Tag Archives: basketball

Talented baker
Lydia Sprigler.

Letter From the Editor | June/July 2018

By Angie Fenton   

The Extol Team is thrilled to have Lydia Sprigler as the subject of our featured cover story. The winner of MESA’s Kid Baking Contest, Lydia wowed the judges with her sweet skills and will be the guest of honor at our launch party, which is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. June 21 at MESA, 216 Pearl St. in New Albany. Attendees of the free, family-friendly event will get a chance to enjoy Lydia’s baking and other appetizers at this edition of our signature event. We hope you’ll join us. By the way, if you have a budding young baker in your family, Food Network contacted MESA KIDS (coming soon to New Albany) and asked for help finding talented kids ages 8 to 13 to cast for season 5 of the network’s Kids Baking Championship show. You can find more information at www. mesakidscookingschool.com.

Talented baker Lydia Sprigler.

Talented baker
Lydia Sprigler.

In this issue, we remember and celebrate the life of Bekki Jo Schneider, who made Derby Dinner Playhouse a must-visit Southern Indiana institution. We are grateful to Jon Huffman and Arts-Louisville.com for allowing us to share his tribute to Bekki Jo.

It has been enjoyable watching basketball standout Romeo Langford mature into a young man who is preparing to head to Indiana University. We caught up with the Hoosier for a quick Q&A and photo shoot at The Pepin Mansion, where he, once again, displayed why he’s a fan favorite on and off the court.

Romeo Langford with fans Elliott Baker, 7, and his sister Eve Baker, 5.

Romeo Langford with fans Elliott
Baker, 7, and his sister Eve Baker, 5.

Amid the articles and columns about summer fun, food, exploring Southern Indiana (and beyond), sports, fitness, fashion, home renovation and philanthropy, you’ll also find several though-provoking first-person pieces. Zach McCrite shares an honest account of his recent 80-pound weight loss. Ray Lucas imparts the wisdom he learned from his father. Guest contributor Amy Gesenhues gives a glimpse of her family’s 100-year garden. And Miranda McDonald details a recent trip that includes coming to terms with what it means to be divorced.

Many thanks to our advertising partners for their support, which allows us to remain a free publication. And, all of us at Extol greatly appreciate you, our readers.

 

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ONE MORE ROUND WITH ROMEO

romeo-3BY ANGIE FENTON

Photos by Christian Watson shot at The Pepin Mansion, 1003 E. Main St. in New Albany • thepepinmansion.com

NEW ALBANY BASKETBALL STAR SHARES HIS FAVORITE MUSIC, OFF-COURT COLLEGIATE PLANS AND ADVICE FOR YOUNG FANS

THERE IS NO QUESTION about the most popular issue Extol has ever published. A year and a half later, we still get requests for the January 2017 Extol Sports edition featuring Romeo Langford. In fact, we recently shipped a couple dozen copies to a middle school coach based in Kentucky (his players love Romeo) and even dropped off a solo one to a local who asked for more but we could only part with one because we have so few in our reserves.

Yes, the New Albany graduate is revered for his prowess on the basketball court, but he’s also beloved for how he treats his fans and the way he conducts himself with humility. “He doesn’t seek the spotlight – it seeks him,” Romeo’s high school coach Jim Shannon has told the media more than once.

When the 18-year-old and his family held a public event to announce his long-awaited decision to commit to Indiana University, more than 2,500 fans and 85 credentialed members of the media packed the New Albany High School gymnasium.

“I was really surprised,” admitted Romeo’s father Tim Langford. “It wasn’t our intent to draw so many people. We just wanted to give back to the fans and let them be a part of the decision.”

Now that it’s been made and his son will soon head to Bloomington, “We’re ready,” Tim continued. “We’ve been looking forward to it (and are) excited. It’s the next chapter.”

Before he turns the next page and begins his collegiate career, Romeo sat down with us for a quick Q&A at The Pepin Mansion, where he also took the time to pose for photos with two young fans.

This issue of Extol is dedicated, in part, to kids. What advice do you have for the young fans who look up to you?

Follow your dreams. Work hard at what you want to do because there’s someone out there who wants to do what you want to (accomplish), too.

Romeo Langford with his father Tim Langford.

Romeo Langford with his father Tim Langford.

What will study at Indiana University?

Not sure. I’ll do general (studies) until I figure out what to do.

What was your favorite high school class?

Math, especially algebra.

What was your least favorite class?

Government.

How do you spend your rare moments of downtime?

Playing video games.

What’s your favorite music to listen to?

I listen to all types but my favorite is Michael.

Michael Jackson? Can you dance like him?

