BOZICH | New Albany, Southern Indiana pridefully wait on Romeo Langford decision
People in New Albany and across Southern Indiana pridefully wait for the college decision of New Albany all-American Romeo Langford, who will make his college choice Monday night.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) – At Mt. Tabor Elementary School, they talk about the 2016 Indiana state championship New Albany High School won with Romeo Langford. They’re breathlessly giddy about the 3,002 points he scored as well as the McDonald’s all-American team he made.
On Sunday night, folks from Tell City to Elkhart, from Crawfordsville to New Castle will salute Langford after he likely is named New Albany’s first Indiana Mr. Basketball. That’s the Hoosier equivalent of winning an Oscar.
There’s no reason to fib. Yes, in Floyd, Clark and surrounding Southern Indiana counties, people mainly obsess about the college decision Langford will make Monday at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs’ gymnasium is expected to be as filled as it was for every game Langford played for New Albany the last four seasons – which is to say the usual 4,000 or hyper-ventilating Romeo Fan Club members. In a town of roughly 37,000, nearly 10 percent own Bulldogs’ season tickets.
Those things matter in New Albany, especially at Mt. Tabor, the school Langford attended from kindergarten through fourth grade. Long before he became the top uncommitted recruit in the country, ranked No. 6 nationally, Langford was known for playing basketball on the Mt. Tabor courts during recess, no matter the temperature, wind or precipitation.
But at the elementary school, these things matter more:
The day Langford visited Mt. Tabor last fall, to remind Cathy Stoner’s third-grade class that finite mathematics was his favorite subject and her students could ask him any questions they wanted.
Or the day Langford, his father, Tim, and New Albany coach Jim Shannon showed up unannounced at her classroom simply because Stoner wondered if Romeo could offer encouraging words.
“When he came back to visit, they were over the moon,” Stoner said.
Or the years when Langford’s mother, Sabrina, made consistent twice-a-week visits to Mt. Tabor to assist Stoner with Romeo and her second-grade class.
Or the night Tim and Romeo hung out at the Mt. Tabor gym to talk about the importance of father/son relationships.
“Everyone is proud of him first because of what he did on the court,” said Stoner.
“But then after you watched what he did on the court, we were all amazed by what he wasn’t doing. He wasn’t showboating. He wasn’t bragging …
“Did you see that (Michael) Jordan dunk he made? Yeah. What did he do afterward? The kids will say, ‘Nothing.’ That’s when we talk about Romeo. That’s humility. They think the world of him.”
“One day I wish I would be like him,” said Jacob Wilkerson, one of Stoner’s third graders.
“He always finds time for kids or anybody who wants to talk to him or have an autograph,” said Allen Krebs, the owner of Kratz Sporting Goods store in Clarksville, Ind., as well as the parent of a New Albany junior varsity player.
“I think all the talk about Romeo is as much about the person he is off the floor as well as the one on the floor.”
People in New Albany should be over the moon. It’s a place that has sent players to Bellarmine (Braydon Hobbs), LSU (Lamont Roland, Joe Dean) and Wyoming (LaDrell Whitehead). Before Fuzzy Zoeller won the Masters and U.S. Open, he golfed for New Albany High School.
That Ohio River Bridge that connects Western Louisville with New Albany is named after an NAHS track, football and baseball star who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1949 to 1956 – the honorable Sherman Minton.
But I’ll repeat myself: There’s no reason to fib. It’s reasonable to wonder if any of them have had people in Southern Indiana talking the way Langford has had people talking the last four years.
“It’s been exciting, especially for the town, the city, the community and the young kids that get to look up to someone who’s doing something positive instead of out here in the streets doing bad,” said D.J. Mattingly, who once cut Langford’s hair at his popular De Jay’s Cutting Edge barber shop, on State Street.
“Where’s he going? Did you see Romeo last night? He had 60 points. He had 50 points. Where’s he going to sign. That’s the topic. Every day.”
For months, Mt. Tabor, New Albany and Southern Indiana have been one extended held breath about the college choice Langford will make Monday.
Kansas. Vanderbilt. Indiana.
Kratz has sold nearly 100 youth basketball jerseys with Langford’s trademark Number 1, drawing orders from Evansville and Indianapolis. Anderson Ginkins, a Mt. Tabor third grader, wore one to a Bulldogs’ game last season. Two days later people called Krebs with their requests.
Businesses like Couch’s Body Shop in Clarksville and Hoopster’s Restaurant in Jeffersonville currently feature identical messages:
“Romeo Langford Please Choose IU.”
“Local people would really like to see you stay in the state and go to IU,” said Brian Couch, who started flashing the sign outside his shop on Blackiston Mill Road because he wanted somebody to tell Langford’s family.
Media members have interviewed his fourth-grade basketball coach, folks at restaurants and coffee shops, local politicians and leaders from New Albany High School in a fruitless search for clues.
I visited De Jay’s, Couch’s, Hoopster’s, Kratz, Wendy’s, Mt. Tabor, Zesto ice cream shop, the high school and other spots across the 812 Area Code.
“Anybody from around here who comes into Hoopsters, that’s the only conversation,” said Phil Caldwell, the owner of Hoopsters. “Have you heard anything on Romeo?’
“It’s been a good four years now at least,” Krebs said. “It’s always the question:
“Where do you think he’ll go? Where will Romeo go?”
Where will he go?
Nobody is saying. Once upon a time the smart money was on Duke. Then it shifted to Louisville. Then Kentucky. Then North Carolina. Then Kansas. Then Vanderbilt.
Everybody is simply guessing -- and preparing to get in line for the announcement. Folks at New Albany High School have received more than 100 requests for media access Monday Night. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
Couch said he plans to drive to the high school after closing his shop at 5 p.m. If he waits that long, he’ll arrive an hour after Caldwell.
“My students are already wanting to know what time we’re getting in line on Monday,” Stoner said. “I think the line will start at 3. That’s when I’m lining up.”
Caldwell, an assistant coach with the Jeffersonville High basketball team, will attend with five friends. The entire group has pledged to wear their candy-striped IU basketball warm-up pants and then – if Langford picks IU – return to Hoopsters for a post-announcement celebration.
And if Langford picks Vanderbilt or Kansas?
“If he don’t go to IU, you’ll probably hear about a guy up on the Big Four Bridge, getting ready to jump,” Caldwell said. “That could be me.”
It will not, however, be Stoner. In one corner of her classroom she has put together a massive collage of Romeo Langford stories, headlines, pictures and autographs. In the middle of the display is this sign:
“First Romeo was a Tiger just like you.”
“Wherever he goes, we’ve got Romeo’s back,” Stoner said.
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.