WASHINGTON — Joshua Langford had a nice game Thursday for Michigan State in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. Langford did not have one of his better days Friday when the Spartans bowed out.
Langford and his teammates may not have many lifelong memories from these two games in the nation’s capital. They might have some from earlier in the trip, though.
Michigan State’s team went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesday, the newest addition to the Smithsonian museum complex on the National Mall.
“It was exciting to me. That’s the heritage for me and also just history. I’m always interested in learning different things,” Langford said. “This basketball thing — right now everybody is down, and everybody is upset. It’s OK to be like that. I am, too. There’s really more to life than basketball. Basketball is really just a platform from God to go different places and show people how to live the right way. It was exciting to be there and get to be a student of history.
“Everything that I saw was great. I really want to go back. It was only like an hour. It was almost like a tease, really.”
The Spartans arrived Wednesday in Washington and had time while preparing to play Thursday to check out one of the toughest places to get into in this city. There has been a huge demand for timed-entry tickets to the museum, which opened in September.
“We had told the coaches earlier that day that we really wanted to go. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” senior Alvin Ellis III said. “We heard the waiting list can be like six months, but we were able to get in there for that experience even for a little bit.
“A lot of us just wanted to see all of the history, all the facts that we didn’t know anything about. We didn’t have enough time, but it was a great, great experience.”
This is the first time the Big Ten has staged the conference tournament in Washington, an East Coast city far away from traditional hosts Indianapolis and Chicago and the heart of Big Ten country. A quick field trip like this was enough to make Michigan State coach Tom Izzo a fan of the idea.
“I wish I had more time,” Izzo said. “I did do something. I got my players in the African-American museum. That was only two hours. That was like the most awesome thing you could do. I wish we had more time to go do some of those things. Two hours was like, you got in the front door. But it was still good. It was good for them.”
There are a variety of exhibits at the museum, but many players gravitated to a few specific areas in the brief time they had inside. Some of the memorabilia in the sports exhibition includes a bat used by Willie Mays and tennis rackets used by Althea Gibson. There are boxing gloves signed by Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston was not specifically named after Clay, but this was another opportunity for Winston to see more about the most famous man with his name.
“I’d say the sports exhibit on the top,” Winston said when asked about his favorite part. “To see the history of the sports and see the first people to do things and make landmarks that started it for all us. That was great.”
A few players said it was tough to choose what their favorite part of the museum was. Ellis mentioned a Michael Jackson jacket and other memorabilia from famous African-American musical artists. Junior point guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. called the trip “another way for us to grow as a team.”
Langford knew right away what will stick with him.
“Nat Turner’s Bible. It was his actual Bible,” Langford said. “I learned that they didn’t want him to be remembered, so what they did … after they killed him, they burned him all the way to ashes. The only thing that was left was his Bible. I thought it was just great to see something so important that he carried from so long ago.
“I’m always cognizant that there is more to life than basketball, but I also have great people around me to remind me. This was a great reminder of that. A lot of times, you forget about the things that people went through for you to be able to be in this position today. Being there made me more thankful of the people who came before me and allowed me to be in this position to play basketball and do different things they may not have gotten to do back then.”