2011-12 Warrior Basketball

Tehachapi senior guard Cory Lange (with ball) heads down the court in a recent game against Shafter.
The SSL champion Warriors have been led this season by Lange, who heading into the CIF playoffs,
is 22 points shy of breaking the all-time scoring record currently held by Nick O'Neil.
Photo by The Bakersfield Californian.

Point & Shoot: Tehachapi's Lange A Scoring Machine

Posted by Zach Ewing, The Bakersfield Californian, on February 20, 2012

Cory Lange has options. He's dribbling at the top of the key, a second Shafter defender coming over for a double-team. Lange could shoot before the help gets there, showing off the long-range shot he's been working on.

Or he could go to his old stand-by, the dribble drive he's spent his whole life perfecting, ever since his four older brothers showed no mercy in the driveway.

They'd foul me and then tell me not to complain," Lange says. "I got beat up a little bit, but they made me the basketball player I am today."

Lange drives. He swerves between the two defenders on the perimeter, slips past another in the paint, absorbs a bump and lays the ball on the rim that falls through nearly without disturbing the net.

"He still drops my jaw a lot," Tehachapi coach Chris Olofson says. "He's dribbling through three or four guys, and I'm yelling at him to pass it, and then he carves his way to the rim and finishes."

Meet Kern County's leading scorer: With Lange, who averages 25.5 points a game and popped off for 45 and a school record-tying 48 in consecutive games last month, you've got to pick your poison.

"When he's on, there's nothing a defense can do," Olofson says. "He still amazes us all."

Cory Lange has options.

Division I college basketball programs have started inquiring about the 6-foot-2 senior with the silky smooth drive.

First was BYU, where Lange attended a camp this past summer and immediately caught coaches' attention. Cal State Bakersfield came to see him play Thursday at Bakersfield Christian, where Lange dropped 25 points in Tehachapi's first South Sequoia League loss.

The Warriors begin play this week in the Central Section's Division III playoffs. Lange needs 22 points to pass Nick O'Neil and become the leading scorer in the 82-year history of Tehachapi basketball. According to section historian Bob Barnett, O'Neil sits at 1,074 points; Lange has 1,053.

But basketball is only half of the equation for Lange. Despite that driveway hoop, he grew up in what he describes as a "football family."

"That's what my family talks about," Lange says. "I've always known I would play football."

In middle school, Lange was a running back -- a position of some importance in Tehachapi High School's legendary wing-T offense. But by the time he reached THS, Lange was 6-2 and found a place at wide receiver -- a position of not so much importance in a wing-T.

But Lange made it important. The Warriors completed 29 passes last fall, and 21 went to Lange for 732 yards and 7 touchdowns.

"He's a tremendous kid," Tehachapi football coach Steve Denman says. "He does things so naturally. He's always been a good athlete, a three-year starter on defense for us, but he really stepped up his toughness. It's really unusual to have a kid with as much talent as he does to want to stick his nose in there like that."

And so Lange has found that he might have a future in college football, too.

"I don't know what I want to do yet," he says. "I feel like I'd miss whichever one I don't do. I might miss football more, because I can always play pick-up basketball, but football's not as fun without the pads."

Then again, Lange says, he's aware football -- especially as a receiver who spends time in the combat zone known as the middle of the field -- could lead to greater injury risk.

"If I had a full-ride to play basketball, I don't think I could turn it down," Lange says.

Either way, he's sure of one thing: No matter where he goes or what he plays, a two-year Mormon church mission, a volunteer rite of passage for young Mormon men and women, is in his very near future.

"I would drop anything to go on my mission," says Lange, who will request an international mission but won't receive his destination from the church until July. "It's very important to me. That's been something I've wanted to do my whole life."

From a recruiting perspective, that complicates matters. BYU, a Mormon institution, typically has scholarships waiting for athletes who go on missions, but the practice is not so common at other schools.

Lange says he would be willing to play a year before leaving or return as a walk-on player with an eye on earning a scholarship after his mission.

"I've seen some of these college teams play," Olofson says. "I think he could start for some of them right now."

Cory Lange needs people to notice.

After all, how is one of the Central Section's best guards supposed to find a college home when recruiters don't venture far enough off the beaten path to reach this mountain town?

"I don't think we get a lot of respect, and I guess you could say that for me, too," Lange says. "I'm up here by myself at a small school. It's just hard to get your name out there."

Lange had the same dreams as any young athlete, but despite his talent, he didn't seriously consider a Division I scholarship a possibility until last year.

Of course, most schools still haven't taken notice.

"It's mind-boggling to me that we've only heard from a couple of schools," Olofson says.

People finally might be starting to realize this Lange kid is pretty good. ESPN named him its player of the week for the West region on Feb. 1, when he followed up a 45-point, 12-rebound performance against Taft with a 48-point effort at Bakersfield Christian.

"It's starting to pick up a little bit," Lange says. "The ESPN thing helped, and I'm just getting a little more attention."

Of course, ESPN spelled his name wrong on its website, too: This "Corey" Lange must be a heck of a player.

"I thought he was the MVP of our league as a sophomore, but they didn't give it to him," says Wasco coach Mark Hutson, the section's all-time leader in coaching victories. "Frankly, I think he's the best player in town right now, and I don't think it's close. He does it day in, day out. He gets box-and-one (defenses) every night. He just goes out and plays the game."

Cory Lange doesn't need people to notice.

That's the thing: Lange has aspirations, and he's willing to do a lot to reach them.

But not anything. Erase from your mind the image of the loud, look-at-me basketball star. There will be no chest bumps, no "What, me?" looks to the referee, no gloating.

Lange didn't even try to dunk until he reached high school and a couple of friends in P.E. class demanded that he try.

"I said, 'I can't dunk; I'm a freshman,'" Lange says. "So I finally tried it, did it, and I'm like, 'Whoa. Did I just do that?'"

Lange never has an idea of how many points he has unless he catches a glimpse of the box score in the newspaper the next day.

"I don't really realize how much I'm scoring," Lange says. "My parents don't keep track, unless it's my dad telling me how many turnovers I had. I just figure, if they aren't gonna stop me, I've got to score. But I don't think about how many."

Whatever the antonym of primma donna is, we just found its face. Lange has a girlfriend he plans to marry sooner rather than later. His family hosts team dinners. He prays before games and has never played on a Sunday. He has never gotten a technical foul.

"If I ever do, my mom says she'll come onto the court to yell at me," Lange says. "She says, 'No excuses. You don't act negatively.' So I don't."

Lange lights up at the mention of his family (his four older brothers and older sister have driven from all across the state to see him play this year) or his teammates ("I like double teams, because that means I can get one of the other guys a shot").

Lange is easy-going, sincere, and unassuming. And yet, when Lange is on the court, rare is the defender on whom he can't impose his will.

"He's probably the most popular kid on campus," Olofson says, "because he's not arrogant. He doesn't consider himself special, even though he very easily could. He's one of those guys you want as a son, too."

This is Cory Lange: Talented yet humble, unassuming but impossible not to notice.

"He's the best I've ever had," Olofson says. "He's a superstar."