Cole Long of St. John's won't have to clean out his locker at the Memorial University Field House this summer after becoming one of the newest members of the Newfoundland Growlers Basketball Club.
Long, 26, will swap out his red and white Sea-Hawks jersey for the Growlers' black and gold as the club hits the Field House court for its inaugural season in the Canadian Elite Basketball League on June 4.
On Tuesday night, Long was selected third overall by the Growlers in the 2022 USports Draft, which allows players from universities across the country to enter the league.
"It's honestly just surreal," Long told CBC News Wednesday.
"I've always dreamed of playing professional, even university level like I just finished. That was still a dream come true, and now it's just another step."
Long has spent years lighting up basketball courts in St. John's, along with playing at the University of Detroit Mercy from 2016 to 2019, before returning to play for Memorial. The six-foot-seven-inch guard averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds per game as a fifth-year senior last year.
The Growlers also had the 18th pick in Tuesday's draft, selecting Mason Bourcier from Trinity Western University. Bourcier, originally from Kelowna, B.C., averaged 16 points, 9 ½ rebounds and just under nine assists per game last year.
Wednesday wasn't the first time Long was drafted into the Canadian Elite Basketball League, which started up in 2019 and has become the largest professional sports league based entirely in Canada.
He was selected by the Guelph Nighthawks in the 2021 USports Draft, but missed the season due to injury. Long said the two teams had a mutual agreement to allow for him to be selected by the Growlers, allowing him to start his professional career in the place his love for the game began.
"It's just really fortunate that they gave me this opportunity to kind of start everything at home, in front of a community that I love," Long said. "Both my parents will be at every game, I'm sure all my friends will be motivating me and that sort of thing."
Long said he is looking forward to seeing how he stacks up against some of Canada's top basketball talent ahead of the upcoming season, along with contributing to creating a winning culture in St. John's.
"I think it's just going to be a really exciting atmosphere. It's going to be a lot of passionate guys that are really excited to have a really good first year," he said.
"Everyone wants to win, so everyone's going right for the championship. No reason not to, we got a talented team."
The Newfoundland Growlers share a name, logo and ownership team with the ECHL hockey team based out of the Mary Browns Centre in St. John's.