For three-plus seasons, Rhode Island forward Cyril Langevine (10.1ppg, 10.1rpg) has anchored the interior for the Rams, ascending to the primary interior role after the graduation of Hassan Martin. He’s done it with a non-stop motor, unrepressible effort, an unselfish drive to win, and a unique bigger-than-life personality and smile.
Now a senior leader, Langevine is an indispensable contributor to URI’s success. He’s a major reason why the Rams (17-5, 9-1) are riding a nine-game winning streak and blazing a trail through the Atlantic 10 as they set their sights on a conference title and postseason play.
I caught up with the personable big fella after Rhode Island’s Tuesday win over UMass at the Ryan Center, and, together, we covered some serious conversational ground.
Chris DiSano: Let’s begin with the win you just secured over UMass [earlier tonight]. What are your thoughts on getting this one and moving to 17-5, 9-1 in the league?
Cyril Langevine: It’s a big adjustment. Last year we were 18-15, so to be 17-5 and on a nine-game winning streak is amazing. Just to get this win is big because, as Coach Cox said, it’s danger because we’ve got UMass (and GW next) where we need to stay focused, so to come away with this W was big.
CD: That’s a great point so let’s go there for a moment. What are some of the main areas of growth you see year over year?
CL: We’re connected, we understand each other more, we know not to get down on one another and just to go out there and have fun — that’s the main focus. That’s what I’ve been showing to the guys. I think Kobe said something to the effect of ‘that you have to put in all the hard work and when you’re out there you give it all you got.’ Because just like that you never know what could happen, so when you’re out there you gotta have fun. And that’s what I try to do every day.
CD: Is that the area that you would say you’re most proud of… the way the guys are playing the game with joy?
CL: Most definitely and also playing with maturity. Everyone is matured as you can see, so it’s just going out there and trusting the work we put in all summer to be in the position we are now.
CD: Other than the obvious, which is that T. J. Buchanan is elevated to assistant coach, Austin Carroll comes in as one… what might be different about the staff this year as a unit?
CL: Connected. Well-rounded. They understand each other I’d say. Everyone on the team is connected. We have a relationship with every single guy on the team and that’s the biggest thing. If you can have relationships with all the guys on the team, and understand each other, you’ll go far.
CD: Let’s dig into your game a little bit… and we’ll get to the 1,000 point mark here soon… but let’s start with your defense which has been high level really since you arrived. How have you grown, first, as a defender in isolation situations over the years?
CL: I look at it as pride. Where I’m from, nothing is given to you. So for someone to think they could just go out there and hoop on you — that’s not the way I was raised so I take it personally. Like tonight, the kid [Tre Mitchell] had a great game but you have to be as tough as you can when you’re matched up with him. Sometimes it’s better offense. But like you said, in isolation, I feel it’s just having pride about shutting your man down.
CD: And then another area that, particularly this year, you’ve shown to be at another level as far a big men are concerned, is your ball screen defense. What has come together for you there in helping to pressure out high?
CL: Quick on my feet. I’m not your typical 6-foot-8, 230 pound forward. I’m agile and I can move so that helps to separate me from a lot of bigs in the league. I get compared to being a tight end in the NFL which is funny. But like I said, I take pride. For me, if someone is sending a ball screen for my teammates it’s danger, they are getting hit. So I gotta be there to protect them and that’s why I’m so aggressive with the way I play defense on the ball screen.
CD: You are very vocal in communicating. I hear you all the time from where I sit. Is that something, that confidence to communicate, that’s come along as you’ve gotten older too?
CL: Definitely. I watch a lot of guys in the NBA and I see leaders. I just try to do what I can to do it out here for our team. I’m a leader and I’m the anchor down low, so they look up to me. If you noticed, the kid [Mitchell] was scoring so… switching on him. So it’s becoming that leader, being vocal, going out there and having fun but still knowing what the task is… and that’s to win.
