TOM DAVIS: Indiana University hoops, Romeo Langford would be mutually beneficial

Former New Albany High School basketball player Romeo Langford rests during a break in a game this past season at Floyd Central High School. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

College basketball fans only have two more weeks remaining in their anticipation of where the nation’s most coveted (remaining) high school prospect will decide to play next season (and possibly beyond that).

New Albany High School senior guard Romeo Langford will announce his decision April 30 at 7 p.m. in the Bulldogs’ gymnasium.

The 6-foot-5 athlete will choose between Indiana University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Kansas.

It remains to be seen what level of impact Langford ultimately has on his team, but you can get an idea of how he’ll blend in by studying a roster and his statistics at New Albany.

Each of the three programs will certainly figure out how to utilize Langford in a significant way, but this column will provide an in-depth look at how Langford would blend in with the Hoosiers if he chooses them.

Rotation

Indiana will get junior post De’Ron Davis back from an Achilles injury over the summer and he will pair with senior forward Juwan Morgan as the starting 5 and 4-men.

Sophomore forward Justin Smith will compete with redshirt senior Zach McRoberts, as well as incoming freshmen Damezi Anderson and Jerome Hunter at the wing spot, which leaves a couple of perimeter positions open.

Indiana returns junior Devonte Green at the point and will also bring in freshman Rob Phinisee at that position.

Sophomore Al Durham is capable of playing either position and Langford would most likely battle him for a starting spot, joining a rotation at the 2-3 spots of Smith, Anderson, Hunter, and McRoberts, with two of those guys used sparingly.

Shooting woes

Indiana struggled to shoot the ball well from the perimeter this past season, as it made just 32.2 percent from beyond the arc. To add to the dilemma, the Hoosiers graduated its most productive perimeter player in senior guard Robert Johnson.

Improving that facet of play will be a critical area to address this off-season.

“Shooting the ball in the spring,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said during this past season in regards to his team’s need to shoot better, “(and) shooting the ball in the fall. Looking at our practice stats, looking at our shootings drills in practice and the percentages, we have guys that shoot a much different percentage in practice and in our workouts than we do in the game.

“That’s probably just the one outlier that from a percentage standpoint, why would we say we’re a better shooting team than we have.”

Langford may help that aspect of play – to a degree.

At New Albany, Langford made just 35 percent from beyond a closer arc during his career and that was against high school defenses. It’s an understatement to say that the road will be much more difficult from an offensive perspective next season for him.

Langford made just 36 percent from 3-point range as a senior, which was an improvement from his junior season (31 percent).

Propensity to pass

In Miller’s first season, the Hoosiers were markedly improved in terms of their ball-handling.

Indiana improved its turnover margin from minus-3.9 before Miller arrived to a plus-1.8 last season.

In particular, Green improved in his ability to distribute as this season wore on.

“Guys understand right now what we’re asking them to do in terms of the passing, the reads, the looks that guys are getting,” Miller said late in the season. “I think we’re a much better passing team than we have been. When you’re a better passing team it’s inevitable you start to shoot the ball a little bit better. We’re taking less challenge shots as well.”

Langford’s skill set would blend in nicely with Indiana.

With opposing defenses collapsing on Langford over the past four seasons, he was a willing distributor and increased his assist totals in each of the past three seasons.

As a senior, he passed off for 97 assists and only turned the ball over 62 times.

“We are very pleased just to be able to be in the situation right now as a staff and as a team where you enjoy being around one another,” Miller said in mid-February. “Sometimes at this time of the season you get tuned out and that’s not the case here.”

That leads me to my final point.

“The team, the team, the team”

Former Indiana University assistant coach and eventual color analyst Royce Waltman used to always preach the same message during every season that he coached during his five-plus decade career: Nothing was more important than team cohesion.

“The team, the team, the team,” the late Waltman would espouse as the most important part of having a successful season.

In Miller’s first season in Bloomington, that positive attitude is something that he quickly discovered and was very happy to do so.

“We haven’t changed all season long,” Miller said of his team’s attitude. “Whether it’s up or down or a team we’ve lost (to) they’ve always been able to come right back to practice and take what we’re trying to do and get better. I think that’s what we’ve done.”

From day one, Miller found a locker room that bought into what he was teaching and despite having inconsistent performances, Indiana continually tried to get better, which really showed in the last two months of the season.

Following a bad performance on the road at Wisconsin in early January, this team didn’t lay down very often, despite closing the season on a three-game skid.

“I’ve never seen these guys quit,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen it fracture. The locker room has never fractured. They’re coachable.

“This team gets better through losses and through ups and downs.”

I can’t speak of the locker room politics at Vanderbilt or Kansas, but the desire to represent the program in a positive manner exhibited by the Hoosiers was mostly impressive this season. Miller’s guys had some very low moments (from the opening tip) to “fracture,” but as he stated, the group never did.

That has to resonate with any recruit, not just Langford.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.

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