If Romeo Langford chooses that path, spurning the state of Indiana wouldn’t be new
When New Albany senior Romeo Langford makes his decision on April 30 on where to play college basketball, his surface struggle is not new.
A college choice often goes deeper than the travel versus home state debate. But with that at the forefront of people’s minds, it is important to note that Langford — should he win Indiana Mr. Basketball — will have to decide if he wants to be the first winner of the award to stay in-state since 2015 and just the third in the last 10 seasons.
There is also a bigger goal when it comes to picking a college on the visibility end. Of the Mr. Basketball winners to turn pro since 2006 winner Greg Oden, just two were not NBA draft picks. Only four players in that time have stayed in-state.
In the big picture, no Indiana high school player ranked in the ESPN Top 100 has signed with an in-state program since 2015 with 9 of the last 11 of those ranked players choosing to leave Indiana for the college level. Over the last 12 years there have been 39 in-state players ranked in ESPN’s top 100. 16 have stayed in state with eight going to Purdue, four headed to Indiana, two to Notre Dame and one to Butler. The math is simple, 23 of those players chose elsewhere.
This all poses the question: who are the top 10 Indiana high school players in the last decade that have left the state in pursuit of basketball glory in college and beyond? This list does not include players from out of state who came to Indiana to play at a prep school like LaLumiere, but does include state natives who finished high school out of state at prep schools.
2017 – Kris Wilkes, UCLA
Wilkes wasted little time in committing to the Bruins just before his senior year started, getting all of the questions, likely love from Indiana fans and potential future hate out of the way. Wilkes visited his three finalists: UCLA, Illinois and yes, Indiana in September of 2016 before making his decision in mid-November of that year. Wilkes averaged 20 points during his final trip on the AAU summer circuit with the Indy Hoosiers and won Mr. Basketball as a senior at North Central. He was the 26th best player in the 2017 class according to ESPN.
Wilkes found himself in the starting lineup at UCLA as a freshman this past season as the second highest rated recruit for the Bruins. He averaged 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds while starting in 32 games. Wilkes has declared for the NBA Draft, but has not hired an agent and, if most mock draft boards are any indication, he will likely return to UCLA for the 2018-2019 season.
2017 – Jaren Jackson, Michigan State
Jackson finished his high school career at LaLumiere, but was always an in-state guy, playing his first three seasons at Park Tudor where he won two state titles. The McDonald’s All-American lost his shot to be Mr. Basketball when he went prep and ultimately chose the Spartans over 17 other scholarship offers, including five schools in the state: Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, and IUPUI.
In his lone year at Michigan State, Jackson started 32 of 33 games, averaging 11.3 points and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Jackson has also declared for this year’s NBA Draft and is projected to be a lottery selection.
2016 – Kyle Guy, Virginia
Guy wasted no time in passing on his home state. The 2016 Indiana Mr. Basketball picked Virginia in October of 2014 before the start of his junior season at Lawrence Central. Ranked 27th in his class by ESPN, Guy avoided the pressure of staying at home by committing early, passing on offers from Butler, Indiana, Indiana State and Purdue in the process.
Rumors of a transfer after his freshman year with the Cavaliers turned out to be unfounded and Guy found success this past season. Guy was named the ACC Tournament MVP, averaging 16.7 points per game in leading Virginia to the title. He was also named Third Team All-American.
2014 – Trey Lyles, Kentucky
If anyone didn’t endear themselves to the in-state fans it would be Lyles. After committing to Indiana in the fall of 2010 before he ever even played a high school game, he switched that commitment two years later and then signed with Kentucky just before his senior season at Arsenal Tech. As a senior, Lyles won Mr. Basketball and led Tech to a state title while averaging 23.7 points and 12.9 rebounds.
At Kentucky, Lyles, ranked 6th in the country in his class by ESPN, was the lead part of one of the more heralded recruiting groups alongside Karl Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis. All four now play in the NBA along with former Kentucky teammates Andrew Harrison, Andrew Harrison and Willie Cauley-Stein. Lyles averaged 8.7 points in a balanced Wildcat rotation that went 38-0 before losing in the Final Four to Wisconsin. Lyles was part of the All-SEC Freshman Team and was drafted 12th overall in 2015’s NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. He now plays for the Denver Nuggets.
2013 – Zak Irvin – Michigan
The 2013 Mr. Basketball, Irvin followed former Hamilton Southeastern teammate and 2012 Mr. Basketball Gary Harris north, just to a different school. Like many on this list, Irvin passed on a chance to stay home with offers from Indiana, Butler, and Purdue. Irvin committed to Michigan at the end of July 2011, before his junior season and just over a month after receiving an offer from the Wolverines.
Irvin’s career didn’t have the same trajectory as many of his Mr. Basketball compatriots. He is one of two Indiana Mr. Basketball winners since 2006 to turn pro and not be drafted by a NBA team. He did, however, have a solid four-year career at Michigan, being named to the Big Ten Tournament team as a senior in 2017, helping the eighth-seeded Wolverines to an unlikely title. After playing in Italy most of last season, he landed with the G-League’s Westchester Knicks in January of this year.
2012 – Gary Harris – Michigan State
Harris was the 11th best player in the country in his class according to ESPN, but spurned chances to join Indiana, Purdue, and Notre Dame after a Mr. Basketball senior season at Hamilton Southeastern. Harris led the Royals to a tough sectional final loss as a senior, but with a record of 22-3 at the end of the season. His 25.4 points per game as a senior pushed him on his path to Mr. Basketball, finishing his career with over 1,500 points.
