It’s easy to call New Albany a one-man team when you watch Romeo Langford, considered one of the best sophomore basketball players in the entire country.
But New Albany coach Jim Shannon said the Bulldogs’ star has plenty of help.
Langford, an athletic, 6-foot-4 swing forward, is averaging 30.3 points this season. In the last three games — three of the toughest games the Bulldogs (26-1) have played this season — he has scored 117 points. In the semi-state game, he had 43 points with three minutes left in the third quarter and finished with 46.
“He’s special,” Shannon said of Langford. “When you have a special player, you have to go to him.”
Shannon doesn’t hesitate to talk about Langford and laud his abilities.
“The other kids know how I feel about him,” the New Albany coach said. “I don’t favor him, other than stating the facts.”
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It’s certainly hard to argue with the facts. New Albany is on a 23-game winning streak, and per John Harrell’s Indiana High School basketball website, the Bulldogs are third in the state in scoring (77.7 points per game) and first in average margin of victory (23.93 points per game).
But Shannon is quick to point out that his squad’s success isn’t solely attributed to his star player. There’s the shooting of Isaac Hibbard, the ballhandling of Sean East, and defense of Michael Maxwell and Josh Jefferson, among others.
“We have not won all these games just because of (Langford),” Shannon said. “I could never say that. It starts with him. It just does.
“There’s more to this team than just Romeo,” Shannon said. “The kid can’t score 46 points and you sit there and don’t talk about him. (But), there’s no question he gets a lot of help. If you’re open, he’ll get you the ball. He’s unselfish.”
The other New Albany players said they know they have a role in the team’s success.
“It’s about accepting your role on the team,” Maxwell said. “You have to know who can do what. If he (Langford) can go out there and score 46, we’ll let him do it. I’m not going to be mad at him. … If he wins, we win.
“He’s humble about it,” Maxwell said. “He’s a great guy, a great player.”
Shannon said Langford’s unselfish play and humility is one of the reason’s for the team’s success.
“Our team chemistry is solid,” Shannon said. “He’s doesn’t consider himself superior to the rest of the team. He’s just another one of the guys.”
“If he scores 50 (points), we’ll get hyped and congratulate him,” Jefferson said. “He’s a great kid. The sky’s the limit for my little brother.”
Fan following: As they have all through the post-season tournament, the Bulldogs expect to have a huge following in Indianapolis.
The school sold out of its allotment of 3,700 tickets, given to them by the IHSAA.
“We’ve been very, very blessed to have the people behind us,” Shannon said. “The following that New Albany High School has is second to none in the state. There’s nobody who has a better following than we do. And, they’ll be rabid Saturday night. It’s been a long wait for them.
“They’ve been waiting since 1973,” Shannon said.
New Albany’s only other state title in boys’ basketball came in 1973, when the Bulldogs beat South Bend Adams 84-79 in what was back then a brand-new Assembly Hall in Bloomington. New Albany is making just its fourth appearance in the title game, and first since 1996.
“It means the world to us to see all those people come out,” Jefferson said. “We’re doing it for them.”