(Laughs.) Nah.

Not even a little bit? No moonwalk?

(Laughs and shakes head.) Nah, I can’t do that.

What’s your favorite Michael Jackson song?romeo-2

“Another Part of Me.”

When is the last time you picked up the trumpet? (Note: Romeo’s Dad used to play the instrument too.)

I played at my church for the (2017) Christmas Day service.

Aside from your parents, who have been the biggest mentors to you?

(Family friend) Jonathan Jeanty, (trainer) Coach Deion Lee, (off-court trainer) Brian Fig and (trainer) Parrish Bryant.

Will you and your father continue your daily morning routine of talking on the phone before school?

(Chuckles.) Probably won’t call him at 6:50 in the morning (any more) … but I will call him.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In the NBA.


screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-5-01-16-pmBY THE NUMBERS

3,002: Number of points Romeo Langford scored during his high school basketball career.

264 of 294: Number of votes Romeo received to be named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball.

9.9: Number of rebounds Romeo averaged during his senior year of high school, along with 35.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3 steals per game

1: Number of basketball courts named in honor of the Hoosier. Floyd County Parks and Recreation decided to dedicate Romeo Langford Basketball Court at Kevin Hammersmith Memorial Park, 4400 Lewis Endres Parkway in New Albany, “in honor of (Romeo), following his historic high school basketball career at New Albany High School and positive influence off- the-court as a role model to Floyd County’s youth.”

35,800+: Number of people following Romeo (@yeahyeah_22) on Twitter

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Landing Mack Proves Louisville is Still Elite

screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-59-21-amBy Howie Lindsey

After a year filled with terrible news,

national embarrassment and scandal, you can’t

blame Louisville fans if they’ve been a little giddy

these last few weeks.

Not only did the Board of Trustees hire fan favorite

Vince Tyra as Louisville’s athletic director,

but Tyra then turned around and hired the next

Hall of Fame coach to run Louisville basketball,

Chris Mack.

We’ll get back to Tyra in a second, but the big

news is Mack.

Amidst scandal and turmoil, Louisville landed

one of the top young coaches in basketball.

Mack was the 2017-18 Big East Coach of the

Year. He led Xavier to three conference titles, and

his team landed a Top 5 national ranking and a

No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.

He already has 11 NCAA Tournament wins,

and he’s only 48 years old. He has four Sweet 16s

and one Elite Eight to his credit. And yes, the Final

Four has eluded him thus far, but he has built a

consistent winner at Xavier, and Louisville fans

can’t wait to see what he can do with Louisville’s

resources.

Mack is so well-respected in the coaching ranks

that he has been a candidate for several other Top

10 programs before. In fact, Mack was reportedly

pursued by Indiana, Georgetown and Ohio State

just within the last two years.

Which brings us to why Louisville fans are giddy.

Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive question

for Louisville fans: Are we still elite?

Given all the scandal and the likely future

punishment from the Brian Bowen recruitment,

there are some nationally who tried to paint the

Louisville job as a scrap heap. And there were some

loud voices locally who tried to portray the job as a

complete rebuild that would necessitate a former

player or first-time head coach to take the job.

Meanwhile others, like me, continued to point

out the incredible advantages Louisville has as a

program. Not only is it one of the Top 10 programs

of all time, the Cardinals are one of the mostprofitable

programs in the nation. UofL plays

in the most incredible college-only arena in the

world, and the facilities and fan support here

at Louisville are among the Top 5 in the nation.

Hiring Mack proves that Louisville is still elite.

Louisville is on another level than the jobs at Ohio

State or Indiana (jobs Mack turned down). And

THAT should make Louisville fans happy.

Hiring Mack is also an indication of the power

of Louisville’s status as elite.

Mack wasn’t just Xavier’s coach. Mack was a

Xavier lifer. He played there until 2000. He came

back to be an assistant coach at Xavier in 2004.

And he’s been Xavier’s head coach since 2009.

But the Louisville job just had too much allure.

Hear him tell it.

In a thank you note to Xavier just before he was

announced as Louisville’s coach, Mack wrote:

“For over 18 years I called Victory Parkway home.

From the day I walked on campus as a studentathlete

in 1990 – to returning as an assistant coach

in 2004 – to that life-changing moment when

I was named your head coach in 2009. … THIS

PLACE has always had my heart. That feeling

has made it so easy for me and my family to let

opportunities outside of Xavier come and go. No

other opportunity has ever felt ‘right,’ until now.

Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new

and unique challenge that I could not turn down.”

Louisville was too good to turn down.

