Eargle’s next step could be to pros

YOUNGSTOWN – His arms span 82-inches wide.

With those outstretched above his head, the 6-foot-7 post player is taller than 7 feet – making him an opposing force for all those driving in the lane.

Meet Damian Eargle, a 2008 Warren G. Harding High School graduate and soon-to-be Youngstown State University graduate.

Eargle is YSU’s and the Horizon League’s all-time leading shot blocker and has been the in the top-10 in the nation for shots blocked per game.

He ended his senior year with 11.8 points 6.6 rebounds and 3.19 assists per game. Eargle averaged at least three blocks, six rebounds and 11 points in three years at YSU.

Eargle spent his first year at North Carolina-Greensboro before transfering to YSU. He sat out a year because of NCAA rules and spent the next three years playing for the Penguins.

“Even when I was at UNCG, I was on the path to break the blocking record,” Eargle said. “I knew I could do it, it was all about timing. When you have the timing and the long arms, you can do something like that. It’s always been like a natural thing for me.

“The guards hesistate sometimes because I’m such a good shotblocker.”

His skills will most likely be on display overseas or, possibly, in the NBA.

Eargle, who helped YSU to its first back-to-back winning seasons in almost 30 years, said he is in the process of securing an agent and will be attending NBA camps in Las Vegas and Chicago during the spring.

“If I can do good at the camps and have a shot at the NBA, that would be great,” Eargle said. “If I go overseas, then I go overseas. I’m excited about either or.”

YSU coach Jerry Slocum, whose team went 18-16 this season, said he’s the best defender he’s coached.

“He’s a very special player,” Slocum said. “We’re not going to replace Damian in shots blocked with anybody. You can go across the country and look at a lot of Division I programs and you don’t get a guy like that. We’re going to have to team defend a little bit better. We’re going to have to change our defensive principles for our bigs. What Damian did was very special and unique to him. We’re not asking our other kids or kids that we’ll bring in that position to be able to the things Damian did.

“That was a very special gift he had.”

Eargle and fellow senior Blake Allen are on track to graduate in May. Eargle will graduate with a degree in criminal justice, but he’s first looking to continue his playing career.

“Playing basketball somewhere and hopefully making good money out of it,” Eargle said.

Eargle, who suffered a broke nose after an elbow to the face during a Feb. 10 triple-overtime game against UIC, won’t have to worry about his protective face mask too much longer.

He’s already playing pick-up games without it.

“I’m clear to,” he said. “It’s more of if I feel comfortable playing without it, which I do.”

Slocum added he’s very proud Eargle’s dedication in the classroom.

“We’re very proud of our academic track record here, in terms of getting guys to graduation over my career,” Slocum said. “Damian is a young man that not only values basketball, but values his education.

“He’s had a great college experience. That’s more than just blocking shots. It’s basketball. It’s academics. It’s a social life, being a good citizen. We’re very, very proud of him.”

It wasn’t easy, but Eargle said it took dedication to juggle academics and athletics.

“People think playing basketball and going to school teachers just give you stuff,” Eargle said. “They really don’t. It takes dedication knowing you have to stay in and maybe do some homework instead of going out with your friends. That just comes with maturity. That’s all it is. You do it knowing you want to graduate.

“Coach Pac (YSU men’s basketball director of operations Jason Pacanowski) stays on me pretty hard. He acutally motivates me to do my work, too. With a coach like him, you can’t really fail.”

Eargle, a Youngstown native, said he’ll look back on his career and remember the on-the-court experiences, but the ones off-the-court are more meaningful.

“It’s really not the basketball aspect,” he said. “It’s the bonds I built with the team. I have a really close family bond with my teammates. You’ll never find closer friends than us that you’ll get at this level. Whenever I may be playing basketball at, we’ll see each other in the future again.”