Leonard Langdon's story is not an uncommon one.
After a stellar freshman season with the Central Lakes College men's basketball team, Langdon returned this season as an All-Northern Division and All-MCCC pick and the team's designated star player.
But at the beginning of this season, something was missing for Langdon. The drive to play the game was absent and came to a head before CLC's fourth game of the season when he was dismissed from the team.
So there Langdon sat in the stands, watching his teammates and friends continue the season without him.
"I just wasn't focused on basketball at the time," Langdon said. "I wasn't ready to play basketball. It was really hard to sit in the stands and watch. I knew I could be out there contributing. But I chose a different route."
Six games went by and that's where Langdon's story takes a turn. The saying, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone," rang true with Langdon and the hunger to play came back.
Langdon approached sophomore captains Eli McVey and Louis Roseman about returning to the team.
They went to head coach Jim Russell, who set a few ground rules for Langdon's reinstatement.
First, each player and coach had to vote yes. Second, Langdon had to lose weight, and third, he had to get his schoolwork in order. Not only did the entire team give a unanimous yes vote, but Langdon dropped 15 pounds and got back on track in class.
"When kids get in a funk like that there's usually something else going on," Russell said. "You get down on yourself and you let everything else slide. But he set some short-term goals that were attainable and he started feeling better about himself. The hunger was back.
"This is a reason why I coach. Leonard's one of those kids that once you get to know him you just want to see him do well. For him to come back and say, 'I made a mistake,' it takes a big person to do that. To me, this whole situation has made it a successful season."
Redemption is a term often thrown around in the world of sports. And since his reinstatement, Langdon has been redeeming himself.
School: Central Lakes College
The 6-foot-4 forward from Milwaukee leads the Raiders and is 11th in the Northern Division in scoring at 15.3 points per game. Langdon, who uses a devastating combination of brute strength and cat-like quickness, is ranked fourth in the division in field goal percentage at 58 percent.
Langdon scored a season-high 26 points last Saturday in a loss at Vermilion College and put together back-to-back 22-point games against Minneapolis and Northland. He's done all that despite being double- and triple-teamed.
"When I step outside guys sag off me," Langdon said, "and when I hit the outside shots they come back out on me and then I drive around them. When I do get the ball down low I look to the middle for someone cutting because I know the double-team is coming."
For being a big man, Langdon possesses the passing ability of a guard and can step out and hit the 3-pointer. But it's his passing ability that sets him apart from other post players.
"Leonard's got point-guard instincts," said Russell. "He's not afraid to give up the ball. Our post guys are leading us in scoring and the reason for that is Leonard gets triple-teamed but gets everyone else involved."
Langdon never knew how badly he loved basketball until it was taken away from him. Now that he's regained his zeal for the game, opponents had better watch out.
"When I came back I was a lot more focused on the game," said Langdon. "I never missed the game before because I had been playing it my whole life. To have that time just to watch made me more hungry and gave me more desire to play."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.