Everyone in New Albany has a story about Romeo Langford. Drive a few miles down Charlestown Road in the sleepy Southern Indiana city and listen to the legend growing around the 5-star, 18-year-old prospect.
Inside Kroger, a silver-haired man is bent over and unpacking Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Noosa Yoghurt. His eyes widen as I ask about Romeo.
“He’s the best we’ve ever had,” Chuck Stroud tells me. Stroud’s been a New Albany High School season-ticket holder for 20 years. “He’s humble. He’s a good kid. And that don’t happen too much anymore.”
Romeo smiles and signs autographs for more than 90 minutes after every game, even as his hand grows stiff, even as his slice of pizza turns cold. He takes photos with babies. He visits the sick in hospitals. And every night, he puts on a show. Scoring from anywhere—midrange, from three, at the rim—he is so unstoppable in the open floor that he is considered a “once-in-a-generation” talent by Jim Shannon, his New Albany coach.
Langford immortalized himself in Indiana hoop history this season, as he finished his high school career fourth all time with 3,002 career points (132 points shy of the top mark), including a 63-point outburst against Jennings County.
“I’m surprised they ain’t named a street after him already,” Stroud says.
Kolkin Coffee Co.’s owner, Gary Almon, calls him “New Albany’s No. 1 son.” Alan Butts, Coffee Crossing’s owner, runs through his favorite Romeo moments: Romeo draining an unthinkable 70-footer against Providence. Romeo, 6’5″, throwing down a thunderous one-handed dunk over 6’11” Jaren Jackson Jr., who just declared for the NBA draft. Romeo pouring in 46 against Southport in the state semifinals as a sophomore.
“You can’t guard him,” Butts says.
Linda Morgan, owner of Make the Cut, a men’s hair salon, tells me how Romeo says “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir.” She points to a wall with a portrait of PGA Tour star and New Albany native Fuzzy Zoeller. Then she points to a blank wall. “I’ve been saving this side for Romeo,” she says.
Folks here—and across the country—are anxiously waiting for the shooting guard to reveal his college decision. But Langford, who is the highest-ranked unsigned prospect at No. 5, is in no rush. He’ll pick between Indiana, Kansas and Vanderbilt by month’s end.
“I pray it’s IU,” Stroud says. So do the people at Hoopsters Sports Bar & Grill in Jeffersonville and Couch’s Body & Frame Shop in Clarksville, who have the same sign out front: “ROMEO LANGFORD PLEASE CHOOSE IU”. Fans chant “IU! IU! IU!” toward the end of games. Folks at Romeo’s barbershop in Louisville, just across the Ohio River from New Albany, are still trying to convince him to go to Kentucky or Louisville, though neither are in the running.