Q & A: New Albany coach Jim Shannon on Romeo Langford the player and the person

  • 04/24/2018 8:29 am in

NEW ALBANY, Ind. – Jim Shannon has won more than 500 games in his career and won a Class 4A state championship in 2016 at New Albany. He also coached Romeo Langford for the past four seasons, which gives him a unique perspective on one of the best players to ever come out of the state of Indiana.

Ahead of Langford’s college announcement next week, Inside the Hall sat down with Shannon for an in-depth conversation that spans a variety of topics, including what it was like to watch Romeo in elementary school and middle school, the attention he’s received, his progression as a player and all of his off-the-court contributions.

Our full conversation with Shannon is available below:

Inside the Hall: We’ve talked a lot over the years about the different stages of Romeo’s progression as a player. I want to go back to the beginning because I know, just from talking to a lot of different people, that he started out pretty well at Mount Tabor as a fourth grader. Do you remember seeing him play in elementary school and what is your recollection of that?

Jim Shannon: I remember seeing him play in elementary school and he was really a great player. He wasn’t as dominant as he would become, but he was still really, really a great player. But man, he really became dominant when he got to Scribner (middle school). He dominated.

ITH: When do you feel like people in New Albany started to talk about him? I can remember hearing about him really early, but I wasn’t going to go watch a middle schooler. I know you’re really involved in the feeder system for New Albany and you knew about him, but when did you start to think, “this could be something different”?

Shannon: I would say in seventh grade. No doubt in seventh grade I thought he was going to be special. In eighth grade, 100 percent I thought he was going to be off the charts. I didn’t know that he was going be like top five in the nation in his class, but certainly knew that he was Division I, no question, and an Indiana All-Star, no question.

But beyond that, I didn’t know yet. I knew that he was just doing some things, like getting his 3-point shot off, that were effortless for him at that age. He was shooting jump shots in fourth grade. You start to look at stuff like that and you say, “man, this is a little bit different. He’s something else.”

ITH: You mention that seventh and eighth grade period. What can you see in a kid at that age and know they’re going to be special? There are plenty of kids who score a lot of points in elementary or middle school, but they don’t always pan out.

Shannon: Well when you watch young people play in the seventh or eighth grade and they’re dominating like Romeo was, the first thing you look at is, “are they done growing?” Because a lot of kids mature quicker than others and so they’re dominating middle school and other seventh and eighth grade players because they’re already 5-foot-11 or 6-foot or whatever it is. But they’re just bigger and stronger than the rest of the kids. But they stay there, they stay at 5-foot-11 or 6-foot. They don’t get any bigger, quicker or faster. They don’t get any stronger.

So all of the sudden, other kids do and they start to pass them up. Or a kid will play somewhat inside and not have guard skills and again, he quits growing and so he’s a kid that has played with his back to the basket or has played inside because he could. And he could win doing that. The coach plays him in there because he can score easy baskets. The problem is he can’t go out on the floor and play and that’s where he’s going to eventually have to play if he’s going to be a guard and if he stays at 6-foot, that’s what he’s going to be.

That wasn’t Romeo. Romeo continued to grow. You could see the length in his arms. You could tell physically that while he was strong, there was room for him to get a lot stronger. And he also just kind of had that x-factor. You just knew something was different about him when he stepped onto the floor. I’ve seen a lot of great players in middle school. I’ve never seen one like this.

ITH: One thing I often hear people comment on is how he is able to glide past defenders on the floor. Is that God given ability, is it something he really worked on or is that something you could see even back then?

Shannon: He works hard. I think he’s definitely improved his game, his skills. Much of it was God given in terms of being able to have that kind of athleticism. But I think what he’s done is, he’s taken his God given talents and he’s worked hard. When you put those two things together, it allows a kid to improve. I think that’s a good combination.

And then when you put with it the third thing, which is his intelligence is really high, it just makes for a fabulous player. His character, you look at all of the things he’s done, all of the interviews he’s had, all the things we do in terms of visiting people in the community, his popularity is off the charts. So it’s amazing to me that he’s stayed as level headed and even keeled as he has.

ITH: I believe it was after the state championship in 2016 that his national profile blew up. Looking back at some of the rankings before that, he was ranked, but he wasn’t top five. Was he always one of the five best players in this class? Or did something change?

Shannon: Some of the colleges that came in, they always felt like he got better between November and March. I can remember them saying that to me. A lot of that was probably because we were practicing 70 times and playing games. I think all along he was top five, at least in my book. He was always top five. Top five as a freshman, top five as a sophomore. I don’t think there’s any question about it. I just don’t think people nationally knew about him.

