DOVER — Like a lot of big kids, coordination didn’t come easily to Dave Langan.
Wesley College basketball coach Jerry Kobasa likes to kid his 6-foot-8 center about how awkward he was as a freshman.
“Coach says I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time,” says Langan. “It wasn’t that bad. But I had a lot of work to do.”
Four years later, Langan doesn’t give people much to joke about any more. Through a lot of effort, the fourth-year junior has become something the Wolverines haven’t had in a long time — a legitimately sized post player with some genuine basketball skills.
Langan’s emergence in the paint is one of the big reasons Wesley is 11-4 and riding a six-game winning streak going into Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at Mary Washington.
The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder is averaging 11.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
Kobasa said the broken foot that sidelined Langan in his second season at Wesley ended up being a blessing in disguise. It allowed the youngster to work on his game.
“In all my years of coaching, the only person I could ever say who worked as hard on his game as David was (Wesley’s all-time leading scorer) Rashawn Johnson,” said Kobasa. “Dave was spending every moment on his own, doing things. Then, in the summertime, different people were working with him and he was playing in different leagues.
“He just got better and better. If he grows next year like he did this year, he’s going to be one heck of a player by the time he leaves Wesley College.”
Kobasa first stumbled upon Langan by accident. One of Langan’s sisters was being recruited by Wolverine women’s basketball coach James Wearden and she mentioned her brother.
The sister stayed at Wesley for only one year before returning home to Sayreville, N.J. But Dave stuck around.
Langan said sometimes he wonders what might have happened to him if he went to a bigger program.
“But I like the situation I’m in,” he said. “It’s not like I regret coming here. People ask me all the time where I’m playing. When I tell them ‘Division III,’ they’re like, ‘Really? That’s it?’”
The fact is, there’s not too many players Langan’s size playing Division III basketball. And the one’s who are often aren’t very skilled.
Being 6-8 with some basketball ability gives Langan an edge at this level.
“My size is a big advantage being in Division III,” said Langan. “You really don’t see it too often. ... I take a lot of pride in being a complete player. It’s what I always try to be.”
Langan is also proud of how far he’s come in a few years.
“If you watch the film from my freshman year to this year,” he said, “you wouldn’t even think it’s the same player.”
In an upset of No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan two weeks ago, Langan collected 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was named the Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Week afterward.
Teammate Paul Reynolds said he can see the changes in Langan. For one thing, the big kid can dunk now.
“You can tell he put some work in,” said Reynolds. “He lost a lot of weight. He got quicker and lighter on his feet. ... He’s really improved.
“There’s not too many 6-8, 6-9 guys in Division III so, having one on our team, it really helps us a lot. Who can guard him?”
Langan said the thing that’s really driven him to get better isn’t necessarily making a name for himself. More than anything, he just wants to win a title.
His high school team, Sayreville War Memorial, lost in the state semifinals in his senior season. The Wolverines then fell in the CAC Tournament title game in each of his first two years at Wesley.
“I just want to win a championship,” said Langan. “I just want that ring.”
Langan leads the conference in rebounding. ... Reynolds is third in the CAC in scoring at 18.6 points per game. ... Wesley plays six of its last 10 games on the road. The Wolverines are 7-2 at home so far this season.
Sports editor Andy Walter
can be reached at 741-8227