Harris was immediately thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman at Michigan State and averaged 12.9 points as a freshman and 16.7 points as a sophomore. Those two years proved to be considered down years for most Michigan State teams with no Final Four appearances, reaching the Sweet 16 when Harris was a freshman and the Elite 8 in his second season, after which Harris declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. He was selected 19th overall by the Chicago Bulls and traded to the Denver Nuggets on draft night. After a slow rookie season, Harris has started in 197 of 200 games played over the last three seasons. His averages of 17.5 points, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals and 34.4 minutes per game this season are all career highs.
2012 – Glenn Robinson III – Michigan
Robinson did not have the chance to pass on much from his home state as a senior at Lake Central. Despite having a father who has a lot of in-state lore from his time at Purdue and as a Mr. Basketball, the major in-state programs did not come calling. He did ultimately pass of offers from Indiana State, IUPUI and Valparaiso to join other sons of ex-NBA players Jordan Dumars and Tim Hardaway Jr. with the Wolverines.
Robinson had his breakout high school performance in January of his senior year, earning MVP honors at the Brandon Jennings Invitational in Milwaukee. He ended his senior year considered a five-star recruit and the 18th best player in his class by ESPN, despite a much lower ranking when he committed to Michigan prior to his junior season. As a freshman, Robinson helped Michigan to the national title game, a loss to Louisville, but passed on a chance to head to the NBA. He did leave for the league after his sophomore season, leaving Michigan after its most winning two-year stretch ever with 59 wins.
With his draft stock actually down after staying at Michigan an additional year, Robinson went 40th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. He played sparingly for Minnesota and Philadelphia during his rookie season before signing with his home state Pacers. In 2016-2017, he had his best year to date, averaging 6.1 points per game and winning the league’s Slam Dunk Contest. Injuries shortened his 2017-2018 season, which saw him spend some rehab games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
2011 – Marquis Teague – Kentucky
He was actually ranked higher by ESPN (8th) in the class than Mr. Basketball winner Cody Zeller (14th), but Teague became a Wildcat after limited in-state interest coming mostly from Purdue, although Indiana was on the list as well. Teague got more heat from Louisville fans than Indiana fans however as the Cardinals were high on his list and his father had played for then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino when Pitino coached at Boston University.
Teague played just one season at Kentucky after a quality career at Pike in Indianapolis. He averaged 10 points per game as a Wildcat and then went 29th overall to the Chicago Bulls in the 2012 NBA Draft. He played 48 of his 91 career NBA games during his rookie season. Since then, Teague has bounced around, playing 21 games for the Brooklyn Nets in 2014 before stops in Israel and Russia and with G-League teams the Oklahoma City Blue, Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Memphis Hustle. He did appear in three games with the Memphis Grizzlies this past season, four years after his previous NBA appearance.
2011 – Branden Dawson – Michigan State
Going from academically ineligible as a freshman to a McDonald’s All-American as a senior, Dawson became a hot commodity before he committed to Michigan State during August of his senior year at Gary’s Lew Wallace High School. He scored 28 points and had 15 rebounds in a regional final loss as a senior. Purdue and Indiana were potential suitors, along with UCLA, Georgetown, and Marquette. He ended his senior year the 23rd best player in the country according to ESPN but was not one of the four Mr. Basketball finalists.
Dawson went on to start 121 games as a Spartan over four seasons, missing just nine starts and posting career bests in minutes (30.1), rebounds (9.1), blocks (1.7) and points (11.9) as a senior in 2015. Dawson tore his ACL against Ohio State as a freshman, but still played the most games of any season in his college career as a sophomore. Dawson’s time at Michigan State included appearances in two Sweet Sixteens, an Elite Eight and a Final Four appearance as a senior, losing to eventual national champion Duke. Dawson was picked 56th in the 2015 NBA Draft by New Orleans. He was traded on draft night to the Los Angeles Clippers, only to appear in just six games for the team. After bouncing around with G-League affiliates, Dawson played last with Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel.
2010 – Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State
Former Ohio State coach Thad Matta had his finger on the pulse of Indiana players, landing the likes of Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Thomas during his tenure. For Thomas, the third all-time scorer that the state has ever seen, Matta had been recruiting him solidly since middle school, which drew a verbal commitment as a freshman. Matta was able to hold off most of the would-be in-state suitors, though Indiana and Purdue still flashed their interest. Thomas officially signed with Ohio State in November of his senior year.
Locally, the story of Thomas is well known as he took Bishop Luers from the Summit Athletic Conference’s consistent cellar dweller to a pair of Class 2A state titles. Thomas’ 34-point effort in the 2009 state final game stands as one of his best performances. He was named a McDonald’s All-American alongside future Ohio State teammate Jared Sullinger and, of course, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball.
Thomas played with a modicum of success as a freshman as Ohio State started 24-0, eventually falling in the Sweet 16. Thomas helped the Buckeyes to a Final Four appearance in 2012 and an Elite Eight appearance in 2013 before declaring for the NBA Draft. Thomas averaged 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a junior, his final season at Ohio State. Thomas’ NBA chances came with San Antonio, who drafted him 58th overall. He spent two summers with the Spurs in the NBA Summer League, playing in France and Spain in the interim. He saw action in two preseason games with San Antonio in 2015 before being waived and spending the season with the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Most recently, Thomas spent the 2017-2018 season with Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv as a back-up power forward averaging 12.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Others of note: 2017 – Malik Williams, Louisville; 2014 – Trevon Bluiett, Xavier; 2012 – Mitch McGary, Michigan; 2012 – D’vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown