Elijah Long and Mount St. Mary’s are in the middle of an 11-game road trip to start out the 2016-17 season — many of which are against the nation’s top basketball programs.
That’s not an easy task for anyone.
But when Elijah stepped on to the court at Hilton Coliseum, he found an unusual, but familiar, face staring back at him. It was his brother, Naz Mitrou-Long.
Iowa State (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) took on Mount St. Mary’s (0-2, 0-0 NEC) Monday night, providing a rare reunion for the brothers. And while the Cyclones beat The Mount 73-55, Naz said the game was not like one he’s played before.
“Going in to it I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be another game,’” Naz said. “Then the lights started flashing and I look over, and I’m like, ‘Man I’m really about to play.’ It was kind of surreal, honestly.”
The brothers had a sizable crowd of family in the arena — 36 by Naz’s count — all packed in behind the Mount St. Mary’s bench in white hybrid shirts honoring both teams and the brother’s numbers.
Regardless of how the game went, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said he was just happy to get to bring "Team Canada," as he calls it, to Ames to watch Naz and Elijah play. That, he said, isn’t something that gets to happen very often in the world of college basketball.
“[There was] a lot of emotion in this game with Naz and Eli, but I think it was great,” Prohm said. “It was great to get Eli here. … It was great to have that, especially for all that Naz has done for this university and this community.”
While the Cyclones went in to halftime up 39-22, Elijah and The Mount provided quite the challenge for the Cyclones in the second half. Mount St. Mary’s started chipping away at Iowa State’s 17-point halftime lead and was down just 10 points seven minutes into the second half.
Iowa State quickly got itself back into a safe zone, going on a 12-0 run over nearly a five-and-a-half minute span to take a 22-point lead. From there, the Cyclones cruised to the 18-point win.
A lot of The Mount’s run, though, can be credited directly to Elijah. The sophomore finished the game with 19 points and seven rebounds. Iowa State point guard Monté Morris, who was matched up with Elijah for a large portion of the game, had nothing but praise for Naz’s younger brother — and even drew some comparisons between the two.
“He’s a good competitor. He’s a big time player, and that team needs him to stay aggressive and make plays,” Morris said. “He’s got that same competitive edge that Naz does. You can tell out there. I’m happy that he and Naz got to play against each other, and the whole Canada came out tonight.”
And while the situation was abnormal, and something that Naz hasn’t likely experienced since the two lived together in Mississauga, Ontario, he said he was just happy for the experience to get to play against his brother one last time.
“Part of me wanted to cheer for him. I can’t even lie, because he was making some plays tonight,” Naz said. “Everybody saw that. Part of me was keeping it competitive. It was a little weird, but man it was a good time.”