ITH: Things changed after that state championship. Everybody started to talk about him. Not only here, but nationally. You had schools like Indiana offering him a scholarship, but also Louisville, Duke … pretty much everybody. How did he react to that attention when it first started to come? What has allowed him to remain so even keeled throughout the process? It’s not that way for a lot of kids.

Shannon: He’s well grounded at home. They talk about life, talk about his responsibilities and how to be accountable given the fact that he is getting so much attention. Again, they’ve just kept him well grounded and I think it’s in his nature. He’s pretty shy. He’s not shy around his friends, but he’s shy around the public and adults. He’s very intelligent, but he’s very shy. It’s just not in his nature to dunk the ball and look around and see who he can trash talk to. It’s not in his nature to beat on his chest or flash a 3. It never has been in his nature.

It’s difficult to say, for me, when that happened because I never saw him do any of that stuff one time. So if he’s never done it, it’s difficult to say, “well here is where I think he made a mature step in the right direction.” He was always mature beyond his age. He came here when he was 14. He just turned 18 on October 25. It just fascinates me how he was able to handle all of this attention. I think when Duke and (North) Carolina and all of the big time coaches were coming in, all of big time programs were coming in, he didn’t flinch. He didn’t treat the blueblood programs any different than the most losing program that came in to see him. From top to bottom, he did not treat anybody any differently. It was amazing.

ITH: His off-the-court contributions get tweeted about and talked about a lot. But there are probably many more things that he does that never get reported. I’ve seen mentions of him going to hospitals, going to birthday parties, all kinds of different things. Why, in your mind, do you think he does all of these things?

Shannon: Any time I’ve asked him and his dad if they could do this that or the other in terms of off the court, they’ve said yes. They’ve never said no. Not one time. He’ll do things like visit classrooms and read to kids. We went to New Washington recently, which you probably saw in the paper, a kid was going to a free throw contest nationally. He’s been invited to one of the school’s graduations. Just to be there for fourth grade graduation. He’s been invited to career day at one of the schools. Another school just wanted him to visit their classroom. He gets asked to do numerous things like asking to send a video to wish someone a happy birthday. He does that.

Most of it is to answer questions for kids or to come in and talk about why he is successful. He comes in and talks about being a good person, working hard in the classroom, working hard on his game and having a great attitude.

ITH: You mentioned him being shy when the media asks a question, but when he’s with these kids, how does he respond?

Shannon: He’s great about it. He always brightens their day. Now he’s quiet and he’s not loud, but he just has a way of walking into a room and the room changes. There’s only a small percentage of people in this world that can do that. He does it. He’s earned it. And I think he will always carry that responsibility. You’re always reluctant to say, “I’m 100 percent sure this kid will have great character from now through his NBA career and on.” I’d put my life on it with him. His character is really off the charts.

ITH: And the autographs went to a different level this year. He always had a smile on his face. What was that like to see?

Shannon: It was crazy. I think a lot of the times on the road, there would be longer lines than at home because they don’t get to see him very often. It was amazing how we would go scout at other gyms and they would be half full until we went there to play and they were sold out, standing room only. It was crazy to see that.

But he was always, win or lose – and we won most of the time – but he was signing after we got beat in the semi-state. He always did it. It just fascinates me how, whether he felt good or not or whether he got injured … unless he physically couldn’t sign because of a finger injury, he always did it. I think once he was hurt and couldn’t sign, but he took pictures with kids instead. I think he feels like, “if I wanted somebody’s autograph that I look up to like LeBron James or whoever and he gave me the cold shoulder, how would that make me feel?”

I think it makes him feel good that he’s been able to impact people at such a young age. He’s going to continue to impact people in probably a more profound way the older he gets.

ITH: When he gets to college and gets into a weight program and becomes a Division I athlete, what do you see as the main areas where he’s going to take off even more?

Shannon: He’s definitely going to get stronger. They’re going to have a strength coach with him, if not every day, close to every day. He’s going to have a nutritionist. I’m not saying that he’s not working out or eating right now, but when you have somebody that’s trained to just do that and you have more time with him in a Division I program, they’ll have everything ready for him. The meals will be somewhat planned, the strength and conditioning will be planned, the individual workouts will be planned, practices will be planned, the academic advisor will have a plan. He’ll have all of that and he and the other 12 or 13 guys will be the focal point. That’s what those people do. They’re locked into that and that only. They’ve got the head coach and a lot of help.

He’s going to get all of the attention that he deserves from all of those people who are professionals. He’s going to get a lot stronger. They’ll put 15 pounds on him the first year in my opinion. I think he’s going to be a beast when he gets stronger. His lower body is probably where he needs it the most. Once he gets that … he’s not easy to push around now, but once he gets that, he will be really tough if he puts on 15 to 20 pounds of muscle.

