NS on Romeo Langford, Part III: Why he should go anywhere but Indiana University
This is the third in a four-part series of stories touching on New Albany High School basketball star Romeo Langford.
Only two recruits in the current high school senior class nationally hold much interest at this point in their college selection process — Romeo Langford and Zion Williamson from South Carolina.
But here in Indiana, only one name is even mentioned.
Langford has picked up where he left off last season, lighting up gyms in his epic quest to catch Damon Bailey and become the state’s all-time leading scorer.
But scoring stardom is the only place he should follow Bailey because Langford should never step foot on a college court wearing the cream and crimson.
As long as the NBA one-and-done rule holds up for a little while longer, the 6-foot-5 New Albany guard likely has no interest in collecting a diploma on any campus, so the discussion of where he should end up should start and end with this: Who can provide Langford the most in one season?
Now if a kid like Langford was headed to college for four years and really looking to build a college legacy, the whole conversation would be different. But we can all be honest in saying that any top 5 high school player is going to play college basketball only because they have to. The current one-and-done rule doesn’t provide other options unless you like small Lithuanian villages straight out of high school.
So we have Langford needing to go to school for one year. Expectations then become clear: raise your NBA draft stock and TRY to win an NCAA title. With Langford down to Indiana, Kansas, and Vanderbilt, good arguments can be made for both Kansas and Vanderbilt for both of the above reasons. Nothing points to Indiana, and for good reason.
Langford has spent a couple of years thriving in superstar status. Someone sets a goal, Langford aims and hits higher. Indiana Hoosiers basketball is a different breed. Indiana fans are some of the most rabidly loyal in the nation, I will give you that. Through the few-and-far-between ups to the consistent downs, Indiana fans still strap on their candy stripe pants and crimson polos to cheer on the Hoosiers. But here is the catch: they rarely like the Hoosiers.
Loyal? Yes. Cynical? Sometimes to a fault.
So why, if you are Langford, do you subject yourself to that for the one year you are required to spend on a college campus? A standard will be set by those rabid Indiana fans for Langford. If he reaches it, will it be good enough? Or will they say they need more? Will Hoosier fans try to bleed Langford dry with expectations?
Indiana is not a college basketball blue blood. Not anymore. But the expectations of many Hoosier fans point otherwise. This isn’t a Romeo Langford thing. Indiana fans expect the unlikely and they expect it strongly. Langford will never live up to those expectations, no matter what he would accomplish in one year in Bloomington. If he gets them to a Sweet 16, most Indiana fans will wonder why he couldn’t manage to get them to the Elite 8. Conversely, if Romeo Langford somehow managed to get Vanderbilt to the Sweet 16, he would be a legend for making the Commodores relevant again.
If I am Romeo Langford, I have already signed my National Letter of Intent to Vanderbilt. Yes, there is no issue in weighing your options and fully vetting Indiana and Kansas. At either school, Langford would get the attention. But at Vanderbilt, he would bring the attention to the university and therefore, more credit and attention to himself. Minutes on ESPN doesn’t always equal draft stock, but it certainly does not hurt.
The Commodores have already signed two other top 15 recruits in Darius Garland (who chose Vandy over Indiana) and Simi Shittu. Adding Langford would allow Vanderbilt to reinvent themselves with an identity befitting its freshmen stars. At Vanderbilt, what does it hurt? This is a program that would build its game, for that one year anyway, around Langford and his would-be cohorts. At Indiana, he would be expected to fit into Coach Archie Miller’s game and identity, as he should be.
And kudos to Miller for hitting in-state recruiting hard, especially with Langford. But he is not Indiana’s guy either. Not this Indiana anyway.
Indiana, under Miller, needs to pride itself on being more of a 3-and-D program, strong perimeter shooting and hard-nosed defense that Tom Crean couldn’t teach if he wanted. Be tough. That is what Indiana needs to do. Romeo Langford is not that guy. He is a playmaker. Sure, he can shoot. Sure, he can probably play some defense. But Langford wants the ball and he wants to go. Langford wants to score at a high clip to show scouts that he can be electric on a professional level and Indiana shouldn’t get in that foot race.
Indiana is not a place to cut your teeth before heading into the lion’s den of the NBA. Yes, there is the argument that neither is Vanderbilt. But one of those schools has the ability to play chameleon and one doesn’t. It is one of the things that no doubt attracted Garland to the Commodores and out of the grasp of the Hoosiers. Langford and Garland aren’t exactly a package deal, a la Duke’s coup of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones for their 2015 national title. But they did visit both the Indiana and Vanderbilt campuses on the same weekend. And in the era of building super teams, talent often follows talent.
At Indiana, Garland would be just another face. A guy whose draft stock would be weakened by being forced into a team-oriented role. At Vanderbilt, he could be a star.
Does Romeo Lanford want to be a star? Nashville is a much better locale for that.