With the 2020-2021 Michigan State men’s basketball season over, we will take individual looks at how each Spartan performed over the course of the year.
In our fifth edition of the series, we are examining how Josh Langford did in his fifth and (almost certainly) last season in the program.
Averages per game: 28.0 minutes, 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 37.7% fields goal percentage, 34.3% three point percentage, 74.5% free throw percentage
The sheer fact that Josh Langford made it through the season more or less healthy has to be viewed as a gigantic accomplishment. Not only that, Langford started 26 out 27 games, while only missing one contest. Considering his freakish injury history in recent years, it not only speaks to his will while fighting back, but also to his tremendous heart. As a role model, Tom Izzo has sang Langford’s praises for a long time now. If anything, this season has been a reminder of just how great a teammate and how great a human being the graduate senior truly is, and how much respect his teammates and coaches have for him. Any younger player who watched Langford this season, seeing how he put his body on the line for an astonishing 28 minutes per night, will have learned something about commitment to your craft and what true love for the game actually means.
With that said Langford‘s contributions went far beyond just being out on the court. He was never shy about taking big shots, especially during the latter part of the season. At times he struggled with confidence on both ends of the floor, but for the most part he was a truly calming presence for his teammates. He moved the ball well, found his spots and stretched the court really well. His 16-rebound effort in the big home win against Illinois in February is maybe one of the more memorable games of his entire career, especially considering how the team had its back against the wall by then. In general, Langford took it upon himself to always try to contribute in different ways when his shot wasn’t falling, which is of utmost importance to any team.
With all the happiness about Langford making it through the season healthy, his on-court play left a lot to be desired. His shooting percentages were the worst of his career and he basically never really found a consistent stroke from the outside. In spurts, his shooting ability would show up and he could get hot for a few minutes here and there but overall it wasn’t enough over the course of the entire season. Sadly, Langford’s injuries have robbed him of his explosiveness and it showed whenever he decided to drive the ball into the paint. The jumping ability and the physicality often just weren’t there, which is all the more frustrating, considering how that part of his game was really coming along nicely before the serious foot injuries hit. In terms of his overall offensive skillset, it was hard for Langford to really add consistent play-making. He always was a scorer first and foremost and understandably that didn’t all of a sudden change this year.
The biggest problem for Langford was on the defensive end, though. Once known and praised as one of the premier defenders that the program had seen in the last decade, he just was a shell of his former self on that end in 2020-2021. He struggled mightily to move laterally and couldn’t keep up with quicker wings at all. His physical shortcomings made him hesitant, and he was often caught in between when defending dangerous perimeter players. None of it was effort-related, and to anyone watching, it was clear that Langford just had lost a step or two on the defensive end after his various injuries. He just could not move as he used to earlier in his career.
It was a bittersweet season for Josh Langford, but one that should have everyone tipping their cap to the former five-star recruit. Due to special NCAA rules because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Langford would be eligible for another year of college basketball. However, after the loss to UCLA, he said it was his last year in East Lansing and recently there were rumors about him transferring. A final decision hasn’t been made yet, but it would be surprising to see him return to Michigan State. Whatever Langford chooses to do, any Spartan fan should wish him all the best in the world for his future endeavors.
OVERALL SEASON GRADE