DRAFFENVILLE – One came so close to the promised land of sports, the major leagues. The other got there – and found that, in some respects, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted.
Both stood out in their careers in high school at Marshall County and both will be honored among the newest members of the MCHS Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame Thursday.
Scott Chambers graduated in 1993 after a stellar career in baseball. Dan Langhi graduated three years later, after a standout career in basketball. Both went to state tournaments, and both were drafted by professional teams.
Don Bock, who coached baseball 32 years at Marshall County including 19 as head coach, remembers Chambers exactly as he was described in a newspaper article during Chambers’ senior year – as one of “the best in the region.”
For sure, “He was our best all-around player,” Bock said.
Chambers was a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher who patroled the outfield on days when he wasn’t on the mound. His senior year, he was 7-2, with 89 strikeouts and an earned-run average of 1.01. He threw a perfect five-inning game against Paducah Tilghman.
“Being able to have a perfect game, at any level, is a thrill,” said Chambers, who lives in Benton. He says the details of that day are not clear, but he credited the defense for preserving the gem.
Stronger are his memories of the season overall, because it ended with a trip to the state tournament. The Marshals had to overcome strong competition just to get there.
“That was a really strong region,” Chambers said. “We knew we were one of the top teams.”
Bock recalled that his major concern was a semifinal showdown that loomed with Lone Oak.
“Lone Oak had an excellent ball club, with primarily left-handed hitters,” he said. “We saved Scotty for that one and he just mowed ‘em down.”
Later, the Marshals beat St. Mary for the championship of the First Region at Brooks Stadium in Paducah. It was the first of three region titles Bock’s teams won.
“That team kind of set the bar for the teams that followed,” said Bock.
Against Warren Central in the first round of the state tourney, Chambers was cruising with a 3-1 lead, the single run unearned as the Dragons hitless through five innings. Things came unraveled in the sixth when Warren rapped out its first two hits, tied the game on an infield error and then got the go-ahead run.
The game ended that way, 4-3.
Chambers won the team’s MVP for a second year in a row and then went to play baseball at John A. Logan Community College in Carterville, Ill. After two years, he was ready to move on to play for the University of Kentucky, but another team famous for the color blue, the Los Angeles Dodgers, drafted Chambers, and he decided to go pro.
After a short season inYakima, Wash., Chambers joined the Class A team in Vero Beach, Fla., where he pitched three seasons. He saw work mostly as a reliever and had his best season in 1997 with a 5-5 won-lost record, six saves and a 3.30 ERA.
After 1998, the Dodgers released Chambers. He came home and worked with the MCHS team for awhile, then decided to give the minors one more try. He signed with independent Allentown, Pa., and played one more season before calling it a career.
He never made it to the big leagues, but getting so close “was definitely exciting,” he said. “That’s a lot of kids’ dream and it was mine.”
Chambers is flattered by the Hall of Fame honor.
“I’m proud to be there,” he said. “I thank them for considering me.”
He relishes his experiences, but the high school region championship team stands out.
“It was an exciting time,” he said. “We thought we had a good chance to move on.”
So did Langhi and the 1995 Marshals basketball team after they won the First Region tournament and went back to state, the first time since the 1987-88-89 teams swept region titles.
And especially after their first game, when Langhi blew up for 43 points to lead the Marshals past Simon Kenton 76-70 in overtime.
Behind 27 points from Jeremy Story and 25 from Langhi, the Marshals beat St. Xavier of Louisville 77-67 in the second round and then met Breckenridge County in the final four. They trailed 25-24 at halftime, but Breckenridge County outscored MC 29-3 in the third quarter and rolled to a 68-39 win. Langhi scored 19.
“Only thing I really remember is the 43 points,” he said. “I was never one to keep track of all that. The 43, I’m gonna remember that, because that’s the most I ever scored in a high school game. That sticks out.”
It would take something spectacular to stick out in Langhi’s mind. After high school, he went on to star at Vanderbilt University and then played six seasons in the NBA.
The breakout game, Langhi believes, helped elevate his stock as a college recruit.
He recently retired after finishing his career playing overseas. Looking back on the NBA days, Langhi seems awed.
“Playing at that level, it’s amazing the amount of talent,” he said. “Everybody can play. I got to play against Jordan; that was pretty neat. Got to play with Tony Kukoc at Milwaukee, and he and (Scottie) Pippen were kind of models for me. Shaq and Kobe and all those guys ... I was blessed to do that. I had the God-given abilty and I worked to develop it.”
It didn’t hurt, Langhi added wryly, that “I just happened to grow nine inches from my freshman year.”
The slender 6-foot-11 Langhi was close to that stratospheric height before he finished high school. In his senior year, 1996, he was named first-team All State by the Associated Press after averaging 25.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Langhi remembers the disappointment of a loss to Paducah Tilghman in the region championship that kept the Marshals from going back to the state tournament.
“We should’ve beat ‘em. We had ‘em beat,” Langhi said. “I still remember the disappointment; not so much for me, I knew I was playing in college, I’d already signed my letter of intent. But for some of those guys, that was the end.”
That closeness to his high school teammates is something else that stuck with Langhi. He never developed any close relationships with other players in the NBA, largely because of the distaste he had for the flashy lifestyle that is predominant at that level.
“That state tournament is one of my highlight memories that just stands out through my whole career,” Langhi said. “The guys on that team, we still stay in contact.”
They keep up with the teams that followed them, too. Langhi was a close follower as the 2011 Marshals made it back to Lexington for the first time since Langhi’s team.
“I’m glad for those kids to have that experience of going to the Sweet Sixteen, all the hoopla that went with it,” he said. “That’s just the kind of person I am. I hope every kid has a chance to experience that. Now realisitcally, they can’t. But I wish they could.”
Now working as a special education teacher at Marshall County, Langhi admits it will be “weird” to walk in to the gym and see his own likeness on the wall where Hall of Fame inductees are honored.
“It makes me feel funny,” he admitted. “I’m so young and I’m being inducted into the Hall of Fame.”