Sounding more like a fan than an NBA executive, Jonathan Supranowitz gushed about Langston Galloway.
“Everybody loves Langston,” he said. “It’s been that way pretty much from the time he started. He comes across as such a nice, genuine kid. Now it’s like a cult thing.
“The fans in Westchester loved him first, and then fans in New York picked up on it. My son loves him. He’s 6. I’m paying for him to go to a clinic on Sunday just so he can work with Langston.”
The road to the NBA isn’t always paved with praise and accolades. The former Christian Life Academy standout knows that.
Yet less than a year after latching onto a spot with the New York Knicks’ summer league team, Galloway was an NBA second-team all-rookie selection. He started 41 of the 45 games he played for the Knicks, averaging 11.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Galloway is certainly a darling to Supranowitz, the Knicks’ vice president of public relations, and to the team’s fans. He has become a fan favorite and ranks behind only established star Carmelo Anthony.
There’s a video that details Galloway’s exploits and highlights — from buzzer-beating shots to rim-rattling dunks. Legendary former Knick Walt Frazier, now a team broadcaster, is on his speed dial.
Instead of taking a bite out of the Big Apple, Galloway is locked into a rigorous workout schedule, spending the offseason in nearby Westchester, where he got his D-League start.
“When I didn’t get drafted, I didn’t let it get me down,” Galloway said. “I didn’t know if I would make it, but I knew I had to try, so I put everything I had into it. My family and coaches supported me. In college, I was more of a shooting guard who played some point guard. I was told I needed to be a point guard who could shoot.
“I’ve got to keep improving.”
Not just a dream
The odds were against the 6-foot-2 rookie who left Saint Joseph’s as the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers with 343 and as its No. 2 scorer with 1,991 points. That success and the four state high school titles Galloway won in five seasons at CLA don’t earn NBA style points.
“Before the draft, I wasn’t getting calls for tape or calls from teams about Langston,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “So, no, I wasn’t surprised when he wasn’t drafted. When Langston came and told me about his goals, I was a little surprised.
“But if there ever was anyone capable of doing it … making it to the NBA … it was Langston. I’ve had a lot of players sit across from me the way Langston did. They had a dream to play in the NBA. Most of them left it as a dream. Langston worked and did the things he needed to do make it happen.”
Galloway went off on a series of tryouts before landing a spot on a Las Vegas summer squad. He scored 17 points in one summer-league game and netted a spot on the Knicks’ training camp roster.
After he was waived by the Knicks, Galloway signed on with the club’s first-year D-League squad in Westchester.
“I took (being cut) as a learning experience,” Galloway said. “The Knicks showed they were interested in me, and the coaches there stayed in my ear. I listened and concentrated on getting better.”
Galloway averaged 16.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 19 games with the Westchester Knicks. When injuries created what appeared to be a temporary opening on the New York roster, Galloway got his chance. He signed a 10-day contract Jan. 7. On Jan. 27, Galloway was signed for the rest of the year.
“When I watch him play, the thing I see is his maturity,” Martelli said. “I’m 60, and he’s more mature than I am. He looks like he belongs, and he has from Day One.”
The step beyond
Large boxes filled with sneakers are delivered to the Baton Rouge home of Larry and Jeralyn Galloway several times a week.
“They’re trying to sign (Langston) to a shoe contract,” Larry Galloway said. “We keep getting these boxes, and I ship them to him in New York. That’s a lot of shoes.”
Larry Galloway walked the walk, just not in a modern-day pair of sneakers like his son wears. A 6-6 standout at Capitol High, the elder Galloway left home to play football and basketball at Virginia State from 1970-75.
Making the move from a historically black college to the professional ranks was common in the 1970s. With both the NBA and ABA still in operation, there were roster spots available.
Larry Galloway went to camp with the New York Nets of the ABA. He was in training camp with Julius Erving but got cut. Larry Galloway returned the next year, and the odds seemed better.
But that’s when the NBA and ABA merged. The elder Galloway went from camping with the Nets to drills with the New Orleans Jazz. He remembers the kindness of two Jazz players, former Xavier star Bruce Seals and ex-Grambling standout Aaron James.
“There were so many players,” Larry Galloway recalled. “Because of the merger, you had 20 to 30 more guys trying to make every team. So I decided it was about time to look for another kind of job. Langston knows all about that. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we wanted him to go for it.”
Larry Galloway got a call about a tryout the following year. By that time, he was set to be hired by Exxon full-time and stayed with that job for 38 years.
“My salary was going to between $40,000 and $45,000 at Exxon,” Larry Galloway said. “That was about the same as an NBA contract at that time (1977). Things sure have changed.”
Indeed they have. The Galloways got to attend 20 of Galloway’s 45 NBA games last season, catching most of the games played in southern states.
“We’ve been crying tears for months now, but they’re tears of joy,” Larry Galloway said. “He knows Walt Frazier and Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe ... guys I idolized. It’s a dream for us, too.”
Right player, right time
Galloway scored 19 points in his Madison Square Garden debut Jan. 8. On April 14, he scored a career-high 26 points against Atlanta, making 6 of 8 3-pointers. After that game, Galloway gave his mother his jersey.
His first game Jan. 7 was in Washington. Former LSU and University High standout Garrett Temple has carved his own NBA niche with the Wizards and was a friendly face in an opposing uniform.
“I was nervous,” Galloway said. “I started feeling better about it once I got a shot to go down and made a free throw. But I shot a couple of airballs. The coaches and my teammates told me to relax and play the game. I took their advice and kept playing. That game in Atlanta meant a lot to me because my family was there to see it.”
Galloway appreciates the surreal nature of his rookie season. He was the only undrafted player on the all-rookie squad and played the fewest number of games, but he still got some votes for the first team.
Former Christian Life coach Todd Foster is now a minister in McComb, Mississippi. Foster keeps in touch with Galloway mostly by text these days.
“You hope one day a guy like Langston gets that shot at the NBA,” Foster said. “I think not being drafted worked in his favor. You know how they say, the harder you work, the luckier you are? That’s Langston.
“As players move from high school to college and the pros, you see the stage get too big for them. The stage has never been too big for Langston. He’s right at home.”