New Albany Standout Romeo Langford is known for dazzling opponents and fans with his on-court skills as well as for keeping his emotions in check. The 6-foot-5 junior also has a reputation for being reserved and humble, despite his growing fame. During an interview in between school and practice, the teen let his guard down – for a moment – and let Extol Sports get a glimpse into his world.
Story by Angie Fenton | Photos by Steve Squall | Art Direction by Adam Kleinert
At 6:48 a.m. every weekday, Tim Langford finds a quiet space at Humana where he works and waits for his phone to ring, which it does at 6:50 a.m. “Morning, Dad,” says his son Romeo, right on time every day.
“It makes me feel good, makes my day,” said Tim. “Every morning before he goes to school, he calls me for five minutes. We talk about school – we aren’t talking about basketball – we talk about the classes, we talk about how you feeling, have a good day. … Once he gets out of school, we’ll talk about basketball.”
Even though thousands of people from around the country are interested in their son – especially when it comes to where the New Albany High School basketball star will play college ball – Tim and Sabrina Langford are more interested in raising Romeo to be a good person, just like they’ve done with his sisters Tisha and Tiffany, and ensuring he also has the opportunity to be a “normal” teen as much as is possible.
“I think it goes by setting an example,” said Sabrina. “How we hold ourselves in public. He watches me a lot. He knows who I am, he knows my movements, the way I respond to people and interact with people. We never promoted being a showboat. We never promoted being arrogant. … I think it just goes by setting examples as parents and not just telling and talking but showing them.”
Despite the growing interest in his son’s athletic future, Tim maintains the focus is on how Romeo fares in the classroom. “Make sure you don’t slip on that, I tell my son.”
That’s the way the Langfords have raised Romeo, said New Albany Boys Basketball Head Coach Bill Shannon. “Education first and the basketball will take care of itself. He’s grounded and goal-oriented and doesn’t share or show a lot of emotion. Teachers like him, his teammates like him, he’s just a really good kid,” and his parents are to credit for that as well as how Romeo reacts to opponents, Shannon added.
“I always taught him (to) just play the game. Keep control,” said Tim. “Other players and opponents don’t know how to take you. That’s one of his advantages.”
It’s common knowledge that Romeo is uber talented on the basketball court. He solidified that truth Dec. 15 at New Castle Fieldhouse in a nationally-televised game against No. 1 ranked La Lumiere (Ind.) by scoring 40 points, including a one-handed dunk over La Lumiere’s 6-feet-11, 226-pound forward Jared Jackson that made Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays of the day. The Bulldogs lost the matchup 85- 63, but that hasn’t stopped experts and fans alike from touting Romeo’s skills and what the future potentially holds as well as the high school junior’s demeanor off the court.
“He’s still very quiet, though I don’t think he’s that quiet around his friends,” Shannon laughed. “He’s just a normal kid then, … but in terms of how he’s handled all of the accolades he’s received? He’s not normal at all. He’s way above.”
Mom and Dad see it another way. The way Romeo handles the kudos and the fame have a lot to do with their faith (“I know the Lord’s got him,” said Sabrina) as well as gratitude.
“It’s a ‘wow moment,’ all of this. I don’t even know if words can describe it. It’s hard to believe you have that many people talking about him. It touches my heart just to know that the things that Romeo is doing is making somebody happy. He’s putting a little bit of happiness in somebody’s life at the moment. That touches my heart.” Sabrina.
“I like the smile he puts on kids’ faces,” added Tim. “They’re the ones who look up to him. They get a joy. … He doesn’t get tired of signing autographs and taking photos. He knows it’s a gift to them, and that makes me happy and him, too.”
It does, Romeo confirmed. “It (fame and attention) was kind of weird in the beginning, but now I know it comes with what I’m doing and … my parents have helped me with that.”
Is it pretty cool when younger kids ask if you’ll pose for a photo? “Yeah,” Romeo said, dropping his head toward the floor and shyly smiling.
Some fans are in awe of the lack of emotion the 17-year-old displays during games. That, too, is a credit to his parents. Several years ago after a referee made a call Romeo didn’t agree with, he expressed his displeasure by getting upset and throwing his hands up in the air. Once the game was over, his mother quietly let her son know she wasn’t thrilled to see “Mr. Handy” – as she called it – come out. “My dad’s like, showing emotion and talking (back) shows the other opponent that they have you. So, I just keep the same face. … I have the emotion thing under control for the most part,” Romeo said, though on the rare occasion he slips “my mom will let me know she didn’t like seeing Mr. Handy.”
Behind closed doors when he’s around his friends and basketball has been put to bed for the moment, Romeo is known for being funny. “I am pretty funny, at least I think so,” he laughed. His closest pals also know he cares for them. “They know I really care. Even though I get a lot of attention, I try to have them involved in what I’m doing, too.”
As a student, “I take that pretty seriously, it’s not a joke,” said Romeo. Math is his favorite subject ; English is his least (not that you can tell from speaking with him). In his free time, he likes to play video games and pool on his smartphone and enjoys listening to Michael Jackson. And, on occasion, he picks up the trumpet, an instrument he used to play regularly before basketball took over. His favorite tune to play? “Arabian Dance.”
Even though he’s aware of the continued lists and honors he’s racking up on the court – “It’s nice to see, but I don’t dwell on stuff like that” – Romeo has one goal: “Just do my best and if we’re good enough, win the state championship.”