After nearly three years of scandal, most

Louisville fans I know have this battered and

weary expression when talking about their men’s

basketball program. “Scandal fatigue” was one

of the many reasons listed why attendance was

down the last two seasons.

It was a messy divorce with Rick Pitino. And

the last six months have been spent hearing jokes

and snide remarks from friends in Kentucky or

Indiana gear. Louisville fans desperately needed

to hear someone outside the program tell them

they’re still attractive.

Mack did that in spades. One of the hottest

coaches in America just broke away from his

lifetime program to come coach at Louisville, likely

at one of the lowest points in program history.

And beyond that, when we heard for months

that no recruit would want to come to Louisville,

Mack turned that on its head. Even before he

officially landed the job he offered some of the

top talent in the country and made contacts with

several elite recruits still left in the 2018 class.

Speaking of good recruiting, let’s get back to

Tyra. Not only was Tyra extremely impressive

during his six-month stint as interim athletic

director, but he landed Chris Mack on the second

day of his term as the official AD.

Does Tyra still have more to learn about

collegiate athletics and running a department?

Sure. He’d tell you that as well. But his business

background and seemingly no-nonsense

communication style has made for good, positive

conversations around the athletic department.

The day he got the job as Louisville’s AD, Tyra

thanked previous Athletic Director Tom Jurich for

collecting such an incredible group of coaches

in all of Louisville’s sports. Tyra noted that day

he was ready to add another thoroughbred to

Louisville’s stable of coaches, and he did just that

when he hired Mack.

So even though Mack hasn’t won a game yet for

Louisville, it’s easy to see why Louisville fans are

giddy about the future of their program.


1Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive

question for Louisville fans:

Are we still elite?


off-the-page-feature-295x250

Off The Page with Extol | March Sports: Bad Call?

Off the Page with Extol takes a timeout to talk to our March Sports cover referee, Eric Ballenger.  During the NCAA Basketball tournament, the refs took a beating.  How does our favorite ref see the call?

There’s always more to the story. Find out more when you listen to Off The Page with Extol Magazine.
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Valentine’s Day

Former University of Louisville Basketball player Robbie Valentine talks about the hard facts and personal fouls he’s experienced off the court.

By Steve Kaufman | Photos by David Harrison

What could have been Robbie Valentine’s story gets played out hundreds – thousands? – of times every year.

The product of a single-parent family – whether from a small rural town or large inner-city – finds out early on that he is gifted at basketball (or another sport), which leads him (or her) to the path of a big college program.

There, he single-mindedly focuses on a professional career, puts his name in the draft and, maybe, he’s a lottery pick. Or at least a first-round pick. But maybe he’s a second-round pick, with less signing bonus and practically no contract guarantees. Or, he’s not drafted at all. So, he rides the D-League buses from Erie to Ft. Wayne to Des Moines, hoping to get noticed by the big-league teams, and hopes, too, to stay healthy. Because if he’s injured and his career is jeopardized, what’s he going to do with that one year of college and a once-famous name that’s now gathering some rust?

SCREEETT!!

That’s the sound of the phonograph needle grinding to a halt. Because, while it’s a way-too-familiar story, it’s not Robbie Valentine’s.

It could have been. But Valentine saw something else along the way. He saw a Radcliff, Ky., mother who raised seven children by herself, working in the local schools and cleaning other people’s houses to make sure there was food on the table and clothes on her kids’ backs.

Frances Valentine also instilled far more in her children: faith, self-respect and the v1value of education – that there was a world out there, beyond sports, even for her oldest son who was breaking all North Hardin High School basketball scoring records.

Of course, Valentine came along at a different time. Back then, there was no one-and-done. College coaches had time to nurture and mentor their players. Valentine needed that mentoring. He had been a high school All-American. The sky was the limit. But jumping for the sky was his downfall.

“When you jump high and come down, you put a lot of pressure on your tendons,” Valentine recalled. “Back then, we wore Chuck Taylors, Pro-Keds, Converse. Those shoes weren’t made for jumping.”

Valentine started seeing Dr. Rudy Ellis, the noted Louisville sports medicine physician, as early as seventh grade. “My file became very thick,” he said. “I popped both Achilles tendons, ended up with surgery on both knees. Plus, I had four screws in my back.”

But, along with his medical problems, Valentine developed a remarkable perspective for someone so young.

“When he came here (to the University of Louisville), he had a lot of natural talent,” recalled his Cardinals coach, Denny Crum. “But he also had a great attitude. Even as a freshman, he was a leader. Everyone respected him.”

