In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. Just look at the 2018 draft, where it took 10 picks before Mikal Bridges became the first non-freshman (or international) to be selected. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. We move to the No. 5 overall recruit, Indiana's Romeo Langford (You can view all of the profiles to date here).
What he means for the Indiana’s recruiting class
Langford is the No. 2 ranked shooting guard in the class of 2018. The Indiana native gave his home-state Hoosiers a boost this season as the headliner of a top-10 class coming to Bloomington. All five incoming recruits for Indiana are ranked in the top 150, with Langford leading the way at No. 5 in the RSCI rankings as the only five-star prospect. Indiana’s Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All American, Langford staying in state for college is a huge get for second-year coach Archie Miller, especially after Indiana missed on all four ESPN 100 prospects from the state in the 2017 class. Not only does it help Miller's 2018 class, but it will likely give IU a lift when it comes to recruiting for 2019 and 2020. As the first five-star prospect headed to Indiana since James Blackmon Jr. in 2014, expectations are high for Romeo Langford and the rest of the Hoosiers this season. Langford will be joined by four-star forwards Jerome Hunter (No. 57) and Damezi Anderson, four-star floor general Rob Phinisee and three-star forward Jake Forrester.
How he fits
Langford averaged 35.5 points per game in his senior season for New Albany, breaking the school’s single-season scoring record with 923 points before departing to become a Hoosier. He ended his high school career with 3,002 points, finishing fourth all-time among Indiana high school players and becoming the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He shot 56% from the field and 36% percent from three during his four years. The highly-decorated 6’6” shooting guard will help Miller as he crafts a new backcourt following the departure of starter Robert Johnson (14.0 points per game) and Josh Newkirk (7.1). Junior guard Devonte Green will likely see time starting at the point alongside Langford in Indiana’s remodeled backcourt, while Clifton Moore and Justin Smith should play on the wing. Sophomore Aljami Durham and fellow freshman Phinisee will also compete for time with the backcourt off the bench, as Miller tries to form a consistent starting lineup.
The Hoosiers had nine different players over the course of the 2017–18 season make starts, with pass-first playmaker Green seeing seven straight to end last season. Langford will feed off of Green’s selfless style of play and post serious points for IU, with likely All-Big Ten big man Juwan Morgan, the team’s leading scorer last season, getting buckets in the paint. The freshman phenom should play perfectly at the two for Indiana in a season when it needs new leaders to run the floor. Langford's listed frame of 215 pounds at Indiana is 25 more than his high school weight, and the added muscle mass will allow the already aggressive Langford to pose an even greater physical threat on the court when he’s attacking at the rim or challenging opponents on the perimeter—two of his greatest strengths. He’s an explosive scorer with great vision and passing abilities who seriously raises the Hoosiers' potential this season.
Importance to Indiana's success/team outlook
With Morgan’s return to college, the Hoosiers bring back most of their frontcourt and return a number of other players—like Green—who saw time on the court as underclassmen. Add in Race Thompson, the redshirt freshman who came to Indiana as a four-star prospect in 2017, Saint Mary's grad transfer Evan Fitzner and the talented 2018 recruits and the program should trend upward in its second season under Miller. The hope is that Langford will help the Hoosiers return to their former basketball glory, and, while he will certainly help the team continue to rebuild, Indiana will still likely be fighting for a spot in the top 25. Langford has what it takes to be a one-and-done top draft pick, but keep in mind that the team he’s playing with is coming off of a 16–15 season where it finished at an even .500 in an average basketball conference (sorry, Big Ten fans).