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James Lang Makes His Mark

June 17, 2003 Columns No Comments



Chicago Pre-Draft Camp – Lang Makes His Mark

by Jed Tai

CHICAGO – James Lang from Central Park Christian High School in Birmingham, Alabama was the only high school player who participated in the Chicago Pre-Draft camp at Moody Bible Institute.

Due to an archaic NCAA rule regarding high school players testing out themselves for a professional sport, many of the other prep players who were invited to participate in the pre-draft camp decided instead to schedule their own workouts (Ndudi Ebi, Charlie Villanueva) or stay at home (Kendrick Perkins, Travis Outlaw). But Lang – who fully committed himself to the draft by signing with an agent – decided to prove himself to the talent evaluators on hand in Chicago.

So for three and a half days, Lang went through the drills, competed in three games, and went through all the physical testing and measurements. How did the prep star feel about his performance in the week-long session?

“Pretty good,” he said. “I’ve been running up and down the floor really good, keeping my head in the game and hustling hard.”

Observers at the camp pretty much agreed.

“I think he’s been fairly impressive,” said Chris Monter, renowned draft expert and publisher of the Monter Draft News. “He’s run the floor very well. He’s a little undersized as a center (Lang measured in at 6-foot-9 1/2 without shoes) but he has very long arms and a 7-6 wingspan that allows him to play a little bit bigger. I think he’s really helped himself.”

Over three days, Lang averaged 10.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, shooting 10-for-16 from the field. While he was effective in converting shots down low, it was his ability to convert from a further distance that made an impression on those in attendance.

“I was a little surprised he made 11 for 12 from the free throw line,” said Chris Ekstrand, editor of the NBA Draft Guide and one of the NBA officials who runs the pre-draft camp. “There are very few big men who can go to the line and do that.”

Lang competed well in the field of big men at camp, often going against players who four to five years older than him. How competitive was it with the other players out on the court?

“It’s kind of tough,” said Lang. “But only if it gets to you. I just need to play my game and dominate like I’m supposed to, so I don’t worry about anybody else.”

“But I know I still have to work on a lot of things.”

One thing may have to be his work on defensive end of the floor. Lang finished with one of the higher foul totals in camp, and nearly fouled out of every game.

“Defensively he was totally lost,” said Ekstrand. “He tended to play defense with his hands. His man would get the ball in the post and (Lang) would have two hands on his back and he got fouls called on him. That might be a little thing, but that shows you how far away he is at this point.”

While things like that he has some ways to go, Lang did come a long way in terms of his weight – which was a concern coming into the camp. The last time he was in Chicago, for the EA Sports Roundball Classic, Lang looked extremely overweight and out of shape. However, at the outset of camp, he arrived looking svelte and trim (based on his standards). In his official weigh-in, he measured out to “only” 316 pounds. What was Lang’s secret to weight loss?

“Running a lot, drinking a lot of water, and eating the right food,” he said.

While Ekstrand acknowledges that the loss of reportedly more than 40 pounds is impressive and noteworthy, he does give this warning.

“You have to wonder if the weight will stay off,” said Ekstrand. “It’s one thing to get in shape for a draft camp. It’s another thing to keep it off for an entire career.”

But that issue aside, Lang did prove many doubters wrong at the camp, and has improved his stock in the eyes of NBA scouts.

“I think he’s moved himself up definitely to a late first round, early second round (pick),” said Monter. “A lot will depend on his workouts leading up to the draft, but I think he’s definitely helped his stock quite a bit.”

Lang has already gotten started with those workouts, and has a few more to come after camp.

“I worked out with the (Los Angeles) Lakers before I came here,” said Lang. “After this, I’ve got the New Jersey Nets and Miami Heat.”

Lang wasn’t always dead-set on the NBA, and had considered college for quite a while. For those who were wondering where Lang would have gone to school had he decided to go to school, he had a quick reply when asked.

“Louisville,” he said.

But the NBA is the route that Lang chose to take (a “dream of mine since middle school,” he said) and he went a long way towards making that happen with his performance in Chicago.

“I think he’s definitely held his own,” said Monter. “I think he was one of the Top 10 to 15 players here.”

     

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