YOUNGSTOWN - Damian Eargle doesn't fit the bigger, bulky stereotype.
His 6-foot-7 frame and 215-pound body might not give the look of a typical NCAA Division I post player.
Ask his Youngstown State University point guard Kendrick Perry, who has a bird's-eye view of his senior teammate.
Tribune Chronicle file photo / R. Michael Semple
Youngstown State University’s Damian Eargle, a Warren G. Harding High School graduate, goes hard to the basket over UIC’s Paris Carter during this Jan. 7 game at Beeghly Center. Eargle, who is one of the nation’s leading blockers, plays bigger than his 6-foot-7 frame.
That first block Eargle gets on those behemoths around the Horizon League immediately draws respect.
"It's shocking," Perry said. "When Dam gets that first block on them, it definitely opens their eyes. That's kind of how our program is - that's underdog mentality.
"We make look small on paper. We may not look like the best team. We're going to bring it every night, no matter how big you are, no matter how strong you are. We're going to give all of our effort night in and night out."
By the way, that wingspan of Eargle's is 82 inches.
"First off, he's got the longest arms that I've ever seen on someone his size," Perry said. "He's really athletic and moves his feet really well. When you have a player with those three combined, it makes him a very dangerous player."
Eargle, a Youngstown native and former Warren G. Harding graduate, earns respect once he's out on the floor. Here's a player that has already broken the league's record for blocked shots in a season and in a career.
"The way I see it is there's a lot more bigger people than me on our team, but I'm out there for a reason," Eargle said. "Now, they know that I'm not a pushover. I have arms just as long as them. I was leading the nation in blocked shots for a reason. I think everybody in our conference respects me now - even (last year's senior, Detroit's Eli) Holman. After we got done, he said, 'I have a lot more respect for you.' Even though they beat us, it's horrible. I think people around the Horizon League respect me and our team a little bit more."
Don't think because he's undersized he can't handle himself in the post.
"I came from benching 185 to benching 255. It pays off a lot," Eargle said. "People can't tell because I don't bulk up like most people, but they feel it when we're in there."
YSU coach Jerry Slocum said he's blessed to have a player like Eargle.
"You have to give Damian all the credit in the world," Slocum said. "What he can do on the defense end is God's gift. That's not coached. He has a natural act for timing, for being able to block shots, to be a great anticipator of where that next play is going to be at. He's just gotten better and better. The thing I'm so pleased with is he's gotten better and better at the offensive end. His offensive game - his jump shot, free-throw shooting - I've seen a tremendous growth in those things."
Eargle has learned things throughout his college career.
Eargle left Harding for UNC-Greensboro to start - making it on the league's all-freshman team.
"Greensboro was a lot of guard play. I had to learn how to dribble, which helped me out a lot," he said.
From there, he transferred to YSU and sat out one year due to NCAA transfer rules - leaving him three years with the Penguins.
The nature of Horizon League was much different than what Eargle was used to.
"A little more physical than I expected. I got into a lot of foul trouble. I had to learn how to do that," Eargle said.
Eargle worked on his free-throw issues from his junior season.
"Stay cool and it comes in time," Eargle said. "I used to force everything all at once, but it comes in time. You can't rush everything. Everything has to flow, just to be balanced.
"If I would've been 75 percent, I would've had 14-15 points off that. My biggest concern is my free throws and my right hand, which I worked on a lot. I'm doing good with that."
Slocum has noticed his progress.
"He's just a solid basketball player," Eargle said. "He's just a solid kid. It's nice to see good things happen to good kids. He's progressed offensively, defensively - he's made some real positive strides."
This is the first time in Slocum's career he has noticed someone this special on the defense end.
"I've had guys that have been very good rebounders, really good post players," Slocum said. "I've had guys that have been bigger. What he can do with length of arms and timing is just special.
"He clearly has a very special gift in terms of blocking shots and on the defensive end."