Rifle grad takes game to DII level
GRAND JUNCTION – Megan Langstaff knows all about seizing opportunities and turning them into success.
In fact, those opportunities have opened the door to a valuable role with the Mesa State College women’s basketball team the past two years, after signing an athletic letter of intent with the Grand Junction school in her senior year at Rifle High School.
Currently one of the team’s centers, Langstaff averages more than 16 minutes per game and is among the top five in rebounds on the 2002-03 Mavericks.
She is one of two former area prep stars who have continued their basketball careers at the Division II school.
Stephanie Kemp, formerly of Basalt High School, is also listed on Mesa’s roster.
Langstaff’s position on the team, she said, has come through hard work in practice and personal determination.
“Last year (as a freshman) it was really hard for me,” Langstaff explained of her first practices as a collegiate athlete.
“In high school you only get beat around if somebody’s mad at you. In college, everyone’s beating up on you every day. It’s nothing personal, but you got to beat them right back because you want to make every player on the team good.”
Langstaff absorbed a number of elbows in that first summer as a collegiate, along with recognition from coach Steve Kirkham.
“Coach Kirkham told me that I was probably going to redshirt, but we’ll work with you on everything we do,” Langstaff recalled.
“But, I stayed active. It was my goal to play.”
Langstaff got her wish in that freshman year when another teammate quit the team for academic reasons.
“When she quit, I thought – `This is my opportunity,'” she said.
Langstaff: See page 13
“I worked my butt off, and coach invited me into his office and said, `I like the way you’re playing and I’d like to suit you up this year.'”
Langstaff responded by playing in 26 of Mesa’s 30 games last year, while learning the ropes of Division II basketball.
In her freshman season, Langstaff gained experience and a deeper love of the game.
“That’s why Division II players are there – because they love the game,” she said. “We’re as good as the players in Division I.”
“The Division I kids are spoiled,” she continued. “They are taken care of and are only there for the money. That’s the difference. In Division II, everyone on the court is there because they love the game of basketball – you can see it in the way everyone plays.”
Last year Langstaff averaged 6.2 minutes playing time per game and she had hopes of earning a bigger role as a sophomore.
Offseason work in the weight room, combined with a summer job at the Department of Wildlife, added 20 pounds of muscle to Langstaff’s 6-foot, 4-inch frame.
Those efforts turned into more playing minutes on the court.
After securing the role as the first or second substitute off the bench, another opportunity came Langstaff’s way when Mesa’s original starting center, Erin Packer, abruptly quit the team six games into the current season.
Langstaff became the Mavs’ starter, and responded by leading the team in rebounds in a overtime conference loss to Fort Hayes State.
It wasn’t enough, though.
Mesa lost both games Langstaff started, relegating her back to a substitute’s role.
“After the Hayes and Nebraska-Kearney games, coach talked to me and said, `Megan you weren’t ready.'”
While somewhat dejected after the demotion, a reassuring talk with senior Jennifer Montoya rekindled Langstaff’s passion to succeed.
“I asked Jen what I needed to do to be a starter,” Langstaff said. “She said, `Megan, no player can be ready to be a starter in two games.’
“In our first six games I got comfortable being the sixth or seventh person off the bench. I got good minutes and was playing consistently, but I didn’t strive for more,” Langstaff said.
“I had six games before that to prepare myself, with Erin Packer there. That’s what I should have strove for.”
“It’s been so emotional,” Langstaff said of the demotion. “I’ve had a lot of nights crying and talking to my parents. But, coach did the right thing by telling me what was up. Now I know what I need to do to show coach that I’m the one who needs to be on the floor.”
Langstaff’s success at the college level has also made her a role model for the current players on Rifle High’s girls’ basketball teams.
“Talking with those girls,” Langstaff said, “they say; `I want to play in college now.'”
“I’m more aware of the fact that people are seeing this and seeing it happen, so all those high school girls know its a possibility and they know it can be done.”
Contact Phil Sandoval @ 945-8515, Ext. 538
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