Early on at Louisville, Valentine was playing only a few minutes a game. “I now realized I wasn’t going to make it to the NBA,” he said. “So why continue to dream for something you know isn’t going to happen?”

He began to see basketball as an opportunity toward something else. “It was going to help me get my college education,” he said. “I wanted to make it in the job world, someone who could speak, who could write, who could read, who could talk to anyone at any level.”

Crum instilled in him the idea of service to others. “He’s done more for his community in Louisville than anyone I know,” Valentine said, “and (Coach Crum) shaped our lives to do the same.”

Then there was the group of freshman basketball players who arrived on campus in the fall of 1982, shortly after Louisville won the 1980 national championship.

“I came in with Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson and Jeff Hall,” Valentine recalled. “When we were freshmen, seniors Rodney and Scooter McCray sat us down and said, ‘This is our senior year, but you guys are the people who’ll help us get there.’ And we did go to the Final Four that year.

“So four years later, Milt, Billy, Jeff and Robbie, we were the four seniors. And it was up to us to change the lives of those new freshmen kids, led by Pervis Ellison.”

“We could tell we had a great team, but it was young,” said Crum. “Robbie and the other seniors helped keep those freshmen in line.”

It was then that the four seniors came up with the word that would bind them for the next 30 years, changing the way Valentine began to live life.

“We seniors told the freshmen that the one word driving us all was ‘live,’ ” said Valentine. “Before every game, before practice, after practice, in the locker room, during time-outs, our chant was ‘one-two-three-live!’

“What did that mean to them? “When you grow up in a three-bedroom home with eight people, it’s pretty tough,” said Valentine. “Though all the odds were against us, to be able to live the life we lived and to make it as 22-, 23-year-old seniors, that’s pretty incredible.

“We weren’t supposed to be there. We all had some tough times at home. We wanted to make a difference, in school, on the team, in the community. Our goals were to make the next person better than we were, starting with those freshmen.”

They Did, Of Course 

On March 31, 1986, Louisville beat Duke 72-69 for the national title. But the injury-hampered Valentine, who’d played only 41 minutes that entire season, did not get into that game, but he was on to his next phase of what it meant to live. “My focus had become: What is Robbie Valentine going to do to become more successful in the community?”

He studied education in college, and then earned a master’s in sports management. He became Crum’s graduate assistant coach. He joined the broadcasting team for Louisville games on WDRB.

“He had the desire to succeed, and everyone knew and liked him,” said Crum. “I couldn’t wait to see what Robbie would do with his life.”

“The way I took it was, the more education I got, the more doors were going to v2open up for me,” Valentine said, “and the more doors that opened up for me, the more important people I’d meet, and that would help open even more doors.” He also got married in 1989, to college schoolmate Beth Kantor, and almost immediately had identical twin boys, Eric and Aaron. Daughter Brooke came along in 1993.

He launched Robbie Valentine Enterprises, running education programs – such as basketball camps – throughout Jefferson County and Southern Indiana. “We got some large grants for the work we were doing, and it was pretty successful,” he recalled. “I was determined to pass on the values that I’d learned as a youngster, so we required kids to go to class and study if they wanted to participate in the program, just as I had.”

Dejuan Wheat passed through Valentine’s program. So did Sara Nord. But the program was not only for the superstars, it was for any kid from the streets.

“When I started playing basketball through the Stithton Baptist Church in Radcliff, our pastor, Gene Waggoner, said that if we wanted to participate, we had to be a ‘Royal Ambassador.’ That meant attending Sunday School, being in choir, joining the youth group.”

In other words, you had to get involved and fully.

Valentine further walked the talk he’d learned by joining the board of the Greater Clark County Schools.

Robbie Valentine’s life was on-track. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

 

He was divorced in 2004. In 2008, the economy began to crumble and the grants dried up. In 2010, Robbie Valentine Enterprises Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

And that summer, he was arrested for a DUI in New Albany.

Life Intrudes 

As is often the case, the actual details are murky. According to Valentine, he left a New Albany establishment after dinner around 7 p.m. on a July evening and was soon arrested for driving under the influence. Eventually, the DUI was dropped and he was charged with reckless driving.

While the details were ambiguous, the newspaper accounts were not: “Robbie Valentine pleads guilty to reckless driving. The former University of Louisville basketball player and current Greater Clark County School Board member won’t go to jail for his drunk driving arrest.”

Back on the Ladder 

“That was a low point for me,” he said. “Divorce. Bankruptcy. Headlines. To get out of that, I went back to the past, and started thinking, ‘What do you do when you fall off a ladder? You take one step at a time to go back up.’ ”

All the contacts and networking Valentine had done, the support system he was v3able to build, started kicking in. Following a recommendation by Crum, he got a phone call from the Kentucky State Fair Board, offering him the opportunity to work for the KFC Yum! Center as assistant general manager.

