Shake the monkey
Langdon frees himself of postseason shooting woes
Posted: Tuesday March 23, 1999 01:00 AM
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Trajan Langdon has been Duke's money player the last three seasons, the guy the Blue Devils go to for clutch 3-pointers and smooth baseline jumpers.
That was until the postseason rolled around, where Langdon was a major flop in 1997 and '98.
He shot 19-for-68 from the field (28 percent), including 11-for-38 from beyond the arc as the Blue Devils were ousted from the NCAA Tournament by Providence and eventual national champion Kentucky the last two seasons.
The 6-foot-3 senior rectified his tournament shooting woes in a major way the last two weeks. Duke (36-1) now heads to the national semifinals against Michigan State with a sizzling shooter in its already potent arsenal.
After missing the first tournament game against Florida A&M with a foot injury, Langdon has gone 19-for-30 in his last three games, including 11-for-18 from 3-point range in winning the East Regional MVP award.
"There are monkeys [on your back] and then there are monkeys, and if the monkey is how well you've done in late postseason play that's a good monkey to have on," coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday of Langdon. "A lot of people never play with that monkey."
Some of Langdon's shooting problems late in those years can be traced to Duke's lack of offense, where Langdon was not only the major option in the team's attack, but sometimes its only option.
"The fact is he hadn't shot like the player he is," Krzyzewski said. "It may be because we've been so dependent on him that it wasn't the monkey but it was us on his shoulders that he had been carrying. Maybe we've just given him a little bit more help.
"Trajan is not one who would ever succumb to pressure, but he is a human being and he can get worn down. He got worn down because he carried us -- further probably than we should have advanced a couple of times."
Langdon, one of the best free-throw shooters in Atlantic Coast Conference history and a 44 percent 3-point shooter this year, said he didn't give his postseason shooting troubles a thought. That is until the media brings it up.
"You guys put it in my mind. That's all you guys talked about," Langdon told reporters Monday. "I wasn't concerned about it. I wanted to do well, and then I came down with the foot injury, all I was thinking about was getting back on the court."
He did admit there is less pressure on his shooting this year with a host of other offensive options.
"It is a different mindset. I put too much pressure on myself in the postseason these last couple of years. We have such a talented team they really don't need my shot, or if I don't shoot well we can win. We've even won big when I haven't shot well."
Krzyzewski said he feels a special bond with Langdon, who helped bridge the gap between Duke's disastrous 13-18 season of 1994-95 and this year's dominating Final Four squad that has won 31 straight."When he walked off the court [Sunday], my smile was a smile for Trajan," Krzyzewski said of the team's East Regional title win over Temple. "When I saw that kid and watched him walk off I wished I could be him at his age. I could never have been him at his age -- and I thought I was a pretty hot ticket. So, I admire what he has done for us."
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