BOZICH | From done to done deal, Langford helps Miller make Indiana a player again
At times at least a half-dozen schools were considered the frontrunner to sign New Albany star Romeo Langford, Indiana was not one of them -- until he picked the Hoosiers Monday night.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) — Duke. Done deal.
That was the first recruiting report filed on Romeo Langford long before he scored all of his 3,002 points and was named the first Mr. Basketball at New Albany High School. Duke was Langford’s dream school. Isn’t it everybody’s dream to play for Mike Krzyzewski?
Louisville. Done deal.
Folks around New Albany will tell you Langford was a Cardinals’ fan in elementary school. Langford will tell you former U of L player Luke Hancock was the only guy he ever asked for an autograph.
Kentucky. Done deal.
John Calipari had Langford locked up the minute he named him to the U.S.18-and-under national team that Calipari coached last summer. New Albany is closer to Lexington than it is to Bloomington.
North Carolina. Done deal.
Who was the first recruit Carolina coach Roy Williams visited after the Tar Heels won the 2017 NCAA title? Aw, shucks, it was Langford at New Albany High School.
Kansas. Done deal.
The Jayhawks have always been a happy landing spot for one-and-dones, and Langford was big pals with Quentin Grimes, a committed Kansas recruit. New Albany wore adidas, the signature shoe at Kansas.
Vanderbilt. Done deal.
Darius Garland was the point guard that Langford always wanted on his team, and Vandy coach Bryce Drew once asked if he could land a helicopter at New Albany High School during a recruiting visit.
“Now that you mention it, there were a lot of done deals along the way,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said.
Am I forgetting anybody?
Indiana. Done deal.
Langford made it official Monday night in the New Albany High School gymnasium in front of about 2,500 fans, who reacted as if they had been handed a 6-foot-6 Powerball ticket. Melissa Bostock of New Albany made certain she was the first person in line, setting up her folding chair at 2:36 p.m. nearly 3 1/2 hours before the doors opened.
They weren’t the only ones. Cody Zeller, Eric Gordon and Calbert Cheaney, three of the most popular and successful Indiana players over the last three decades, quickly tweeted their congratulations. Three TV stations and a radio station from Indianapolis as well as a national writer from Philadelphia joined the Louisville area media in claiming the 85 issued credentials.
This was a decision that resonated from Vincennes and Locust streets in New Albany to Kokomo to Terre Haute to New Castle to Washington to Tipton to Bedford to Evansville to Anderson and any other Indiana town that has sent a basketball player to Bloomington.
B.J. McCoy wasn’t at the NAHS gym. She was watching her son at junior high track meet in Floyds Knobs, Ind. McCoy said fans followed Langford’s announcement press conference on their phones — and cheers spread across the bleachers when Langford tugged on his crimson-colored Indiana hat instead of the blue Kansas and black Vanderbilt caps on his podium.
After a ceremony that was part-career celebration, part-community rally and part-college announcement, Langford as well as his father, Tim, confirmed that Indiana essentially had only a spot in the footnotes of the Romeo Recruitment a year ago.
Archie Miller was just taking charge in Bloomington. The Hoosiers missed the 2017 NCAA Tournament (a party they also missed this season). IU had not recruited a player from Floyd or Clark counties since 1993. There were other items on the Scratch Indiana list. That was merely a starter set.
One reason Tom Crean was removed as the Indiana coach was he whiffed in his recruitment of the six straight Mr. Basketballs. Gifted in-state kids like Kyle Guy (Virginia), Kris Wilkes (UCLA), Jaren Jackson (Michigan State), Malik Williams (Louisville), Trevon Blueitt (Xavier) and Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern) did big things elsewhere this season. It was no longer cool to go to Indiana.
All Miller could say was that he planned to build his team by recruiting inside-out, scrambling to sign as many Indiana kids as possible.
That was a mandatory press conference soundbite, a remnant from the Bob Knight days. Crean had once said the same thing.
Skeptics laughed. College basketball has changed. Few coaches can protect their state borders. Crean won two Big Ten regular-season titles with guys from Maryland, Alabama, Virginia and New York as well as several Hoosiers.
What happened? How did Indiana get a recruit ranked the 6th best player in America?
Who knows? One thing that happened was that Miller didn’t get the memo that Indiana had no chance — and that some of the competition helped by eliminating itself.
Duke moved on to other players, signing the top three guys in the class. The Calipari-Romeo bond crumbled overseas. Louisville had too many parties in Minardi Hall. Mr. Langford had questions about things he’d recently read about Kansas. Skeptics questioned Langford's toughness. a knock that Romeo's father mentioned during his time at the microphone.
All of those factors combined to give Miller and his staff the opening they needed to sell, sell, sell Langford on the idea of Making Indiana Basketball Great again.
This is a program that has won five national titles, but has not won any in the last 31 seasons while avoiding the Final Four since 2002. This is a program that had not signed the state’s Mr. Basketball (Zeller) since 2011. This is a program that had not signed three in-state players in the same recruiting class since 2012.
This is also a program that was screaming for a shooter as well as a guard could create his scoring opportunities over 33 ragged games during a 17-16 season. That read like a job description for Romeo Langford, who averaged better than 35 points for the Bulldogs last season.
Langford saw that — and saw that two other in-state kids (point guard Robert Phinisee of McCutcheon and wing Damezi Anderson of South Bend Riley) were already on board.
Yes, he heard the love from Indiana fans when he visited during Hoosier Hysteria last October — and kept hearing it all season when fans showed up in IU gear and chanted his name everywhere New Albany played. That couldn’t hurt, but Langford is essentially a quiet kid of few words. Many say attention is not something that motivates him.
Langford heard it, but he said what he really heard was the way Miller coached his team when he made an unplanned unofficial visit to Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall to watch Indiana defeat Northwestern by 20 points on Jan. 14.
He sat several rows behind the bench. What Langford saw and heard was unfiltered Archie Miller, not a sales pitch that could be scripted and polished for an official visit.
“When he got home, I asked him what he learned,” Tim Langford said. “He told me he really liked the way that Coach Miller coached his team. He liked the offense they ran. He could see himself developing there.”
Did something change that day?
“I think so,” Romeo Langford said. “It helped make me look at Indiana differently.”
Indiana. Done deal.
Just as nobody was predicting a year ago.
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