By Brian Taylor
As the March Madness fairy brings lots of games and goodies to sports fans everywhere this week, I’m continuing my quest to remind some of you readers out there of the stars of yesteryear, that may (or may not) have made it to the league.
Everyone knows my disdain for that school in Durham, NC. No, I’m not talking about UNC Central, I’m talking about the Evil Empire, also known as Duke. It’s true that I can’t stand those guys, but they manage to recruit like crazy and stay competitive for decades. Before the new millennium started, Duke had a particularly crazy squad, which was lead by Coach K, and future NBA All-Star (and maybe the only Duke guy that consistently panned out) Elton Brand. Playing Robin to Brand’s Batman was a wiry kid from “the Last Frontier”, Alaska who had an insane jumper and ice water in his veins. I’m talking about the “Alaskan Assassin”, Trajan Langdon.
Most folks will tell you that J.J. Redick had the smoothest jumper ever in college ball, blah, blah, blah. But on the real, Trajan Langdon was “Redick-u-lous” when it came to making it rain from downtown. As a Tar Heel fan, the one guy I wanted to stop more than anyone was Langdon. He inspired me to throw lots of things at my television whenever he played, because he’d always find a way to score. He actually finished ahead of Grant Hill on the Duke all-time scoring list. Trajan was also another “easy-to-hate” Duke guy because he fit the clean cut, Dudley Do-Right, “Stepford Baller” type that Duke always seems to have on their team. (A quick side note: when was the last time you saw any Duke players with tattoos or braids? I can’t remember anyone even having arm/wristbands. It’s like they’re all programmed to be perfect in Durham).
After going down to Rip Hamilton an Khalid El-Amin’s UConn team, Langdon tried his hand at the NBA level, with disastrous results (picked by Cleveland in the 99 draft, ahead of Ron Artest and Kirilenko). Trajan only got in 39 games worth of work in each of this three unproductive years in the “L”.
My theory about Duke guys in the NBA, is that they’re so used to being coddled in Coach K’s system that they can’t do anything else at the next level until they completely revamp their game. Down in Durham, Trajan got his floating off of screens, Reggie Miller style, but routinely struggled to get his own shot going. Let’s not even mention how every guy he guarded, fried him offensively.
Still carrying his passion for ball, Langdon took the overseas route to get his game on track, and it was overseas that he finally blew up. Playing for CSKA Moscow, Trajan led his team to their first Euroleague title since 1971, and turned into a major star overseas.
Currently, CSKA Moscow is on a run and has made it to Euroleague’s Final Four, but if you wanna see some nifty shooting fundamentals, check the links homey!