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Men’s Basketball Preview: the Freshmen Class

A small but mighty group arrives on the Heights

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JULY 19 adidas Gauntlet Finale Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s probably not the preseason that DeMarr Langford Jr. and Justin Vander Baan pictured when they signed their Letters of Intent. But in a year where nothing is unchanged, their game and goals remain the same: put up points and get the Eagles dancing again.

That’ll be a lot of work. Jim Christian adds just two scholarship freshmen to a team that went 13-19 last year. And while it’s clear that there’s talent in this class, it’s less clear how they’ll slot into the starting lineup and rotation.

DeMarr Langford Jr

The second highest-ranked player in JC’s tenure (after the now-departed Jairus Hamilton), DeMarr Langford Jr. comes to the Heights by way of Brewster Academy. The 106th ranked prospect by 247 and the 14th ranked shooting guard, the younger Langford knows how to do almost everything. A supreme athlete, he looks poised to be an immediate contributor on defense from the first tip with the potential to be elite. He was also a great perimeter rebounder in high school. Offensively, he’s a leaper and a slasher who can play through contact and has several moves to finish off the boards. And with the ball in his hands, he can do stuff like this:

His weakness so far has been his outside shot, although it improved noticeably his senior year. If he is forced to be a three-point shooter out of the gate, it could get rocky at times. Truthfully, his contributions will likely end up depending on how well Jay Heath and Wynston Tabbs, as well as incoming transfer Rich Kelly, can stretch the floor.

Depending on how he’s playing in practice, I’d expect Langford Jr. to be one of the first guys off the bench. The guard positions have solid depth between Heath, Tabbs, Kelly, and his brother Makai Ashton-Langford. DeMarr would be one of my favorites, however, in three guard sets due to his skillset and 6’5” height.

Ultimately, I don’t expect the jewel of the 2020 class to stay in his warm-ups too long. But, as always for any recruit ranked outside of the top 15, Eagles fans will need to have some patience if it doesn’t come together immediately.

Justin Vander Baan

The Eagles stayed local on their other 2020, nabbing 7-foot center Justin Vander Baan out of Northbridge, Massachusetts. A three-star recruit with offers from George Mason, South Florida, and a few others, he immediately becomes the tallest player and only “true” center on the Eagles. Realistically, he and Luka Kraljevic will compete for minutes at the 5 spot if and when Jim Christian decides to play one (though I expect Coach to rely heavily on the small ball with the glut of incoming power-forward transfers).

On the court, Vander Baan is a coordinated behemoth with a natural touch. That talent will give him the chance to contribute on both sides of the ball, but only once he’s packed on more weight. Until then, it is hard to see him as ready for the physicality of the D1 basketball and the ACC (truthfully, most freshmen aren’t).

What do you expect out of the freshmen this year? And how do you think they slot into Jim Christian’s game plans?