SEYMOUR – Picture this: Romeo Langford is holding a baby and smiling for the baby’s mom, who is holding a cellphone and taking a photo. Now picture this: Romeo is signing the wheelchair of a 58-year-old New Albany fan with cerebral palsy named Tim LaDuke. Now picture this: Romeo is signing the front of a kid’s shirt. And the back of another kid’s shirt. Then someone’s cellphone. And now a dollar bill.
Now imagine this: This is how Romeo celebrated winning the Class 4A regional title Saturday night. This is how he spent more than an hour after scoring 39 points to lead New Albany past Center Grove 69-56, while his teammates were cutting down a net and mingling with classmates and then finally sitting down and just watching as Romeo signs more autographs, holds more babies, smiles more smiles.
What is being asked of Romeo Langford, it boggles the mind. Off the court, I’m saying. On the court? Well, yes, New Albany asks so much of him there as well. At 6-5, Romeo is the biggest player on the team but also its most skilled, which means he’s the guy who breaks the press and hits the 3-pointers and grabs 13 rebounds and scores on the low block. Even with a player as dominant as 6-8 junior power forward Trayce Jackson-Davis scoring 24 points, Center Grove was never going to beat New Albany. Hell, for much of Saturday night Center Grove was struggling to outscore Romeo. That’s how good he was. And is.
But off the court, well, this must be what Damon Bailey experienced when he was becoming a state icon, not to mention the state’s all-time scoring leader, at Bedford North Lawrence in 1990. Damon Bailey personified what we call Hoosier Hysteria. And now, so does Romeo Langford.
For 65 minutes he signed autographs on Saturday night, after playing his second game in nine hours, while teammates were cutting the net from one rim and almost finishing off the other before New Albany AD Don Unruh gently pulled him away from the throng of fans and led him to the ladder — where the throng followed. Standing there with scissors in one hand and pieces of the net in the other, Romeo was beseeched by dozens of tiny hands, reaching up for whatever he could bestow upon them.