The Blue Zone will be running a summer series bringing you the latest on some of Duke basketball’s former stars. This week, The Blue Zone takes a look at Antonio Lang.
Antonio Lang spent four years at Duke in the early 1990's, making it to the NCAA National Championship Game three times, and hanging a banner twice. Though Lang's number 21 isn't hanging in the rafters along with teammates Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, his time at Duke was memorable, as has been his life after leaving Durham.
Lang's first season as a Blue Devil coincided with the first of Duke's two consecutive national championships. Lang contributed immediately as a freshman, earning eight starts his first year with the team. During the season he averaged 11.8 minutes per game, scoring 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Lang's role was scaled back during the postseason however, and the 6-foot-8 forward logged just a single minute in Duke's 72-65 championship game victory over Kansas.
The next season Lang's role increased. He started 18 of the 34 games he played in and nearly doubled his minutes per game. His stats increased along with his minutes, bettering his production to 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. This year however, Lang was not an afterthought in the postseason. Instead, the forward logged 31 minutes in Duke's 71-51 rout of Michigan in the championship game, scoring five points and grabbing four rebounds.
With Christian Laettner gone, the Blue Devils took a step back collectively in 1992-93. Duke didn't make it to the Sweet 16 after winning back-to-back titles. Though the team regressed as a whole, Lang continued his development. As a junior, Lang started all but four games he played in, setting career highs across the board with 26.1 minutes, 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
His senior year, Lang was named a captain, and he helped lead his team back to the standard that was expected of it after its consecutive championships at the beginning of Lang's tenure. Lang again improved in almost all areas of his game. He shot 58.8 percent from the floor while averaging a career-high 12.5 points per game. His 1.1 blocks and 1.0 assists were also career-bests. From the free throw line, where he struggled each of his first three seasons at Duke, Lang shot a very respectable 72.4 percent. Lang's Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA Championship Game once again in 1994, but this time they were defeated by Arkansas 76-72. Lang led the team in scoring with 15 points and joined his roommate Grant Hill on the All-Tournament team.
With his Duke career in the rearview window, Lang started his professional journey in the NBA when he was selected with the 29th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns. He appeared in just 12 games with the Suns his rookie season, then was shipped off to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason, where he'd have his most consistent run as an NBA player. His first year in Cleveland Lang averaged 9.0 minutes per game and scored 2.8 points. His next season he saw more burn, garnering 13.2 minutes, contributing 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.
After two years with the Cavaliers, Lang bounced around for the rest of his NBA career. The Golden State Warriors signed him in 1997, but he didn't make the team. He played six games with the Miami Heat in March of 1998, 10 back with Cleveland the following season, and played a total of 10 games with the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers in 1999-2000 before moving on from the NBA.
Lang played professionally in the Continental Basketball League stateside, then in the Philippines before signing on with the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins of the Japanese Basketball League. He played five seasons with the Dolphins before foot injuries forced an end to his playing career.
Even though injuries prevented him from playing the game, Lang wasn't done with basketball, or the Dolphins. Immediately following his retirement, Lang signed on as an assistant coach with Mitsubishi. After Johnny Dawkins left his post as an assistant coach at Duke to take the head coaching job at Stanford, Mike Krzyzewski called Lang to fill Dawkins' spot. Lang decided not to return to his alma matter however, realizing he was closer to a head coaching job in Japan than he would be in Durham. His decision payed off when he was named head coach of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins in 2010. Lang is still the head coach of the Dolphins today.