- By keeping a beloved super-prospect within state lines, Archie Miller has gained critical momentum for his rebuild in Bloomington.
The last big question of the 2018 recruiting cycle has been answered. Romeo Langford revealed on Monday night that he will play for Indiana next season. During an announcement in the high school of his gymnasium that attracted a reported 85 media members and prompted fans to begin lining up hours beforehand, the five-star shooting guard out of New Albany, Ind., chose the Hoosiers over his two other finalists, Kansas and Vanderbilt.
Prior to revealing his choice, Langford was the lone undecided recruit ranked in the top 15 of the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite. He finished his decorated stint at New Albany as one of the top scorers in the history of the state of Indiana, putting up 3,002 career points over the course of his prep career and averaging 35.5 per game as a senior. Langford’s superlative play was often greeted with rousing ovations and “IU” chants.
His lofty status as a prospect owes primarily to his refined scoring ability and physical tools. He stands 6'6" with a 6'10" wingspan and can supply points in bunches by attacking defenses off the dribble or knocking down three-pointers. Langford projects as a high-level scorer during his freshman season and is considered an early candidate to be selected near the top of the 2019 NBA draft.
Although he drew scholarship offers from a long list of high-major powers, Langford narrowed his list to three last November. Langford stuck to that trio even after Chris Mack, the new head coach of Louisville—once viewed as a serious contender for Langford—reached out to gauge Langford’s interest and Kansas was implicated in the FBI’s sprawling investigation into corruption across college basketball. He visited Indiana multiple times and was persistently courted by Archie Miller and his staff after Miller replaced Tom Crean as the program’s head coach in March of last year.
The three programs still vying for Langford’s signature in the final stage of his recruitment appealed to him in distinctly different ways. The Jayhawks, less than a month removed from a Final Four appearance, presented a strong possibility of winning a conference championship and playing high-stakes hoops deep into March, while Vanderbilt could attract him with two other five-star signees (power forward Simisola Shittu and point guard Darius Garland). Indiana had the home-state angle.
Most of the Hoosiers supporters who flock to Bloomington to check out Langford next season already will be familiar with his electric game, and many of them already will have seen the state’s 2018 Mr. Basketball winner in action at New Albany. Langford has cemented his legendary status in the basketball-crazed state, and he’ll elevate his profile among hoops-inclined locals with every bucket he converts inside Assembly Hall.
Langford’s decision arguably amounts to a bigger win than any Miller notched in his first season overseeing the program. After years of frustrating returns on in-state recruiting efforts toward the end of Crean’s tenure—including zero prospects ranked in the top 25 of the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), a composite incorporating data from multiple scouting services, since 2014—the Hoosiers fended off several bluebloods for Indiana’s No. 1 player.
That Miller and his staff were able to prevail in a heated battle on their own turf for an elite prospect despite having very little to sell on the court at this point bodes well for the program’s future. With Langford in tow, Indiana will sign three of the class of 2018’s top four recruits in the state of Indiana, according to the 247Sports Composite. (The other two are four-star Riley High small forward Damezi Anderson and four-star McCutcheon High point guard Robert Phinisee.)
The Hoosiers are coming off a season in which they were blown out in their home opener by Indiana State, lost another game at Assembly Hall by 20 against a different in-state mid-major (Fort Wayne), recorded their lowest win total (16) since 2010–11, posted a .500 record in a soft Big Ten and were bounced in the first round of the conference tournament by Rutgers. Those results didn’t stop Indiana from reeling in a recruit that could have spent what could well be his only college season contending for a conference and national championship.
The Hoosiers do have enough pieces coming back to make a run at the Top 25 and battle for real estate at the top of the Big Ten standings, but they feel at least a year away from entering the NCAA tournament with realistic hopes of delivering a deep run. If Langford is as good as advertised, Indiana at the very least should be an attractive watch for neutral observers, which definitely was not the case for much of last season.
Assuming rising senior forward Juwan Morgan withdraws from the draft after declaring without hiring an agent earlier this month, the Hoosiers’ blend of proven veterans (like Morgan) and promising youngsters (like rising sophomore forward Justin Smith) should result in a second-year leap for Miller. How large of a leap will be determined in part by Langford’s capacity to spark an offense that ranked 10th in the Big Ten in points per possession in conference play in 2017–18.
Had Langford picked Kansas or Vanderbilt on Monday, the Hoosiers still would have entered next season with realistic hopes of rounding into a substantially better outfit than the one that stumbled to a No. 71 finish in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency rankings last season. Langford’s commitment, a massive triumph off the court, brightens Indiana’s short-term outlook on it and raises expectations for what they can accomplish under Miller in the long run.