Some of you may remember Luc Longley.
Some of you may not.
The 7’2″, 265 pound center dominated the paint at the Pit for the New Mexico Lobos from 1987-1991, averaging 19.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his senior season in Albuquerque. Longley’s success led him to be the No. 7 pick in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. His NBA career perhaps wasn’t as dominating, but regardless, he made an indelible impact on one of college basketball’s rising programs.
Why did he matter?
Longley was the first Australian player to play for the Lobos, but certainly would not be the last as various coaches have enjoyed the Australian pipeline which he helped to create ever since — specifically in tapping into the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
Point guard Ryan Kersten, who played for the Lobos for a single season in 2005 split the gap between Longley and two of the current Lobos starters, point guard Hugh Greenwood and center Cameron Bairstow who both spent their high school days at AIS. AIS is a sports-focused residential high school located in Canberra, Australia where the country’s most talented athletes go to train year-round and also pursue their academic interests.
Notable alumni of AIS include Longley, Greenwood, Bairstow, pro tennis player Todd Woodbridge, WNBA all-star Lauren Jackson, and, of course, Golden State Warriors star Andrew Bogut who also played his college ball in the states for Rick Majerus and the Utah Utes. AIS has come under some heat in recent years as the source of NCAA investigations into the program’s academic standars, but if you are familiar with my view on the NCAA, you know I’ll digress from speaking further on that.
Regardless, AIS has provided the Lobos with two key members of the 2012 squad in Greenwood and Bairstow that could indeed help the Lobos make their deepest March Madness run in some time. The 6’3″ Greenwood is averaging 7.3 points, 5.3 boards and 2.4 assists per game in around 30 minutes of action on average. Bairstow has also been a mainstay in the blocks for the Lobos — albeit sharing minutes with Los Alamos, New Mexico native Alex Kirk — averaging 9.1 points, 5.5 boards and a little less than one assist a game for Steve Alford’s squad.
You can bet with this type of production that Bairstow and Greenwood won’t be the last Aussies to take their talents to the Pit, and the Australian pipeline will continue to flow into Albuquerque.