DAN VANCE: With decision day looming, Romeo Langford’s choice should be simple

Romeo Langford in action during the Jordan Brand Classic on April 8 in Brooklyn. (Associated Press photo)

When Duke freshman Wendell Carter Jr. declared for the NBA Draft earlier this week, it should have told us everything we need to know about what Romeo Langford should do.

The New Albany senior will announce his college choice on April 30, with Indiana, Vanderbilt and Kansas all still in the mix. But nobody knows to what degree each program has a chance.

But what, you may ask, does that have to do with Carter Jr.? Everything in fact. Because Carter Jr. answered — for all of the holdout question makers — exactly what college basketball is today to recruits — win and then get paid as quickly as possible. Before Carter Jr., you could have convinced me that throwing a wide blanket over all recruits wasn’t fair and that I was off base.

Now, I’d scoff at the assertion.

Carter Jr. is somewhat of an academic after all. The kid almost committed to play college basketball at Harvard just to attend school at Harvard, a place he could have gotten into on academics alone. He is about as far from a dummy as you will find in college sports. For that reason, Carter Jr. has been held in the highest respect in a lot of basketball circles. And if a kid with the makeup of Carter Jr. would pass on another year at Duke — which he was highly considering — in favor of playing time and a paycheck at the NBA level, the clear-cut top-level focus of teenage boys playing basketball is clear: get that money.

By most accounts, Langford is a pretty mature, quiet and composed teenager. I guess that could lead people to say that he is cut from a different cloth, be it similar or different than the cloth Carter Jr. is cut from. But as Carter Jr. has shown this week, different in mentality and maturity doesn’t always equal a completely different mindset.

Langford will undergo an extreme amount of scrutiny and pressure when he arrives on campus, no matter where he ends up. His goal is likely simple: win as much as he can and then in April of 2019 start working out towards the end goal of shaking hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as early as possible on draft night. It is very simple tunnel vision and for all of the pros and cons of his final three college choices, Langford’s choice should only be rooted in what is at the end of the tunnel.

And make no mistake, Langford will make that walk in June of 2019, with a fresh new suit and some team’s draft night hat weighing down his hair. NBADraft.net predicts he will be doing it ninth, one spot after his will-be Indiana Mr. Basketball predecessor Kris Wilkes, currently of UCLA. Wilkes may or may not be there depending on how his pre-draft workouts go this year. But Langford following Wilkes as Mr. Basketball — yes the award is announced April 29, but who are we kidding — shouldn’t be the only direction in which he follows the former Indianapolis North Central post.

Wilkes too thought with a win and cash-in mentality. He passed on in-state offers from Indiana, Butler, Notre Dame and Purdue. He also shunned Kansas and Vanderbilt in favor of UCLA. Wilkes found the best direction for him, not for fans and not for others. Wilkes saw his path to the NBA going directly through Los Angeles.

As a five-star recruit, Wilkes also aligned himself with where he would be a focus, but there was also talent around him to win. In a year when seven of the nation’s 27 five-star recruits (according to 247 Sports) have committed to traditional blue bloods Duke and Kentucky, why would Langford’s path lead him down a path without comparable players to help him win now? Those signs both point to Kansas and Vanderbilt. But likely becoming the focal point of the offense immediately points to Indiana.

If you like Twitter fodder, there is the argument that opening his announcement to the public screams a commitment to the Hoosiers. You could also claim that his announcement coming one day after the Mr. Basketball announcement assures that he wouldn’t be shunned from the state’s top honor if he turns down the institution that shares the same name. Like most theories, these are both probably worth next to nothing. There are so many cracks and crevices of thought for people to navigate when making what are only educated guesses about the name that will come out of Langford’s mouth on April 30.

We all have our opinions. I’ve let mine be known (hint: it is Vanderbilt). We all have our guesses too. None of it matters until Langford says the word and he isn’t much of a talker.

What we do know is this: Langford’s choice should be simple. Find the best way to win and cash out. That has become the American (college basketball) way.

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


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