Langford’s benevolence endears star recruit to hometown

It was a last-minute request.

Not that Romeo Langford is unaccustomed to such queries.

Two weeks ago at New Washington Elementary, administrators aspired to do something special for fifth-grader Mason Arthur, who was preparing to leave for a national free-throw shooting contest in Chicago. The school had already feted Arthur with a hero’s sendoff prior to his trip to the regional round weeks earlier.

But for nationals? They wanted to think bigger.

The idea — could it get Romeo to visit? — was hatched a day before the scheduled ceremony. A phone call was made, details were exchanged and, sure enough, Indiana’s most heralded high school basketball player in decades made the 30-mile trip from New Albany to New Washington to surprise his 11-year-old fan.

“It was a surprise for my husband and I, as well,” Mason’s mother, Kendra Arthur, said. “My whole family came thinking we were doing a little sendoff for Mason, which we were. Then, the next thing you know, (Langford) walked through the door. My son’s jaw just dropped.”

Langford has that ability.

His dazzling skills on the basketball court have earned him legions of fans in the Hoosier state and beyond. He’s considered the No. 6 player in the 2018 recruiting class, the No. 2 shooting guard in the class and the top talent in Indiana, according to the 247 Sports composite.

He’s a McDonald’s All-American, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball honoree and the fourth-leading scorer in state history with 3,002 career points.

Indiana adores Langford for his basketball gifts.

Around New Albany, they love him for much more.

Tales of Langford’s quiet acts of kindness have spread throughout the basketball-mad towns of Southern Indiana, where the 18-year-old phenom is known as much for his natural scoring ability as he is for his charity.

He’s visited children’s hospitals, birthday parties, elementary schools and special events, giving hours of his time in exchange for nothing more than a mere “thank you.”

So whether Langford chooses IU, Kansas or Vanderbilt at his public announcement ceremony Monday night at the New Albany gym, Hoosiers in Southern Indiana will adore him all the same.

“He’s very humble,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “I think he understands that he has a responsibility for being a celebrity. I think he understands he has to be accountable for doing the right thing and being of high character. That’s not easy for any of us because we’re human, but that’s got to be really difficult to be 14 through 18 years old and be the most recognizable name, as a sports person, in the entire state. It’s got to be unbelievable, but he’s handled it like a champ. He’s handled it like a man. Just about anything and everything that has been asked of him, he’s been able to do over the past four years.”

Like return to his roots.

Catherine Stoner taught Langford when he was in second grade at Mt. Tabor Elementary. Recently, Stoner had an idea.

She thought it’d be fun to have Langford return to her classroom and read to students from two of her reading classes. Langford, naturally, was eager to oblige.

Stoner picked the book — Salt In His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream, written by Jordan’s mother, Deloris — and the date was set. But when Langford arrived at Stoner’s classroom, plans changed.

The 45 children who converged to listen to Langford read a book had a different objective. They wanted to dig deeper into their hometown hero, instead.

“They had so many questions for him,” Stoner said. “He told them about how his favorite class in school is Finite (Math). He likes that because he has to problem-solve and figure things out. He told them all kinds of things, random things — ‘My favorite food is cereal. My favorite color is purple.’ — They just asked him question after question, and he just sat there like a trooper and answered anything they wanted to know about him. It let them see him as a real person outside of the basketball court.”

Scores of people in the New Albany area have gotten to know Langford, the person, as his star power has soared.

For years, they’ve known they had a special basketball player rising through the pipeline. More recently, they’ve learned of his character.

After Langford led New Albany to the Class 4A state championship as a sophomore in 2016, Shannon couldn’t go anywhere in the area without fielding questions about Langford. He also received requests for Langford’s time.

Everyone wanted a piece of the basketball star. Some wishes were easy to fulfill, such as a congratulatory video message or a quick cameo at a private event.

Other requests required nuance.

No matter, Langford hardly turned down any of them.

“He visited a funeral home,” Shannon said. “Somebody contacted me and said that a little boy was going through a pretty rough time having lost his mother. I believe he was 5 years old. I called (Langford’s) dad, and he and his dad went over to the visitation.

“I think he was able to meet with the boy and on a rather tragic day for the little fella, I think he was able to bring him a little bit of joy that perhaps took him away from all the questions and the confusion that was going through his young mind.”

From afar, you probably saw evidence of the thousands of fans who waited in long, snaking lines to acquire Langford’s autograph after New Albany games this past season.

You may have been one yourself.

But Langford’s generosity and care for his hometown, especially, extends far beyond a simple signature.

“I truly think he loves the city of New Albany,” Stoner said. “He loves the community. He had a lot of pressure from some of the colleges that were seeking him to go to a prep school. He wanted to be in Indiana. This is home. I think he’s loyal to the state of Indiana and he’s appreciative of his fanbase that follows him. That’s pretty evident.”

9 comments

    1. I don’t know if it is a key but it certainly is an indicator.

      I still believe he’s headed to Bloomington.

  1. It seems as though all my FB peeps from back home are headed to the Doghouse tonight to encourage him to choose the candystripes.

  2. Did New Albany make it to the state title game…? New Albany in 4-A or 3-A? I’m pretty sure I heard they lost but I can’t remember who beat them.
    I rarely follow it anymore after the IHSAA effed it all up with multi-class basketball.
    Understood that he’s a heroic figure in New Albany (beyond being a basketball talent because of his great personality and humble heart), but there are no true heroes in IHSAA basketball tournaments since the days of equal opportunity and one trophy for all to compete.

  3. On another note, it appears that Eron Gordon is transferring from Seton Hall. He had a decent year this past season and looked to be the potential starter next year.

  4. If Romeo rejects IU and the sea of red outside his high school, they should rename the town New All-baloney.

  5. FANTASTIC NEWS!!

    (figure I got 1/3 shot…And with the moderation delay, why not?)

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