Langford ready to embrace expectations at IU

NEW ALBANY — For half an hour, Romeo Langford sat upon the dais, slightly slouched and quiet, while the storm brewed around him.

Approximately 3,000 fans packed into the New Albany High School gym waited for Langford’s fascinating, protracted recruitment to end. When it did, the place erupted.

Langford didn’t have to say anything. As an 18-year-old of few words, it was probably fitting. He simply picked up the crimson Indiana hat resting in front of him and placed it on his head, allowing the throng around him to react appropriately.

Shrieks of joy filled the historic gym on Monday at the first sign of Langford’s future. He’s going to become a Hoosier, embracing all the expectations that come with that decision.

This was a transformative occasion for Indiana basketball, the first blue-chip commitment of the Archie Miller era. In Bloomington, Langford sees himself continuing his legacy at a school where its hungry fan base is eager to embrace him.

He’s up for the expectations and everything that comes with them.

“With the people they got coming back and coming in, I just feel it’s a national championship team,” said Langford, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball honoree.

Time will tell whether that potential is within reach for the 2018-19 Hoosiers, but for one night, it felt like anything was possible.

After years of speculation, rumors and a winding trail through the recruiting process, Langford had made up his mind. He reached his conclusion last week, choosing Indiana over Kansas and Vanderbilt. But with throngs of fans expected to descend on his hometown Monday, Langford kept that decision close.

He told only his family, informing them of his plan — and his reasons — last weekend. The coaches at IU, Vanderbilt and Kansas had to stream the video of his announcement ceremony to learn his decision, themselves.

Chief among Langford’s reasons for picking Indiana was Miller, IU’s second-year coach.

During his first 13 months on the job, Miller made Langford’s recruitment his top priority. By this spring, IU became the popular pick to land Langford, who ranks fourth in state history with 3,002 career points. Last summer, Langford announced seven program finalists on a list that also included Louisville, Kentucky, UCLA and North Carolina, before finally trimming that list to three.

“I just told them about Archie Miller and coach (Ed) Schilling,” Langford said. “I knew I couldn’t just tell them where I was going and just be fine with it. So I knew I had to have some things in my head last Saturday for me to tell them. They listened to me and understood it.”

A turning point in his recruitment came when Louisville was implicated in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball last September, at which point Langford dropped the Cardinals from consideration. When Kansas was mentioned in connection with the FBI investigation earlier last month, it gave his father, Tim, pause.

“Kansas, it pushed it out for me,” Tim Langford said. “Just having that name on your school. I didn’t take them out of the three verbally, but in my mind, we just didn’t want him going there and anybody asking him that type of question. So we don’t want him going to school there, we don’t care how good the basketball is.”

Langford, meanwhile, moved forward by weighing what mattered most to him.

He considered his experiences in Bloomington during the past year, during which time Indiana overtook Louisville and others to become a serious contender for his commitment. Langford watched Indiana closely as Miller put his mark on the program last season, examining how he would fit inside the coach’s style of play. He attended IU’s annual Hoosier Hysteria in October and later visited the campus in January, sitting behind the Indiana bench for the Hoosiers’ blowout victory over Northwestern.

That afternoon proved instructive to Langford.

“I just liked how it wasn’t just him on the bench that was helping the players out and talking to them,” Langford said. “It was all the coaches. He also let his players play through mistakes. He doesn’t just take you out just for making a mistake. He lets you play through it and coaches you through it. Really, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Langford, considered the No. 6 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class, the No. 2 shooting guard and the top player in the state, is a potential one-and-done talent who fills a glaring need for the Hoosiers at shooting guard, where he’ll be counted on to provide an immediate scoring punch.

If there’s any question as to whether he’s capable of handling expectations, consider his past few years. Langford is a player who embraced the hype, the sold-out crowds and the off-the-court demands that came with it.

For years, Langford has run willingly into the storm.

At Indiana, he’ll do just that, carrying Miller’s IU program with him.

“It feels good,” Langford said. “… It is a sense of relief.”

6 comments

  1. Miller, Schilling, Phinisee and now RL. Increasing BB IQ, guidance, talent and energy. Hard to get your arms around all this positive direction change taking place in just 1 year. Look out B1G! IU D and motion offense in uniform and on court again. March on HOOSIERS.

  2. This is great news for IU. But as I see it, the greatest value RL’s signing provides is the statement it makes about IU BB and our coach. Romeo has made it cool to play for IU again. His signing makes a statement about Archie and his staff. Romeo has made IU a top destination again. Instead of being a school that the best HS talent avoided in favor of current blue-blood programs, with the stroke of a pen, Romeo has made it OK for future McDonalds All-Americans to give serious consideration to playing for IU. As gifted as Romeo is, his greatest impact on IU BB in the 2018/2019 season will not be on the basketball court. We need to temper our expectations about how far next year’s IU roster is going to go. But if Romeo comes back for a second year, he’ll likely attract another five-star recruit to IU, and then we could have something really special at hand! Assuming he stays healthy, Romeo and his classmates will help IU win at least 23 games in the 2018/2019 season. That will be a major improvement. But if he returns to IU for a second season, the Hoosier Nation will have legitimate reason to elevate expectations regarding a return to the final four.

    1. IU may have the best returning player in Morgan and best incoming player in Romeo. They will have a good amount of experience, talent, and athleticism filling in around them… I’m more bullish on ‘18-19 than the following season because we know we have Morgan and Romeo, both of which will probably be gone the following season.

      I think your statement about his impact is dead on… I feel a heck of a lot better on our chances of signing multiple top-20 recruits now in next year’s class and moving forward, which means the future is bright as well.

  3. Do you ever not temper the heat of excitement? Hell, you’re like a Hoosier double boiler(Purdue pun intended).
    Can we just get excited rather than tempering the custard to not curdle in less than one nanosecond after we first turn on the burner? Final Four this year, baby! Kick up the flame! Scald the cream! Mark it down!

  4. Geoff, with the exception of Morgan, IU’s most talented players next year will all be freshman. Assuming Morgan returns and remains healthy, IU will be a much improved and deeper team. But most of that talent will lack the experience and physical maturity (i.e., strength) necessary to make a really deep run next season. And we still don’t know if our big man will be fully recovered from his Achilles injury. But with a full year of experience and physical maturity that occurs between freshman and sophomore seasons, that same group of talented players should be primed to go deep in 2019/2020.

  5. Archie doesn’t recruit the same type of freshman projects as our last coach…The b-ball IQ is higher in the recruit and the teacher.

    I think Justin Smith is pretty damn talented….Durham as well. We’ll have great balance in maturity and talent….along with a coach who will find the right mixes to put on the floor. Anything can happen in March, but this team will have a better shot at a deeper run than Crean’s #1 ranked team.

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