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GARY — Several times over the last four years, Pamela Stalling watched her son walk into the family's home here, shuffle into his room and close the door. She could hear the tears flow on the other side.

"I knew we had to be strong," Stalling said. "No matter what happened, I knew good things would come if we all kept working and believing."

That is indeed what happened.

Langston Stalling earned a 4.37 GPA and graduated from Bowman Academy as the valedictorian of the Class of 2018. He also was awarded a Lilly Scholarship, which provides Indiana students with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to any Indiana university, public or private.

The 6-foot-5 Langston Stalling, who averaged 18.6 points a game on the wing for Bowman Academy last season, is attending Valparaiso and plans to walk onto the basketball team. 

But he endured a lot of setbacks and heartache to get there.

Langston Stalling enrolled at Bowman Academy in 2014 as a freshman, with one goal in mind.

"I wanted to play for Marvin (Rea)," Langston Stalling said of the coach who had led the Eagles to a state championship game each of the three seasons before Langston Stalling arrived. "We were very close."

But in January 2015, Rea — who led the Eagles to the Class A state title in 2010 and the Class 2A state title in 2013 — was fired by Bowman. He was alleged to have bought uniforms for the team without authorization, but his attorney said an invoice for the jerseys was sent in error.

Langston Stalling received another gut-punch in January 2017.

The IHSAA suspended all of Bowman's athletic teams from postseason play due to multiple rules violations. The school's membership in the IHSAA also was placed on probation.

Most of the violations were in the boys basketball program under coach Migel Nunnery, who was fired during the investigation.

Consequently, Langston Stalling did not play in a postseason game his junior or senior season.

Then on Dec. 5, 2017, Rea was killed in an auto accident on Interstate 65 near Lafayette. This one hurt more than the other setbacks.

Langston Stalling said Rea would pick him up at 5:30 a.m. when he was younger to go to the gym and work out. Rea would call him just to ask how things were going in his personal life.

"We had a great relationship," Langston Stalling said. "(His death) hurt my heart."

Bowman coach Tyrone Robinson said several of his players this past season lost their way because all of the turmoil the last couple of years and didn't finish the season.

But, thanks in part to his family's support, Langston Stalling kept moving forward.

"Langston worked hard every day. No days off," Robinson said.

Pamela Stalling graduated from Horace Mann High School in 1985, where she participated in volleyball and cheerleading, was vice president of her class and was an academic honors student. She attended Saint Louis University and is now a financial coach for the Chicago Urban League.

Ken Stalling, Langston Stalling's father, was a 1982 graduate of Gary Roosevelt. He played for the Panthers' basketball team that advanced to the state championship game, where it lost to Plymouth and Scott Skiles, who went on to play and coach in the NBA.  

Ken Stalling attended Indiana University and is now the dean of students at Bowman Academy.

"We always kept our kids busy in the summer," Pamela Stalling said.

"We've kept our kids involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs and church activities," said Ken Stalling, pointing out how important Trinity Baptist Church is to his family. "Our faith allows us to persevere through tough times."

Army, Colgate, Yale and Miami (Ohio) were all showing interest in Langston Stalling, who has three older siblings. But the Lilly Scholarship could only be used at an Indiana college or university.

So it came down to Butler or Valparaiso. He picked the Crusaders and coach Matt Lottich.

"Langston is an extremely positive young man in the Region," Lottich said. "It's sometimes difficult to tell how a player's game in high school will translate into college but the success he's had off the court, overcoming some tough situations, lets me know he will find a way, like he's always done.

"With the academic scholarship he has he is a walk-on for us. Usually, a walk-on is a manager that has to earn minutes for us. But Langston is a player on this team. He will have a jersey and he will dress for games."

Langston Stalling began summer classes at Valparaiso on July 1 and plans on majoring in biochemistry.

He is a part of Lottich's dream of getting talent from Northwest Indiana to choose Valpo, something that hasn't happened much in recent decades.

"We want to be the Region's team," Lottich said. "This is a very talented area and I think it's under recruited by many. If we can get young men like Langston Stalling to look at our program we would be very happy going forward."

Langston Stalling is expected to have an opportunity to play baseball for the Crusaders, too. He is a talented left-handed pitcher with a lot of upside, he believes.

"I love baseball," Langston Stalling said. "I want to see where basketball takes me, but baseball is an option, too."

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Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.