We are just over a week away from one of the most anticipated recruiting decisions in the history of Indiana basketball. It is at least as big as the Cody Zeller decision. The similarities to the Zeller decision are striking, with an entire fan base clinging to the decision of an in-state star to turn around the state’s signature program.
Somehow Romeo Langford’s decision between Indiana, Kansas and Vanderbilt feels even bigger. We’re not sure if its his exciting style of play, his pursuit of the all-time scoring record, or the way he engages with the fans, but the attention being directed at this young man is astonishing.
With Langford being such a once-in-a-generation player, his decision is likely going to have reprecussions that extend beyond the basketball court. Could the decision impact future recruiting classes? Could there be a potential dark side? Today we take a look at some of the things that might follow if Romeo Langford electrifies the crowd inside the New Albany High School gym on April 30th and announces that he will be attending Indiana.
OPEN THE RECRUITING FLOOD GATES
Could Romeo Langford’s decision to attend Indiana “Make Indiana Cool Again”? While we don’t expect him to be wearing that red hat on April 30th, you have to wonder if such a transformational player could reverse the recent history of 5-star players and other top in-state talent spurning the Hoosiers.
We know teenagers can be easily influenced. We all were. We know pop-culture icons can be influential. Romeo Langford is. And we know that Indiana has several 5-star class of 2019 players interested in joining the team. While Langford is almost certainly “one and done” and any future recruits won’t see the IU floor with him, it is not unreasonable to speculate that top players will want to follow in his footsteps.
Not convinced? We have even heard the father of one class of 2019 recruit make mention of Romeo’s status with Indiana. It’s a thing.
A SWINGING GATE — TRANSFERS IN/TRANSFERS OUT
Two things seem clear if Romeo Langford plays for Indiana next year. The team is going to be good, making the 2018-19 Hoosiers an attractive landing place for transfers. On the other hand, Langford’s presence is also going to diminish opportunities for others on the team to shine to some degree.
Just a couple weeks ago, IU was thought to be a potential destination for high profile graduate transfers Ryan Taylor and Matt Mooney. It is now clear that neither will play for Indiana next year. While there was plenty of competition for each player, could it have been the case that they saw the writing on the wall with Langford at Indiana? They both played the same position, and they only have one year left to shine. There isn’t much sense in trying to compete for the spotlight with the guy who owns it.
But it may not be all negatives in the graduate transfer market. Indiana has also gone in-home with 6-10 Old Dominion big man Trey Porter. He is a guy that could step-in a have a big role immediately. With De’Ron Davis coming off injury and never really playing big minutes even before that, there would seem to be a really nice opening for Porter to come in and play 20-25 minutes a game.
Along with Langford and Juwan Morgan, Porter would have the opportunity to play every game on national television, on a team that will likely be Top 20 all year, and with the potential to make a March run. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the opportunity for Porter to raise his profile likely won’t get much better.
Unfortunately, it is also possible that current players on the Indiana roster will see Langford as a threat to their playing time. We’ll leave it to you to look up and down the roster and speculate on who that might be.
While a possibility, there are several reasons to at least have some degree of comfort that it won’t happen. First, Indiana lost Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk to graduation at the guard position. The opportunity to play next year will still be there. The competition for the starting point guard role seems to come down to Devonte Green and Robert Phinisee.
Langford would likely split his time between the shooting guard and small forward. That means there will still be plenty of time for others to compete for the balance of the minutes at each spot.
It is also late in the traditional transfer timeline. Technically speaking, you can transfer whenever you want to, but it would be less than optimal to announce it in May, as teams are already deep into the process of completing their rosters, and options therefore become limited. Nevertheless, if a good player wants to transfer they will likely be able to find a good home.
THE JUWAN MORGAN PRO DECISION
If the Langford decision has any impact at all on Juwan Morgan’s thought process, then we could see his thinking going either way. The likely answer is that it has no impact, but it is at least worth considering.
While some might have the knee-jerk reaction that “Juwan isn’t ready” or “he isn’t going to be drafted”, that is the wrong analysis in today’s professional basketball landscape. You really don’t have to look any further than James Blackmon, Jr. or Troy Williams for confirmation of this. Right or wrong, some guys are turning pro with the knowledge that they will not be drafted, and part of that analysis depends on the relative upsides of playing another year in college vs. the G-League.
Would Morgan view Langford as a threat or a bonus? Statistically speaking, Morgan might see his production drop, at least from a points per game perspective. Maybe not though, as he might find that he is getting a lot more production as a result of Langford, with defenses focusing on the freshman, and in turn creating opportunities for others.
Ultimately, Morgan’s next-step in his potential journey to the NBA needs to be about improving his perimeter game. That could end up being more about a healthy Davis, Justin Smith, Race Thompson and others freeing him up to move his game off the block, rather than Langford.
The Morgan/Langford combination could be lethal on the perimeter from a pick and roll/pop perspective, and if collectively they can contend for a Big Ten title and go on a March run, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to both bask in the glow of the national spotlight. That, more than anything else, will create the notoriety to propel them both to the next level.
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