On most successful basketball teams, it is important that players are aware of their roles. That often helps teams move towards their goals and helps players grow and understand what is needed of them from their coaches and teammates on – or even off – the basketball court. Sometimes, players find those roles themselves and fit perfectly in them, but one can argue that some of those roles can also limit certain players, as might be done with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade first-year point guard Langston Hall.
Even though the 29-year-old Hall has proven to be a capable scorer on all levels where he has played, he has always been more inclined to serve his teammates and set them up for points rather than go get baskets himself. Ever since Hall has been playing basketball, as early as the youth leagues when he was just 10 or 11 years old, there are stories from his coaches that are a testament to his unselfish play.
"It's not always fun when it's just one person scoring every time, all the time."
"When I was younger I was always one of the bigger kids in my age group, so I was usually one of the better basketball players," Hall recalled. "It was also because I have an older brother, four years older than me, so growing up I just always played with his friends where I would be the young guy.
"And then, when I played with my friends, it was a little easier for me to score. So, I would always try to help some of my teammates, who maybe weren't as good as me, just get easier baskets so they could get confidence to have fun, too. Because, it's not always fun when it's just one person scoring every time, all the time, so I wanted to make sure they were enjoying themselves. Make sure they were having fun and it just always stuck with me."
Hall has had some memorable moments on his basketball journey. He was an accomplished college player at Mercer University, where he was chosen as the 2014 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year award and the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year, an award also won by current EuroLeague players Thomas Walkup of Zalgiris Kaunas and Kyle O'Quinn of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
That same year, Hall made national headlines by leading Mercer to one of the NCAA Tournament's historic upsets over mighty Duke.
"When you're a pro, you need to know what you do best and that's what you need to focus on."
"That's a life-changing moment", Hall said. "When you're a little kid, you're always playing in the backyard and you're thinking you're in college beating teams like Duke. So, you're going up against Duke and you beat them in real life, it's crazy. It's a special moment."
Hall went on to start his professional career with Pistoia in the Italian League. He ranked fourth in assists in the 2014-15 season and helped the team to the verge of the playoffs. Hall moved to fellow Italian side Pallacanestro Cantu the following summer, but did not stay there long, transferring mid-season to Telekom Bonn in Germany, where hall endured multiple coaching changes in just five months.
"I think that year really helped me a lot, even though it wasn't my best year playing, it was my best year learning," said Hall, revealing his positive approach to the way he looks at things in life, and basketball. "You learn you need to work hard outside of practice, you need to just keep going, keep going, even if you're not playing that much. You just have to keep working because you never know when the next opportunity is going to come and you need to be ready for it."
His opportunities did come. He spent the next year and had a pretty good season with Kolossos Rhodes in the Greek League and after a brief stop with Cibona Zagreb in Croatia, he returned to Greece to join Promitheas Patras in the fall of 2017 and remained there for three seasons, leading the team in re-writing club history. The team made a step up every year, going from a Greek League also-ran to a EuroCup contender, with Hall starring in the 2019-20 season with 11.4 points and 5.7 assists per game.
"I think every year we got better and better as a team and I think I developed, getting better and better," Hall said.
It was also a place where he started getting more recognized for the very unselfish way he plays the game, as a pass-first point guard who puts the team above any individual success. It is an approach he's had from his earliest days in youth basketball until today.
"When I got older, I knew I wasn't always the best scorer, so I knew I had to figure out other ways to impact the game. I knew I had guys on my team who are really great scorers and guys who maybe are great shooters or guys who are great finishers at the rim who couldn't get their shot on their own," he explained.
"I thought being the point guard, it was my job to help them get easier shots, help them gain confidence and put them in situations where the game would be easier for them and I think it's always been like that for me ever since I started playing point guard."
That type of play and approach to the game, however, must have kept Hall under the radar because, as he noted: "Sometimes stats are like the sexy thing."
"When a guy averages 16-17 points, you think 'yeah, he's a good player for sure'. A guy who averages 8, 9 or 10 points, but maybe a few more assists and plays the game the right way, I guess you can say it's not always the sexy thing to bring a guy like that in," Hall commented.
However, even feeling like an underdog, just like most of the teams he has played for, it never turned Hall away from what he believes and how he thinks he should approach and play the game.
"I know I'm not a guy a coach brings in and says 'all right, so we need to go out there and score 15 to 20 points every night'. I can score that many points, but that's not the thing I do best. When you're a pro, you need to know what you do best and that's what you need to focus on," Hall added.
This mindset, and understanding, comes from the way Hall was raised, how his parents taught him to go about his life, and in the end, how to approach basketball.
"You just want to treat everybody with respect because you never know how and what impact you can have on somebody's life."
"In reality, basketball is not going to define you," Hall said. "It's going to be the person you are, the teammate you are, the person you are off the court. Those are the type of things that people want to be around. They want good guys on their team. And even if you're a really good basketball player but if you're a terrible person, they probably look over you and take someone who's a better person."
Building your basketball career while going under the radar becomes a lot easier when one carries himself in such a way, on the floor and in life, like Hall has been doing.
"You just want to treat everybody with respect because you never know how and what impact you can have on somebody's life. That's what my family preached to me. Treat everybody with respect, everybody the same way. Just growing up like that, and watching my parents treat the other people like that, it just trickled down."
In real life and in the way Langston Hall has been playing basketball.