Photo: Doug McSchooler/for IndyStar

Indiana All-Star Games Show Hoosier Fans a Different Side of Romeo Langford

Romeo Langford’s quiet and humble manner has at times been confused for him being passive or soft.

His opponents have made that mistake, and it generally hasn’t worked out well for them.  If you have seen his senior year “mix tape” you might recall a moment that begins around 1:50 into the video.  An opposing player on Charlestown called Langford soft.  Verbally, Langford didn’t respond.  What did he do?  He scored a career high 48 points in that game.  New Albany won by 74.

No one knows for sure, but it is possible that Kentucky head coach John Calipari may have stopped recruiting Langford because of perceived softness.  Or at least that is what Calipari would like you to believe.  He likes to use a rather silly reverse psychology trick on impressionable teenagers, telling them that “Kentucky isn’t for everyone.”

The reality there was that the relationship broke down and Calipari knew he didn’t have a shot — but he’d likely tell you that it was just that Kentucky isn’t for everyone.  That’s what this Kentucky media outlet boiled it down to.  Time will tell if that decision to doubt Langford proves to be a mistake too.

Romeo Langford knows that opposing teams are going to attack his perceived “softness”.  After the loss on Friday night to the Kentucky All-Stars, Langford responded to a question about the Kentucky kids playing him physically and his response was “everybody does that”.

Related image
Photo by Josh Hicks, News and Tribune

Pick on the soft guy.  Break him down.

But in that same post-game interview, you could see a glimpse of a different side of Langford.  When asked about what needed to improve he said “It needs to change….we just need to get over our pride”.

Hardly a headline making statement, but there was passion behind that comment.  A passion that we don’t always see with Romeo Langford.  Sure, you had to strain your ear to even hear him say it, but you didn’t have to strain to sense the fire burning in a young man that just got embarrassed.

Those are just words — and soft spoken words at that.  Langford is never going to win the press conference with flashy statements and bold predictions.  Don’t expect any bulletin board material.  Off the floor, he is just a nice, humble guy that ostensibly just wants to be left alone.

Surely he’ll never make it to the highest levels of sport with a personality like that, right?  He has to be a Calipari “alpha dog”, right?  Wrong.

Don’t mistake quiet for soft.  Don’t take nice for weak.  Was five-time NBA champion Tim Duncan soft?  Is three-time NHL champion Sidney Crosby weak?  Eli Manning’s quiet demeanor led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins.  These are world-class championship caliber athletes leading their teams to the highest levels of their sports on multiple occassions.  How?

They do it on the court, or field, or ice or wherever they might hone their craft.  Their performance does the talking.  The fire burns, it just manifests through effort, precision, and results…not words.

If there was any doubt about Langford’s fire, you really had to look no further than Saturday’s rematch performance against the Kentucky All-Stars.  After Kentucky’s first miss, Langford snared the rebound like a man among boys…because he is.  He took the ball straight down the floor like a man on a mission….because he was.  He drained a closely guarded 15-foot jumper.  The tone was set.

You can see that play in this video.  It starts at around :30 seconds into the video.

That was Romeo doing his talking.  That was Romeo’s fire burning.  That’s a champion beating you with his game, not his mouth.

Okay, it was just one play.  But it was a a precursor for things to come.  By halftime Langford led all scorers with 16 points.  He shot 6 for 9 from the field and added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal.  It was only halftime.  The Indiana All-Stars led 56-30.  Romeo had spoken…and he didn’t say a word.

There was something else that happened in that game too.  Go back up and watch that video again, this time at the 1:45 mark.  Just like he told you they would, the Kentucky kids tried to get physical with him.  His first reaction was to look the latest offender in the eye.  There was no backing down.  He may have even said something.  Gasp!

But it’s the second reaction that you really need to focus on.  Free throw number one — all net.  Free throw number two — all net.  Romeo speaks once again.  Soft players miss those free throws.  Competitors are energized by moments like that.

Langford gave us a little bit more insight into his inner-fire after the game.  Of course it wasn’t much, but it was there.

“Making my first shot and seeing the ball go in is pretty cool, but really it was being more focused, more locked in,” Langford said. “We didn’t want to be the team to go 0-2 to Kentucky. That’s what got me and the team more focused tonight.”

Romeo Langford is coming into the Big Ten as the highest rated recruit in the conference.  They will surely try to get physical with him.  They will probably call him soft.

Ask the kid from Charlestown or the Kentucky All-Stars how that worked out for them.  They are probably still trying to figure out what happened.  To their credit, it can be hard to know what happened — when your opponent didn’t say a word.

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