“It’s the best job in America,” he said. “I love customer service, marketing, public relations and, of course, Louisville basketball. I’m involved with an amazing team of employees. And I get to deal every day with some of the best people in Kentuckiana and around the world.”

He also revived his youth basketball camps, although now he conducts them during the summer at the Yum! Center. He also does free camps around the area during the summer and the Christmas break, sponsored by the likes of Papa John’s Pizza and Vision Works. Participation at the Yum! Center camps is based on school attendance, grades and behavior.

“My program is identical to what Mom’s vision was when I was a kid, and my preacher, and my high school coach,” he said. “I put it all together and now I’m doing all the work they did for me to this day.”

Life Intrudes Again

But another low point was about to send Valentine reeling again. He had been divorced from his first wife in 2004 and, in 2010, married his second wife. In June of 2016, they were separated.

The divorce came through in October. Valentine was devastated.

“I think a lot of our issues were due to our similar childhood situations growing up,” he said. “A lot of times, when you don’t grow up in a normal family environment, it can affect you in different ways. I really believe that some of the things I dealt with as a young person made our marriage tough.”

Equally rough for Valentine was dealing with his divorce. “It really hurt me. When you go through those things, you have to find ways to pick yourself up. It’s that ladder thing, again.”

And so he turned to what would give him strength – his friends and his church.

Having Faith 

“I’ve been with Northside Christian Church in New Albany for six years,” he said. “George Ross and Nate Ross, the senior and associate pastors, have been absolutely my rock, the ones I could talk to about anything or everything. And they’d pray with me, or just listen to the hurt.”

“A person has to want to get well,” said George Ross, referring to the story in the Bible of Jesus at the healing waters of the pool of Bethlehem. “The paralyzed man said to Jesus, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool,’ and Jesus asked him, first, ‘Do you want to get well?’

Did Robbie want to be a survivor,” said Ross, “or remain a victim and blame everyone else?”

The two pastors led Valentine to the church’s 18-week Divorce Care course. “Divorce Care helps people process their hurt and brokenness,” said Ross. “It lets them know they’re not alone.”

“You discover hope and experience healing in a group setting every week,” said Valentine. “We talk about everything, all the hurt, the pain, the emotions, the anger, the shame, the ups and downs. The feeling is almost like death, except that the other person’s not dead, you’re still going to see her.”

Partly for that reason, Valentine chose to stay away from places where his ex-wife might well be, as well as where he’d be faced with an alcohol-fueled atmosphere. “I chose not to go to clubs, bars, environments where alcohol could be a 100 percent downfall for me,” he admitted.

“When people go through tough times, sometimes they drink and do other things because of the hurt they’re going through,” he said. “That doesn’t make you heal. It might make you forget for a few hours, but you’ll wake up with the same problems.”

Besides, he said, “I chose to go faith-based; (I’m) not interested in dating. They teach you to wait and heal before you get back in a relationship. If you’re not healed and you go straight into a relationship, what are you doing to yourself and to your partner?”

v4

The Rock and the Ladder 

Another rock for Valentine was Jim Shannon, the successful basketball coach at New Albany High School (last season’s Southern Indiana coach of the year).

“He saw my hurt. We went to the Outback in Clarksville, and he just listened. Sometimes all you need is a listener. And we can use basketball as a way to talk about the positives and the negatives. Sometimes, it’s good to lose, because when you lose, you learn what winning means.”

Overall, though, Valentine chose his support group carefully. “You want to be around as many positive men as you can, but you have to be careful how you choose to speak to women.”

If he wants a woman’s input, he said, he can talk to one of his five sisters. But he doesn’t necessarily expect sympathy.

“My family will sometimes tell me what I don’t want to hear,” he said. “They’ll say, if I’m going to whine and cry, don’t go to them.

“They’re tough!” With his faith firmly in place, Robbie Valentine has been rebuilding his life – or, with the analogy he likes to use, getting back on the ladder, step by step, and returning to the lessons he learned early in life – about commitment, perseverance and values from his boyhood pastor, Gene Waggoner, and his high school coach, Ron Bevers.

But most of all, there was his mother. A hard worker, a disciplinarian, believer in family and faith.

“When I think of my life as being difficult, I think of her. Difficult? My mom worked three jobs to raise seven kids by herself. That’s difficult. By comparison, my life has been blessed,” Valentine said. “I derive my faith from God and my strength and inspiration from her.”