Charleston Southern Women's Basketball is back at home this weekend as they look to increase their winning record to 4-2. Senior guard Nayla Long says she's optimistic about the season and the undeniable chemistry of the 2016-17 team.
"I think we're doing really well as a team this year," Long said. "Off the court, we love to be around each other, so that's big plus and that helps us build that family dynamic that carries over to our games. I think that dynamic gets better every single year."
As a senior, Long knows she's stepping into a leadership role this season and says she's eager to help out in any way she can.
"I think my role on the team is to help the younger players by sharing my knowledge of our plays and our program," Long added. "I want to help them master our offense, while also teaching them how to read the defense. I know the potential we have. We've just got to put everything on the court, all four quarters."
Before the Buccaneers take on the Bulldogs of South Carolina State, we sat down with Long and got to know more about the self-professed habitual peanut M&M-eater.
Favorite pro-sports team: My dad's favorite team is the Oakland Raiders, so I'll say them because I like to cheer with him.
Favorite pre-round meal: Shrimp Alfredo
Secret talent or fact: I can play the piano pretty well. I took an intro to piano class my senior year of high school. My grandma has a piano, so now any time I'm at her house in Fayetteville I'll grab some sheet music and play.
What is your spirit animal? I'm not sure that it's my spirit animal, but I like squirrels.
What is your nickname? A lot of people call me Nay-Nay, but they also call me Grumpy sometimes because of my facial expressions.
Most surprising/embarrassing song on your iPhone: I'm pretty sure I have the entire Alvin and the Chipmunks album.
Two words to describe you on the course: Aggressive and sneaky
Two words to describe you off the course: Sleepy and happy
Best advice you've ever gotten: It gets better. Just keep going and never give up.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Rocky Road
Mountains or beach? I want to go to Colorado State for grad school, but I'm from Hawaii, so I enjoy both. I would probably have to say the beach, although I prefer Hawaii to Folly Beach.
Describe your recruitment experience: In Hawaii, it's really hard to get recruited. My dad would send me to a lot of camps and showcases. I met Coach Applin when I went to the East Carolina Elite camp where he was the assistant coach and I stayed in contact with him. Once he became the head coach at CSU, he reached out to me with a scholarship opportunity.
It sounds like your parents have a lot of confidence in you and your ability. They are really supportive. My parents were always tough on us as kids and always made sure we knew the difference between right and wrong. At the time, I didn't like growing up in a strict household, but now I really appreciate the foundation my upbringing has given me.
How many siblings do you have? I'm the oldest of five. There are a lot of us! There's me, my sister, she's 20, my brother who is 17 and about to graduate high school, I have another sister in sixth grade and my youngest brother is five.
Are you guys close? We are very close. I've been blessed with a very close-knit family. My youngest brother is literally my best friend and I tell him that. He's my everything, he's my motivation. Of course I love everyone in my family, but I feel like I'm kind of a second-mom to him. Working at a hospital, my mom had to work so much, going from night shifts to afternoon shifts. Sometimes my dad would have to work night shifts too, so I was always there for my youngest brother and he latched onto me.
Does your family get to come and see you play? They moved to Savannah my junior year, so now they're able come to see me play a lot. The whole reason they moved back to the states was so they could see me play.
Favorite sporting moment from your time here at CSU: My favorite sporting moment would probably be when I made a half-court shot in one of our games last year.
What do you want to do when you graduate? I want to go to grad school to become an occupational therapist.
Favorite TV show: Right now I'm watching a show on Netflix called 'The 100.'
What would your walk-up song be? Probably some kind of song with an instrumental beat, like Skrillex
Place you would most like to visit? Greece
Favorite sport to play/watch outside of basketball: My favorite sport to play outside of basketball would probably be softball. My favorite sport to watch would be football, specifically, the NFL.
Do you have any superstitions or pre-round rituals? I have to eat peanut M&Ms before every game. I usually buy a big bag because it used to just be my superstition, but now it's kind of a team thing.
Who is the funniest/goofiest person on the team? I would probably say one of our freshmen, Jasmine Blackmon. She's a character.
Who is the best singer? We don't have a lot of great singers on the team, but I would probably say Shauntavia Dobson.
Who is the best dancer? We've got a good group of dancers in the locker room, but I would probably have to say Tay again. She's the whole package- the triple threat.
Who is the team cheerleader? Definitely Tay! She is the motivator of the team. She is our energy.
Who is the most superstitious? I would say Alyssa Mann. She always has to make the last layup of our warmups, so she does that before every game.
What's been your favorite memory as a team? We do a lot together, but one of my favorite memories was from the time we all went and saw a scary movie. We were screaming and holding onto each other the whole time.
Do you remember the name of the movie? I think it was 'Unfriended.' It was even better because Brianna Lakes hates scary movies and she thought we were going to see something else. We told her after we got to the theater, so she was in the movie covering her eyes and freaking out the whole time. It was so funny.
What's Coach Applin's 'go-to phrase?' One-foot shots. When you hear that, you know you're in trouble. Any time we miss a layup, you can hear him on the sideline saying, 'You've got to make those one-foot shots.'
Who is the funniest coach? Coach Snyder- he's the jokester.
How would you describe the other coaches? Coach Cavera is the calm, cool, collected coach that a lot of us find relatable. Coach Childers is the quieter coach and the brains. He knows a lot about basketball, so when he sees something he can help us correct, he pulls us aside and lets us know. Coach Poe is someone who really pushes us to perform at our fullest potential. Coach Applin is all of the coaches put together. He's our overseer and the guiding hand behind it all.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Probably anything from Chipotle
If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have? I think it would be cool to be a shapeshifter and turn into anything or anyone you wanted to be.
What are your hobbies outside of basketball? I like to read. I also volunteer with the student activities coordinator at the Lifecare Center. I try and go there as much as I can. I love being around the seniors and getting to work closely with the occupational therapists over there.
If you could go back in time, what decade would you travel to? I would just want to go back to high school, so I would just travel a few years back if I could.
What are you going to miss most about being a student-athlete at CSU? I'm going to miss the family environment. During my time here, I've always had people to turn to about anything, so I'll definitely miss that.
How do you think being a student-athlete at CSU has shaped you for the better? I think being a student-athlete, I've realized I'm a lot stronger than I originally thought. You're forced to manage your time and get through obstacles. You just have to keep going because you'll see it gets better, and more importantly, you get better in the process.
With 24 games ahead of her, Long has her long-term sights set on accomplishing several goals she's set for herself and the team.
"My personal goal this year is to really contribute to the team in any type of way, whether that be knowledge-wise or on the court," Long said. "I don't just want to be there, I want to really help. My goal for the team is for us to win. I would like for us to finish in the top-five and go into the conference tournament with a by-week during the first round."
With conference-play starting next month, Long says the Bucs are eager as ever to make their mark on the Big South.
"We always look forward to playing Gardner-Webb, Longwood and High Point," Long added. "We actually made a list the other day and those were the teams we picked as our rivals. Another big one I'm looking forward to is Liberty. We haven't won a game against them since I've been here, so we would like to beat them this year."
You can come out and show your support for Long and the Buccaneers as they welcome South Carolina State to the Buc Dome on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 2:00 p.m. on the Big South Network.