ITH: You watch him now, there’s not a lot he doesn’t do well. What are the main things he can get better at? You’re nitpicking because he’s an elite player.

Shannon: It’s like being a black belt in karate. You get to those certain levels and you don’t ever get to a place and say, “there’s no more potential in this kid. He’s hit the ceiling.” Maybe he’s a black belt right now, but he could be like a tenth degree black belt. He’s going to get coached really well.

And again, some of the stuff that we’ve done with him and that his trainers have done with him have been great, but he’s going to continue to work on those things and get a split second quicker than he is now. Whether it’s getting his shot off or his first step or whatever you want to talk about … the guys right now that are the best players at the highest levels, (James) Harden, LeBron, they’re all just taking the basics of the games, but they’re honing their skills to the point where they’re just better than everyone at it whether it’s because of quickness or the way they handle the ball, their athletic ability, their intelligence, all of that gets rolled into one. He’ll just keep working on things that he’s always worked on, maybe get introduced to some things he didn’t know because there’s always stuff out there to learn, but I think the sky is the limit. The ceiling is still very high.

ITH: The details are so important when you get to the highest level. How detail oriented is Romeo in his workouts? One thing that he really improved on this year was his step back to create separation.

Shannon: He’s pretty detail oriented. He wants to get better and try new things. I’ve seen him come up with a couple of things on his own where he will come in and start working on it and gets very good at it. I think he watches a lot of NBA. Those guys seem to always be inventing something. It’s fascinating how skilled guys are getting in terms of handling the ball and getting their shots off. I think he watches that and tries to emulate those things.

One thing I’d like for him to do is to watch how hard a guy like (Russell) Westbrook plays. From the beginning to the end. It’s unbelievable how hard he plays. His energy level is unbelievable from start to finish. I don’t think anybody works harder if you watch him really go at it. He’s a competitor.

For any kid, you try to pick out the best in others and then bring that into your game. There’s always another level to push yourself to go to. I think when he works out with other great players and does individual workouts, I think he’ll learn some things about he can be even a step quicker than what he is now, no matter what it is.

And the same thing with defense. It’s not all about offense. He’s got to defend, too. At this next level and the level after that. You’ve got to be able to defend. I think your minutes will go up at the college and the pro level if you can prove that you can guard more than one area. If you can guard the one, that’s great, but can you guard the two? And can you guard the three? If you can do many different things, it’s hard for the coach to take you out.

Even this year, (Darius) Bazley, he was 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9, and I saw him throw his stuff out of there a couple of times. He just put it right back. He can defend. But it’s a whole new level to go from high school basketball to Division I basketball. It’s just totally different. He’ll find that out when he gets into practice. It’ll be harder. It’ll be longer.

ITH: What he’s meant to New Albany … you’ve been here for 20 years. I don’t think this community has ever seen anything like Romeo. Can you put into words what he’s meant, not only to the basketball program, but to the community?

Shannon: He’s brought a lot of attention to not only the school, but to the community and the town. We’ve always been on the map. It’s not like people didn’t know where New Albany was before whether it was just in terms of every day living or basketball. But he took us to another level nationally with the attention that he received and our team received.

It’s been since 1973 that we won a state championship. Even though we had come close a few times, we never did quite get over the hump. He got us over the hump along with several good teammates. So that brought us a lot of notoriety, no question about that.

And then I think just the character aspect, the demeanor and how well liked he is … he’s not well liked, he’s well loved. He’s just loved. We go into New Washington (a community about 35 minutes away) and the kid he went to speak to and hang out with for 30 minutes, has never seen him play. But he wanted Romeo to come. He’s seen him probably on YouTube or TV or maybe watched the IHSAA stream. But he’d never been to a game. And those kids went crazy when we got there. I told him, “they’ll probably go crazy when you get there” because it was a surprise. The principal didn’t tell them.

So they say, “we’ve got someone here that wants to shoot free throws against you.” And then we walked him in. It was cool. He just has that impact on people. He’s such a phenomenal athlete, he’s a good looking kid, he’s articulate, he’s nice, he’s smart.

People that play against him like him. It’s hard not to like him. Coaches of the opposing team, he’ll put a 40-spot on them and we’ll beat them by 30, they’re still cordial. Because he doesn’t throw it in anybody’s face. If I was an opposing school, I would be real tired of hearing about us. But we didn’t bring any of it on our own. It just happened because he’s such a great player. He elevated us to get this attention that we’ve gotten. None of us are different because of it. I think we’re better because of it. At least in my immediate circle, I think we’ve all become better people, better coaches because of it. It hasn’t gone the other way, but it very well could have. And it could have for him and the other players, too.

