TOM DAVIS: Prepare yourself Hoosier Nation, Romeo Langford is not THE savior
The tears started flowing just seconds following the hyperbole.
Indiana University men’s basketball fans were “getting chills” as visions of championships danced through their minds following 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford announcing in front of nearly 4,000 Hoosier fans at his New Albany High School gym that he indeed would sign with their favorite program.
“Name a more iconic duo… go ahead, we’ll wait,” tweeted BtownBanners.com atop a photo of second-year Hoosier coach Archie Miller and Langford.
OK, I’ll play along. How about Bob Knight and Scott May?
Knight and Isiah Thomas?
Knight and Steve Alford?
Knight and Calbert Cheaney?
I’ll even go with Mike Davis and Dane Fife if we are just going to talk about actual success on a basketball court.
Miller hasn’t even MADE an NCAA Tournament, let alone won one, while Langford has yet to move into a dorm room so please forgive me (I know Twitter-sphere is incapable of such) if I have the zaniness to suggest that Langford is not going to accomplish anything close to what those aforementioned Indiana legends did.
Here is the truth (I fully realize that the Indiana fan base finds this blasphemous):
• Romeo Langford is going to have a very nice freshman season, and
• Indiana is going to be a much-improved team from a season ago, but not championship-improved, and
• Langford will be A reason for that improvement, but not THE reason for it.
There, feel free to send me the emails and tweets about how much I hate Indiana, Miller, and Langford by making such a venomous and critical statement.
Indiana is absolutely going to be improved but that is due to a number of factors, only ONE of which is Langford’s signing. In fact, he isn’t even the top reason.
When Indiana senior Juwan Morgan comes to his senses and realizes that a 6-foot-8 forward who is a mediocre perimeter shooter isn’t ideal for the NBA and decides to return to Bloomington THAT will be the most impactful reason for Indiana success in next year.
Morgan is a phenomenal college player and has a legitimate opportunity to be the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten. His return, coupled with the healthy return of junior center De’Ron Davis will be two very large – literally and figuratively – reasons as to why Indiana will be one of the top teams in its league.
That is especially true if Davis actually has the right mindset, maturity and work ethic, something that he demonstrated only on random occasions this past season.
Another huge factor in the improvement of the Hoosiers will the continued development of young returning players such as junior guard Devonte Green and sophomores Al Durham and Justin Smith.
Each of those three players demonstrated flashes of ability but lacked the consistency that Miller sought.
“Freshmen, they go through ups and downs, and good starts (and) bad games,” Miller said following a solid performance against Illinois late in this past season. “That’s what a freshman season is but moments like tonight, hard-fought win where guys make winning plays they stick with you, that’s how you learn how to win.
“These are experiences that will help them develop into really good Indiana players.”
If there was an area in which the Hoosiers struggled (there were multiple ones) last season it was perimeter shooting.
Indiana shot less than 33 percent from 3-point range this past season and quite frankly, Langford hasn’t shown – thus far – that he is going to help in that regard.
The 6-foot-5 athlete shot just 36 percent from beyond a closer arc than he’ll play behind next season and he won’t be doing so against Jennings County.
“Looking at our practice stats,” Miller said mid-season about his team’s 3-point shooting, “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? Just I think we are.”
Indiana – and Langford – will need to be.
Despite the shrieks that emanated from fraternity houses all over the Indiana campus Monday evening, Langford is not coming to Indiana to LEAD this program in any way.
Morgan will be the best player (by far), Davis will be the most impactful post presence, and Smith is going to elevate his production from a year ago.
Will Langford have an impact? Certainly.
But anyone that envisions Langford emerging as an overwhelming force is going to be disappointed.
Langford’s legacy will more closely resemble that of former Hoosier Noah Vonleh more so than say, Damon Bailey.
Vonleh came to Indiana as one of the nation’s top recruits and earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor before leaving Bloomington for the NBA.
No Hoosier fan longs for the glory days of Noah Vonleh and if Langford follows a similar path the same will be said for him.
A circus always comes to town amidst a lot of hoopla but it also always eventually departs and life carries on. Prepare yourself Hoosier Nation for that is your reality.
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.