Pitino sees Lang at Beth Haven, brings top recruiters along to help
James Lang's much anticipated Louisville debut at the Coca-Cola Holiday Classic at Beth Haven against Bardstown High School was a success. However, I'm sure there were a few in the gym who wondered if the game preceeding the Central Park – Bardstown quarterfinal between Bullitt Central and Hart County would ever end. Thankfully it did and after 4 overtimes and a 106 – 99 Hart County victory the main event got under way.
That's when 6'10, 300 pounder James Lang's Central Park Christian Eagles took the floor in front of a standing room only crowd at tiny Beth Haven High School. Among those standing to watch the 6'10 giant from Birmingham, AL was none other than the man Lang verbally committed to in September, University of Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino. Standing prominently on the balcony behind the basket for all to see, including Lang himself, Pitino, joined by Assistant Strength Coach Wiley Brown and players Taquan Dean, Luke Whitehead, Francisco Garcia, Ellis Myles, Junior Mohammed, Greg Tinch and Simeon Naydenov watched the young center intently until Lang finished up his night with just under 4 minutes left in the game to ice a sore right foot.
On the night, Lang made 6/9 shots from the field and connected on 2/2 free throws for 14 points. Lang also pulled down 8 rebounds and blocked 7 shots, including one that landed in the third row! He made 2 steals, dished out 1assist and committed 1 turnover in 24 minutes of action.
What the stats don't tell you is that the Central Park guards rarely looked Lang's way and seldom got the ball to him in the post. Most of Lang's points came off of offensive rebounds, three of which he thundered home on vicious one-handed jams. Despite not getting the touches he should have and being double and triple teamed in the post by Bardstown's zone defense, Lang ran the court well the entire game and displayed extremely nimble footwork in the post.
Lang showed off his soft hands too. He catches everything the Eagles guards throw his way and made a couple of nice deflections and steals off the press, one of which he flipped ahead to a streaking teammate for an easy layup. Lang has great post moves and a deft touch within 10 feet of the basket. When he did receive the ball in the post, Lang demonstrated a nice turnaround move in which he squared to the basket and banked it home off the glass.
Lang controlled the paint with his imposing size, shot blocking and rebounding ability. Lang will never be the explosive Marcus Camby shot blocking type but he gets good position and has good timing when blocking shots and showed an ability to block the shot without being called for fouls. And he's just too big for most opponents to get around for rebounds.
Lang will clearly be a difference maker at the highest level of college basketball. He has great size, footwork and hands and shows a willingness to run the court, grab the ball off the board and block shots. In my judgement, there's no way Lang can contemplate bypassing college for the riches of the NBA. He simply doesn't play against great competition at Central Park and needs to become a better conditioned athlete, lose some of the weight he carries around and just generally needs coaching and repetition against top level athletes who can physically challenge him on a daily basis.
Central Park defeated Bardstown 93-56 to advance to the semifinals tomorrow at 1:00 PM against Hart County. Provided Central Park can get past Hart County, they would advance to the championship game against the winner of the Fort Knox – Beth Haven game at 7:00 PM.
Directions to Beth Haven: Take Dixie HWY South to Johnsontown Road (Moby Dick on corner). Turn right on Johnsontown Road. Beth Haven is about one mile down Johnsontown Road on the right at 5515 Johnsontown Road. The gym is in the back and there's enough parking. Admission is $10.
Photos Left to Right: (Francisco Garcia), (Ellis Myles, Junior Mohammed, Simien Naydenov, Taquan Dean), Carlos Hurt
Former University of Louisville players Carlos Hurt and Brandon Bender were in attendance tonight to watch Lang and Central Park Christian play. Hurt spent most of the game autographing for the kids. He's still a popular presence in the gym with his smile and openness. ITV wishes good luck to Carlos in the future.