You want your teams to be player led rather than coach led because I think they play better. It’s harder to do that in high school. But you really want the players to look to their leader and for that leader to be able to get everything out of them that they can. I think he made kids better around him. In fairness to the other kids, they were awesome. He’d be the first one to tell you that.

Filed to:

  • HuntinHoosier86

    Just happen to glance at the 247 Crystal Ball website a second ago and saw where the director of national recruiting for 247, Evan Daniels, gave his prediction of IU yesterday morning! Things are looking good!!

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Nice! 6 days and counting down!!!

  • Hoosiernation1887

    I think in this context it just means natural talent, yeah I’d probably prefer that term as well but I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily bringing religion or the like into the conversation in this situation.

  • Arch Puddington

    I think you misunderstood my comment. I agree that “God given talent” can be neutral, and I said as much. And you’ll note that I did not challenge its use in any other context. But the comment to which I was responding went well beyond that, and deliberately so. Both in tone and substance, it was a taunt with explicit religious meaning. Given the rest of the dialogue here today, plus others like it in recent weeks, there is just no call for that. As VOXAC30 said, provocation in either direction on this topic is uncalled for. Regardless of what you or I or jimmygoiu believe about religion, his comment was simply out of place.

  • AndyCapp

    Yup, saw yesterday that predictions are 75% in IU’s favor. Fingers and toes crossed!

  • No, we can’t. If you don’t like it, you are free to start your own site.

  • Mark Bando

    Yes, yes, yes.

  • John D Murphy

    Great interview Alex. It was obvious your questions were really well prepared. Sorry for the thread drama. Hope it doesn’t detract from your pride in what I think you should feel like is a signature piece for you. Thanks for all you do.

  • Jer78

    Are you limiting God by saying “as if God loves people more than others.”? The fact is, God gives each one of us unique talents and gifts. Being a gifted athlete isn’t superior just like being a great musician isn’t superior. We are all gifted with different talents. Merely recognizing where the gift comes from reminds us all to remain humble, maybe this is why Romeo stays after games so long to sign all those autographs for the kids. He might be using his God-given talent to serve others and make people happy. Just a thought.

  • John D Murphy

    I had no idea what you talking about, as I read new to old comments order (and was like “my reading comprehension is quite good thank you”). Then I kept reading and I was like “oh”.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    B-ball at Nicks – look, I enjoy a lot of your comments and we’ve gone back and forth before. So please, let it go so you don’t get banned. Please.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    It’s a very professional well done article. It’s kind of neat that Alex has a unique relationship with a player who has the potential to be an IU player on the level of an Isaiah Thomas.

  • dwdkc

    I wonder if the post you are referring to was removed, because the one I see is about as mild as can be:
    “Great article about a top notch person. Romeo’s God given ability, great coaching, solid parenting and a commitment to hard work has resulted in the person/player that he is. i hope to God that he is a Hoosier!”
    I don’t get it.

  • marcusgresham

    You’re in for a treat when you do see him.

  • Feast BBQ closed, unfortunately.

  • Tyler D

    Overtly religious? ‘Hope to God’ and ‘God given talent’ aren’t common phrases in this country? Aren’t common phrases in the great State of Indiana? I’m not religious and I use those phrases on a regular basis.

    You and Nick’s made it a big religious issue/topic and Alex had to step in. Ridiculous.

  • Jane Jackson

    Nice article, Alex. Appreciate your time & talents. Wherever Romeo goes, may he be blessed with strength, safety, and wisdom.

  • marcusgresham

    Yes. If you want better pizza head the other direction because you’re going to have to go to Chicago.

  • marcusgresham

    What did he say that was wrong?

  • marcusgresham

    “Hope to god” is as generic a statement as “god-given talent.” I’m as un-religious as anyone here and I use that prase. Acutally, I use the first one and not the second one.

  • Look, we’ve been more than lenient for quite a while, but I think it’s best for the community to remove you from the comments. If you would like to discuss further, feel free to shoot me an email. Thanks.

  • VOXAC30

    I am even crossing my eyes as well… its been tough helping my kids with math these past few weeks.

  • Arch Puddington

    My only thought about hints, probably worth nothing, is the nature of his announcement. Given the massive pro-IU response he has received at his games for much of the last year, the fact that he is holding a public signing in which fans will be let in an hour in advance seems encouraging to me. Whether it is fair or not, he has to know that he would receive a stunned and mostly unhappy response from hundreds of people if he were to put on a Kansas or Vanderbilt hat. Doesn’t mean he won’t, but it just seems like he is a conscientious enough person from a conscientious enough family that he wouldn’t build up so much anticipation amongst the fans who have supported him — and whom he recently described as the best in the country, or some words to that effect — only to disappoint them in person.

