PG North: LaRoche's Pringle late-blooming star

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Demetris Pringle wasn't a basketball star at Sto-Rox High School.

He scored just 20 points his entire junior season. And while he scored in double figures on a dozen occasions as a senior in 1999-2000, the Vikings finished with a mediocre 11-10 record.

So, how did Pringle become a star player -- a leading scorer and 1,000-point career scorer -- at LaRoche College?

"I didn't have a good jump shot in high school, couldn't go to my left, wasn't as strong as I am now," explains Pringle.

Improving on all three of those aspects, sprinkled in with hard work has added up to Pringle, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound wing player, being a leading man at Division III LaRoche.

LaRoche, the defending Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference champions, was off to a 6-8 start, 5-3 in the AMCC, heading into last night's action. Pringle, who averaged 16 points a game during last season's 14-14 campaign, was averaging a team-best 19.2 points a game this season and leading the Redhawks in 3-pointers with 37 on 85 attempts, an excellent 44 percent from long range.

"Demetris' best attribute is that he's so strong," said LaRoche coach Scott Lang, a 1988 Mars High graduate. "He's built like a linebacker. Near the basket, he's stronger than a lot of guys."

Lang, 35, in his eighth season as LaRoche's head coach, said he first saw Pringle play in the Manchester 18-and-over summer league a year after his senior year. At that point, Pringle had received no college interest and was uncertain about his future.

"He was a hidden gem," said Lang. "He was talented, but raw. He was overshadowed at Sto-Rox by Ed Peterson [now a guard at IUP who averaged 27 points a game as a senior in high school]. Demetris looked like a great athlete. He just hadn't developed his skills."

It's now safe to say at LaRoche he has developed a lot of those skills. Lang said a key reason why is that "Demetris is one of the most coachable guys on the planet. He's always been a hard worker. He's put in the time with extra shooting and in the weight room."

Pringle has some good bloodlines. An uncle, Chris Kirkland, starred at Sto-Rox and at Division I University of Massachusetts (1997-2000). Pringle grew up in New York City's Harlem but moved to McKees Rocks before 11th grade.

That move ended up benefitting the LaRoche basketball program in a big way.

Lang said he adheres to University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma's philosophy that you "coach your best players the hardest."

"If you do that, the other guys on the team see how hard you're working him and they'll fall in right behind," said Lang.

Lang said he has worked Pringle hard and yelled at him quite a bit, but his star player has never complained, only worked harder. This past Friday, that strategy got tested a bit when Lang became dissatisfied with Pringle's efforts in a 69-55 loss to Pitt-Bradford and benched him for the next day's game, a 50-49 loss to Penn State-Behrend.

Pringle was expected to be back in the lineup for last night's game at Lake Erie.

The LaRoche coach said Pringle, at this point, could definitely perform at the Division II college level. Lang said last year a conference coach -- Penn State Behrend's Dave Niland -- told him after a big game by Pringle that his talented guard/forward looked like a Division I performer.

Pringle was last week's Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Player of the Week after he scored 25 points in an 81-70 win over Penn State-Altoona and 27 points in a 103-92 win over Mount Aloysius. He became the seventh LaRoche player to score 1,000 points in a career during the Mount Aloysius game.

Winning the 10-team AMCC championship has extra importance this year as the winner gets an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III playoffs. Last year after LaRoche won the AMCC title, the Redhawks' season was over.

"It would be great [to win it again]," said Pringle. "But, we'll take it one step at a time. We got a lot of young guys on the team. They'll begin to overlook things if they look too far ahead. It's like coach puts it 'Take one practice at a time.' "

Taking it slow isn't a bad idea when you have a player like Pringle, who can move in the fast lane.


Steve Hecht can be reached at shecht@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1449.


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