CD: You just mentioned the word a few times so let’s go there. Leadership. What are some of the lessons you’re trying to impart upon the young guys?
CL: Give it your all because just like that anything can happen. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the grind. For me personally, maturing into a leader for this team has been huge and my perspective has changed in a lot of ways. Things in general; like time. If someone says be there at 10am, be there at 9:45. Because being on time is not on time. That’s maturing. Two years ago I’m not saying anything like that. So it’s an understanding that develops.
CD: Has it gone by fast for you? I know we’re still in the middle of it and we’re not going to fast forward as you’ve got a lot of games to play… but how do you feel sitting here as a senior?
CL: [laughs] It’s just crazy! I never thought I’d be here as a senior. Where I’m from a lot of people don’t make it through four years of college, there’s always a distraction. If you have the right support system and you know what’s good for you, how you can help your family, you’re going to stay on track and that’s what I did. I’ve been here four years and I couldn’t be more more grateful for the opportunity to go to school here and play for this school.
CD: Alright, let’s talk about the 1,000 point mark. I’ve been in that press room with Fatts [Russell] busting you up, but seriously and sincerely, what’s that mean to you? It’s a great accomplishment.
CL: As you know I didn’t come in here being a scorer. It shows that if you have a motor, you work hard, and you feel as though you can do it, you can. When you put your mind to it… If you go out there and outwork your opponent you can get 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds. It’s about going out there and playing basketball. It’s not all about being flashy, sometimes you gotta be gritty.
CD: We discussed off court maturity and growth. What on-court part of your game are you most proud of growing over the last few years?
CL: Personally, every day I talk to my mentor David Lipman who has played a big part of of my basketball career and life in general. He understands me, he wants the best for me. As a basketball player, he tells me little things I can do. I’m out there playing to get the win. I’m not out there for any other reason. I think I’ve grown in many ways: shooting, passing, but I do what needs to be done for the team game to game. I take it personally. I feel as though I’m a mixture of a lot of people with heart… Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley. You put me to play with anybody like that… boy oh boy.
CD: You’ve got George Washington on Saturday. I know you haven’t had a chance to dive into the scout yet, but they’ll play with high energy in a tough building to play in. Your thoughts on going down there?
CL: You’re going into someone’s house. It’s like going into the refrigerator and trying to take something without asking. You gotta be ready. The coaching staff will get us ready. We’re locked in. It’s all about maturity at the end of the day…
[mid-sentence, URI trainer Daniel Anthony walks by…]
Shout out to DA. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be out here right now because of my ankle. He worked with me countless hours. One time I was in there with him an entire day, working on my ankle with him, one-on-one.
But yeah, we’re focused. The coaches are dialed in, they understand what we gotta do to get the win, and we just execute. Everything is not gonna go as planned. Everyone makes mistakes, but we have the heart and maturity and it can take us a long way.
CD: As you head down the back nine of conference play, you’re in the thick of the postseason discussion, the Atlantic 10 championship discussion, what must you do to continue to push forward toward your goals?
CL: Strive and know your why. Coach Coach always says that, “Know your why…” And I’m like, “What’s my why?” That’s what gives us the edge. What do you really want out of this game. And until you figure that out, keep grinding. I use this phrase, The Chase Remains (TCR) as one of my slogans. For me, what am I chasing? Just keep grinding until you figure it out. That’s what we all need to do.
CD: Okay, let’s end here… You have a ton of fun in the postgame press conferences — on the way in, on the way out, at the mic. What gives you that spark to engage people in that way?
CL: I feel like I should be at the next level. I’m trying to get to the next level. So I look at a lot of guys at that level. Take Lebron James: He knows when to be outgoing. It’s not bad to make someone laugh [laughs]. I see videos of him interacting with his teammates, in the media making jokes. And as for me… who’s this kid? Show personality. So it’s all about – take it big, enjoy it.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named an NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44