    But what do I know. He is a tough kid from a strong family, I’m sure they can take whatever fallout comes from the decision. I hope the fallout is the joy of IU fans everywhere….

  • Koko

    One thing Coach Shannon said….” He’s going to get coached really well” made me think the same thing for some reason. Like he knew where Romeo was going….that could be Kansas too but of the three schools on his list I can only think two of those schools have coaches who coach really well and the coach at Vandy isn’t one of them….yet.

  • AndyCapp

    Especially with your eyes crossed! 😉

  • Jason Haworth

    You are rude.

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    me too… so lost! I guess I’ll miss [email protected]

  • Noxley33

    Best way to get there from B-TOWN is probably find your way to 65 south and follow it until you hit 265 exit (about 5 miles before you hit the bridges to go to Louisville) you’ll pass three exits (Charlestown rd, grantline rd, and state street) after that take the next exit 64 towards louisville. Take the new Albany exit. That’ll put you in downtown New Albany. Search for new albany high school and it’s a couple miles away from there.

  • coachv

    man, this place is going to be packed to the gills with indiana fans. how can he not pick iu?

  • coachv

    any chance of seeing bball at gospel bird? he probably doesn’t like mixing god and chicken

  • There are no tickets. Doors open at 6. Seating is open, I believe.

    Plenty of ways to get down here from Bloomington as I make this drive all the time, but I would just go down 65 unless there is traffic. Use Waze and see what it says.

  • coachv

    you think the drew’s can’t coach? time to review greatest finishes in ncaa tournament history

  • Arch Puddington

    “Old ball” commenters? Huh?

    I’m not challenging phrasing, I’m making the accurate observation that jimmygoiu is perpetuating a line of discussion that violates the understood terms of this website, and that Alex has intervened directly here to halt. jimmygoiu’s comment was just a provocation, and an ideological one at that. “God given talent” may be taken as a generic expression, but his comments were clearly meant to make a religious statement. Alex has apparently kicked bball at nick’s off the site for refusing to stand down on the topic of religion in sports, and jimmygoiu’s comments were overtly religious. If you don’t get that, or what I meant with my comments, your reading comprehension needs some work.

  • coachv

    maybe he is joking

  • Mark Bando

    If he doesnt pick IU, his parents having him open this up to the public will be one of the biggest head scratchers of the year. Because 1000 people groaning in unison is not how you would want your childs announcement to be met.

  • coachv

    did alex really give bball the boot? say it ain’t so!

  • coachv

    i call that bold talk for a one-eyed christian!

  • coachv

    what unique talent and gifts did god give to child molesters and child killers? just a thought

  • coachv

    in truth, i look forward to reading his comments more than the editorial content

  • coachv

    i once used the phrase “the man upstairs” when an old southern gentleman tried to get me to pray over the hood of his pick-up truck. he said it was insulting to god. can’t make this stuff up

  • coachv

    only a thousand? what does the gym hold because i bet i will not only be packed out but folks will start standing in line at 4pm

  • Mark Bando

    After reading this again, we may just have our clue. “He’s pretty shy. He’s not shy around his friends, but hes shy around the public and adults. Hes very intelligent but very shy.”

  • HuntinHoosier86

    As stupid as it sounds, I haven’t watched 2 seconds of film on him since the local sports media started making a big deal out of him a couple years ago b/c I really just didn’t see us landing him and because he had UK on his list at the time. So…..just to be safe since things are starting to look favorable for IU……..I still haven’t watch any! LOL Call me superstitious or whatever, but, I don’t wanna jinx us at this point! HAHAHA

  • Mark Bando

    You’re right, more than a thousand. And if the gym fills up, there will be people outside the gym waiting.

  • ImYourHuckleberry

    You’d be the only one

  • Jer78

    Good question, one that I can’t answer for every individual, only they know why they chose the path they did. Obviously, not everyone chooses good. I’d like to go deeper here, but will resist since it’s a sports blog. Point is, God gives us all talents and gifts, unfortunately, some people choose to not use them or are not put in environments conducive to growing the talent/gift.

  • HuntinHoosier86

    AHH! Dang it! Thanks, Alex. I had forgotten that, but it had also been a while since I had gone there.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    The recruiting and decision of Romeo is the most unbelievable scenario I have ever seen.He is an amazing talented young man.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Big game tomorrow!

  • TheTruth

    A fine comment