long was a sub-30% shooter from outside in his first three years of college. However, he finally developed a three-point jumper last year, knocking down a more than respectable 35.9% of his 2.6 downtown shots each game. Nearly all of Long’s threes are of the catch-and-shoot variety as he’s more of a wing who operates without the ball in his hands. As the clips above show, Long is a capable outside shooter from the corner.
While Long shoots more shots from the corner than anywhere else behind the arc, he can still knock down outside shots from the wing and the top of the key.
You can see why he was a poor shooter through most of his college career. Long still has a long windup of a release and a hitch in the shot, but he’s clearly put in the hours to make his jumper reliable. With a well spaced floor, it’s perfectly reasonable to think Long will shoot in the mid-30’s on threes.
Long was able to generate these pick six types of steals on a semi-frequent basis and most importantly, he didn’t gamble for steals and come up empty.
In this clip, Long senses the movement and eyes of the ball handler, stops on a dime, and darts back to tip the ball forward and slam it down for an uncontested dunk. Mekhi Long averaged 1.5 steals per game for the last two years and posted a 2.9% steal rate during the 2022-23 season.
Similarly, this play shows Long’s great instincts as an off-ball defender.
While defending the weak side of the floor, Long keeps his head up and reads what the ball handler on the opposite side of the floor is about to do. Long sees the pump fake and trots backwards to the far corner since there’s a man wide open. When the pass is thrown, Long extends his arm out and deflects the side to side pass. His instincts and awareness were top notch on this play.
Long can also guard well in space as an on-ball defender.
Here, he presses the offensive player into the corner. Long is physical and uses his hands well to get his man off balance. Long also shuffles his feet well and continues to play handsy lockdown defense until he finally strips his man of the ball and his teammate gets a steal.
In the final play, let’s take a look at Mekhi Long’s hustle on the defensive end.
The Monarchs are full court pressing and still allow the ball to easily pass halfcourt. Long is behind the play by at least 10 feet but sprints to get back into the play. It looked like an easy two-on-one break for the offense until Long appeared out of nowhere to steal the pass and disrupt the fast break. Long showed remarkable hustle and heart which can help the Hokies next season.