And then after that? Romeo, Romeo, where art thou going, Romeo? He shifts his feet, wraps his arms around himself, smiles and pulls on his lower lip. “I don’t know yet.”
You have plenty of time to figure it out.
“Yeah,” Romeo laughs before standing up, thanking this writer for her time, fist-bumping Coach Shannon and walking out the door.
What’s Your Favorite Thing About Romeo?
Fifteen fans weigh in
I’ve been watching Indiana high school basketball for 26 years, and I’ve been watching New Albany basketball for 26 years. Romeo Langford isn’t just one of the top players in Indiana ever but one of the best in the entire country! His 46 points in a single game against Southport in the semi-state at that level for a sophomore is the best single game performance I’ve ever seen. The scary thing is as good as a player as he is, he is even a better person that only comes around once in a lifetime. –David Bohne
In our small town of New Albany, basketball is huge! The people here have several local college teams to pull for, and most of us get a little crazy with the love we have for our teams. This love also runs deep when it comes to high school basketball, one of the best sports movies – Hoosiers – tells the story of how deep our love of high school basketball runs in our state. Then, in comes Romeo, that once in a lifetime talent that causes even the smallest basketball fan to sit up and take notice. There hasn’t been a buzz like this in our region since Damon Bailey came through and caused countless games to sell out in minutes. (Romeo) has single-handedly pushed New Albany basketball to not only be known state-wide but also country-wide. I was talking to a coworker a few weeks ago about the school Romeo may choose. We joked as each of us imagined him sitting at a table and picking our teams hat and saying, “I’ve decided to play for…” Then, if it’s our team, we could jump and shout because we got Romeo. Then we talked about how great it will be in as little as four years as we sit on our couches watching the NBA commissioner walk out and say “With the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft XXXX takes Romeo Langford!” The excitement and pride of knowing a young man from small town Indiana who worked hard and made his dreams – and our dreams of winning another championship –come true. Thanks, Romeo and good luck! –Brian Huff
Romeo is smooth as silk on the court and shows his emotion with his game. Doesn’t beat on his chest and yell because he did something special. Great kid. –Joe Byrd
Back when I played for New Albany, Romeo was just a kid in our Bulldog Youth Camps and all of us used to fight over who would get him on our individual teams because even back then we knew what we all know now: He’s special. –Dylan McDaniel
With all the hype he’s getting, he’s remaining humble. For a kid his age, that says a lot about how grounded he his. –Tommy Coppage
Romeo is a very humble future superstar. –Kevin Summers
He does everything a person can do on a basketball court exceptionally well. But not everyone who has his kind of talent is so beloved. The difference with him is that he doesn’t let all the attention and notoriety go to his head. He is not a guy who gets in arguments with people out on the floor, he has never talked back to an official or gotten into it with another player, he doesn’t throw tantrums when things aren’t going well. He just stays quiet, keeps his focus and does all the great things he does with the utmost dignity and class. –Mick Chandler
The excitement and buzz that Romeo brings to the area is amazing. He is a great role model that my son Preston can look up too. Everybody knows how special this kid is. He doesn’t get a big head, and he truly appreciates his fans of all ages. –Jason Adams
I’ve been a fan of high school basketball for more than fifty years, and Romeo Langford is without a doubt the greatest high school basketball player I’ve ever seen. His basketball skills and his athleticism are on a level that’s higher than the vast majority. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor, whether it’s taking the ball to the basket, hitting a mid-range floater, burying an NBA-range three-pointer, or dunking on a 6’11” prep school player. Romeo has the ability to take over a game. In addition to his athleticism and skills level, I’m impressed with Romeo’s demeanor during games. He always plays under control with poise, composure, calmness and respect. His main focus is helping his team win basketball games. Romeo Langford plays basketball the way it was meant to be played by putting forth a big effort every game and by letting his superior basketball skills do his talking on the court. –David Condra
With all the talent he has and the way some teams play defense on him, I have never seen him show any emotions or try to show anybody up. Romeo is a class act. –Randy Fenwick
Romeo is one of the quietest, hardworking, humble young student athletes you’ll ever meet. He is destined for greatness. –Jackie Love
Romeo is a once in a lifetime basketball player/ New Albany has had many great basketball players, but there will never be another Romeo. What makes him even more special is his on the court demeanor. He will dunk on you, or score 50 on you and won’t say a word or crack a smile. He will get beat up, pushed around and triple-teamed and won’t say a word. That’s Romeo! He’s also all about his team; it’s all team first with him. Off the court, he’s a complete class act. Every kid in Southern Indiana wants to play basketball and be Romeo. He has been great to my kids; Colt and Cash idolize him. He comes to their birthday parties, signs autographs, takes pictures and simply encourages them. So much good to say about this kid, but it all starts at home. Tim and Sabrina Langford are amazing parents and built him a strong foundation. Romeo will never forget where he came from. –Mike Hardin
He makes dunking on people bigger than him and hitting 30-footers with a hand in his face look effortless. Afterwards, he shows zero emotion. No stare-downs, no flexing, not even a smile. That’s what I love most about Romeo Langford. –James Craig
Romeo has a pure love for the game. He is an idol to all the kids in our area. He sets great examples on and off the court. Great young man. –Daryl White
This young man has brought our small, beloved school to a national spotlight that we’ve never seen before. Thank you, Romeo, from all of us fans and parents. You are such an amazing kid all around and a great influence and role model for our children. Go Bulldogs! Go Romeo! We all love you! –Chris Sweet