AUBURN HILLS – Yes, Langston Galloway was named for Langston Hughes. His mother chose it and plastered her son’s bedroom walls with Hughes’ poetry. Yes, “Dreams” was among them.
Which helps explain why Galloway came out of St. Joseph’s in 2014 as a four-year starter – 132 out of 133 career games – who’d averaged in double figures every season and went undrafted yet wasn’t tempted by lucrative offers to play in one of Europe’s many credible leagues.
Galloway had a dream. It wasn’t to star in Italy, France or Spain. It was to play in the NBA. And so he did.
“If people know me behind the scenes, I’m all about confidence,” he said after wrapping up a Pistons voluntary workout last week in advance of training camp’s opening next week.
“I put in the work. I’m hard on myself, harder than anybody else, any critic. I go out each and every night and put it all on the line knowing that, hey, I’m going to make something happen. It might be on the defensive end, might be on the offensive end, but something positive is going to come out of it.”
The Pistons’ signing of Galloway raised a few eyebrows, coming so swiftly on the first day of free agency. Even Galloway admitted his surprise at the swiftness of his pursuit.
“I really thought it was going to take a while. I thought I was going to be on the board for a long time. My agent was pretty optimistic. We knew there were a few teams talking about me, but nobody really said, ‘We’re going to take a chance on you and go with you.’ But, hey, once 12 o’clock hit and I got an unexpected call from Stan, that was amazing.”
In retrospect, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Galloway checked off every box when Stan Van Gundy ticked off the attributes he hoped to add to the roster over the off-season: competitive spirit, 3-point shooting, ability to make plays from a position other than point guard, perimeter defensive ability.
Adding high-character players is on Van Gundy’s evergreen wish list and the Pistons knew Galloway checked off that box, as well – and emphatically. In fact, Van Gundy said character reports on Galloway were “off the charts” and his new teammates, without prompting, unfailingly mention him as a positive force even though they’ve only briefly known him.
One who knows him a little better, Anthony Tolliver, explains it: “Lang’s a great guy. He’s one of those guys that you just love as a person and that’s before you even hit the court. He’s easy to get along with. Just a great guy.”
Galloway joined Tolliver in Sacramento last February, part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade with New Orleans.
“Once you get on the court with him, he was one of my favorite teammates, one of my favorite guys to play with. He plays the right way. He plays hard, he can shoot the ball, he makes the right decisions. He just plays basketball the right way.”
Perhaps the one person in the world who could best predict the outcome of a Van Gundy-Galloway relationship gave Galloway encouragement that he was making the right choice in coming to Detroit. Galloway had some inkling, he said, that the Pistons were interested. So he asked a player he admires for their ties to St. Joe’s – Jameer Nelson, Van Gundy’s point guard in Orlando – about not only the Pistons but the other teams he believed were possibilities for him.
“He said Stan’s a great coach – he’s hard on his players. I’m like, that’s what I need. I need a coach that’s going to be hard on me and push me to be great. That’s what I want to be.”
Galloway helped save a roster spot for the Pistons, too, as his ability to play both backcourt positions enabled Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower to fill out their roster without a pure third point guard. They added Dwight Buycks to a two-way deal for protection, but Galloway is experienced playing on or off the ball.
“I’m pretty comfortable playing one and two,” he said. “Being a combo is great, I feel like, in this league right now. You look at the different guys that can handle the ball and that can really shoot it … me and him are two different players, but Steph Curry is a guy that brings the ball up but at the same time he doesn’t have to handle the ball. Golden State is the perfect example of that. I think I can really help out being able to bring the ball up and then, when it’s time to knock down some shots and help out where I can, I think I can really bring that to this team.”
And if Langston Galloway can envision doing it, chances are it will happen for a kid who woke up every morning in Baton Rouge, La., to poetically inspired dreams that lifted him above the long odds he overcame to make himself an NBA player.
“I did. I know I did,” he said. “I was actually talking about that with someone the other day. I’m just so blessed to be in a position where I’m one out of 450 players in the whole world to be playing in the NBA. I cherish that every single day. It’s amazing to me.”