Melvin Langstaff

Melvin Langstaff Named “Mr. Basketball” in North Dakota

Jack McNeel
4/8/12

He broke the Warwick High School single game scoring mark in North Dakota with 59 points in one game and 51 in another. He averaged 38.4 points per game for the season, the highest average by a Class B first-team all-state pick since 1973.  He topped that off by being named “Mr. Basketball” for North Dakota, an award given to the player judged as best in the state. He also scored 1,944 points during his career despite not scoring much his first two years. The “he” talked about here is the incredible athlete Melvin Langstaff, with tribal affiliation to the Sioux and Chippewa tribes.

Melvin’s coach at Warwick is Kevin Bennefield. “It was a pleasure having the opportunity to coach a player of Melvin’s caliber this year. Only one player every year in the state of North Dakota gets the Mr. Basketball award. It’s a tremendous honor for him to get that and it’s a tremendous opportunity I had, to coach a player with that tremendous talent.”

When Melvin was asked what he was most proud of accomplishing he replied, “That our team almost took out the number one team in the state. We lost by one.” Choosing a team accomplishment rather than a personal accomplishment is indicative of what a team player he is.

Bennefield had similar comments. “Melvin is a kid who basically was going to do anything it took for his team to win. If that meant he was going to be passing the ball he’d pass it. If it meant he was going to be shooting, he was going to shoot. He was going to do whatever it took.”

Bennefield continued, “I think back to the one game we lost in regionals which kept us from going to the state (tourney). He said ‘coach, they’re going to double team me but I think this person’s going to be open so I’m going to get the ball to him for a last second shot.’ Sure enough, he got the ball, they came to double him, he made a very nice pass to a person who was wide open and he ended up making the basket. But they had time left to go down and get a basket. It wasn’t all about him; it was about doing whatever for the team to win.”

It was a difficult year in another aspect. Melvin’s older brother was killed in a motor vehicle accident in September.  Melvin had worn #15 on his jersey prior to this year but asked for and was given #34, the number his brother had worn. That number, #34, has now been retired in honor of Melvin’s amazing season and likewise in honor of his brother.

Melvin’s mother, Donna Black, talked of how very proud she is of him and how his brother’s death has been a difficult burden for them all. “I have many words of how good a son Melvin is. I’m a very proud mom. I go around my community here and people come up to me, shaking my hand, telling Melvin congratulations. It made me feel like a celebrity.” But she also expressed the other feeling of having lost a son and the difficulty of balancing those two very different emotions.

Melvin’s immediate future is still undetermined. He said he’s being recruited by a number of D-II colleges but hasn’t made any decisions. His coach thinks he might end up going to a junior college to start with to ease the transition from going from a small high school to a college setting. Warwick High School only has a little over 20 students in the senior class. Coach Bennefield commented, “He needs to get a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, before he can play at the level I think he wants to play at.”

At 5’10” he plays at the point guard spot, “an average outside shooter,” Bennefield said. “His game was penetration, to get into the lane. He could post up and score inside just on sheer will. But Melvin is also a great passer. If anybody was open, he got them the ball.”

So even though he’s made no decisions on which school to attend, there’s little doubt that he’ll be entering college in the fall and little doubt but what he’ll have a variety of options to choose from. “I’ll play basketball somewhere,” he said.

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