When Romeo-mania had reached a fever pitch last winter, for some, enough was enough.
“Just pick a school already.”
“He’s just dragging it out for attention.”
Those were common refrains from a certain element of the IU fan base that had grown tired of the hype — and the waiting.
If you haven’t read it, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello wrote a great article recently that summarizes what that long recruitment was really all about. No, it wasn’t about Adidas and arm sleeves as some wanted you to believe.
From the IU perspective, here’s the bottom line. When it comes to recruiting five star talent….you wait. And wait patiently.
Now we are learning why.
It wasn’t just that Langford hit the game winning 12-foot floater with 40 seconds left in Saturday’s win over Northwestern. And by the way, don’t underestimate how difficult that floating shot is, especially under the circumstances.
Let Romeo Langford take over. pic.twitter.com/PWfwNxMXpC
— kgholler (@kgholler_) December 1, 2018
It wasn’t that the game-winner gave Langford his 4th 20-point or better effort in the eight games this season. Not bad for the guy that the offense supposedly doesn’t serve well.
No, when Juwan Morgan went down with a lower leg injury late in the game, Archie Miller had a quick one on one with his freshman star. Langford said the chat was something about defense. It could have been. But we doubt it.
You see, Langford knows more than just how to win basketball games. He has mastered the art of winning the press conference too. He seems to know exactly why a question is being asked — and then has none of it.
That’s especially true when it comes to bringing attention to himself, which is part of why he is so popular in the Hoosier state. The ultimate humble hero, Langford is going to deflect any attempt to put the spotlight on him. Just look at the answers he gave after the game about his late heroics:
Q. Romeo, Juwan goes out with an injury. There’s three minutes left. I think you had a driving layup. Can you talk about the ability for you individually and as a team to step up?
ROMEO LANGFORD: Yeah, Juwan went down, got injured. We just knew that it was crunch time and we still gotta do what it takes to win, and Coach drew a play up and we executed a play down low.
That’s three “we’s” and nothing about himself if you are keeping score at home.
Q. So were you the option on that play? Was that was designed to get you that floater?
ROMEO LANGFORD: It was multiple options. It just happened I was open.
Yep. It just happened. Uh huh.
So did Archie Miller want to talk about defense with Langford when Morgan went down, or was the New Albany native deflecting again? Without knowing what was said, but just watching what unfolded, you’d think Miller told him to take the game over. And you’d probably be right.
But here’s the thing. And this is also when we get into the whole recruiting five stars part — it didn’t matter what Miller said. This is what Langford said when pressed further on that conversation with his head coach:
Q. Was he looking for you to step up and kind of take over the game for Juwan or anything like that?
ROMEO LANGFORD: I feel like that was already stated without saying.
On this answer — we believe him.
Nobody had to tell Langford to take over the game. And whether anybody did or not is moot at this point. He just went out and did it…just like a five star freshman is supposed to.
Consider these moments that occurred after a timeout at the 3:33 mark with Indiana trailing by three, 61-58.
- On IU’s first possession, Langford curled off a screen and without hesitation attacked the rim to pull Indiana within one.
- On Northwestern’s next position Langford made a freshman mistake, missing a block out. It took about .8 seconds to make up for it, as he blocked the put back at the rim by Vic Law.
- After IU took the lead on Devonte Green free throws, Langford fell asleep on an inbounds pass, allowing his man to score. But stay tuned.
- With the game tied at 63, this time Langford learned his lesson on his first mistake and found Law, blocked him out, and secured the rebound.
- After the teams traded misses, the game was tied at 63 with under a minute to play. Langford delivered his game winner beyond the reach of one of the best defenders in the league in Law.
- There was still 40 seconds left, plenty of time for Northwestern to tie or take the lead. Langford could have been content with his big shot. Instead, it was his defense, as he got his hands on a pass that then deflected off Northwestern and out of bounds.
Perfect? Not at all. Confident and game-changing? Absolutely. How many freshmen in IU’s recent history have had a performance down the stretch like that? He even managed to demonstrate that he had learned from and then made up for his two big mistakes in the waning minutes.
After the game, Miller talked about the game winner.
“We just tried to give him an opportunity to get downhill. I thought Romeo didn’t take the normal stride one legged finish, he needed to play through the contact on the drive and he got downhill. Then on his second bounce he exploded up. He got a good look. It was an executed play.”
It was an executed play. In other words it didn’t just happen that he was open — it was a play designed for Langford — and the five star delivered.
I think we finally got to the truth here. We’ve learned to not expect that from Langford, at least when it is self-congratulatory.
But we also learned why you recruit five star talent — and wait patiently. Not just for their decision on which school they will attend — but for moments just like Saturday afternoon against Northwestern.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier