Lang Shines, Has Leader

HENDERSON, Nev. – Little has changed on the James Lang front. The 6-11 C from Birmingham (AL) Central Park Christian still dominates most opponents in the paint. And Louisville is still his leader. But there is one small thing.

Expect Lang to make a verbal commitment in the fall – Rick Pitino's Cardinals are the favorite – but also expect him to declare himself eligible for the 2003 NBA draft, not hire an agent, work out for teams and then make a final decision sometime late next spring.

"He's got a chance to go straight out of high school," said Kenneth Harris, the coach of Lang's Alabama Ice summer squad. "The NBA's hunting for big men, and they're good to young guys. I don't think there's any doubt that he's a first-round pick."

Lang spent the first two days of competition here at adidas Big Time helping the Ice to a perfect 3-0 record in pool play. He opened the tourney with 13 points in a 77-63 win over Billy Shepherd Sports of Indiana. He added 14 Monday night and went for 15 Tuesday afternoon.

Pitino was in the gym for the Ice's Tuesday afternoon win over Oregon's Inner City Players. Others still on Lang's list include Alabama, Memphis, Cincinnati, Purdue, Connecticut and UAB.

"Louisville's the leader," the big guy confirmed. "I just like the coaching staff and the players. Coach Pitino is a great coach" – and one Lang believes can help get him to the next level.

The ‘Bama behemoth averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks a game this past winter for Central Park. But the spring circuit – and throughout the summer – gave him an opportunity to strut his stuff to a wider audience.

"He got serious," Harris said. "He realized that he's got a chance to be good."

A darn good chance.

Michael Kruse writes for Basketball America and

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