NEW ALBANY, Ind. – Romeo Langford’s decision to stay in his home state for college was made last week, at home, in his bedroom. The New Albany basketball star told no one, not even his parents, until a family meeting Friday night.
The rest of the world, including Indiana coach Archie Miller, found out Monday night when Langford announced his decision in front of 2,500 fans in the New Albany gym. The pro-Indiana crowd exploded in delight as Langford picked up the IU hat off the lectern and pulled it onto his head, leaving the Kansas and Vanderbilt hats. As the crowd cheered, a huge smile spread across the face of the normally stoic Langford.
“I feel like I can showcase my game there,” Langford said of Indiana, who added that the intention next season is to win a national championship.
Indiana did not always lead for Langford – not even close. When he cut his list to three schools before the season, he was starting to like Indiana a little more. But not long before to that? “IU was definitely not on my mind,” he said. “I just didn’t see myself going to IU.”
What changed? Langford said he was impressed with the way Indiana played in big games under Miller in his first season as coach. A visit to Bloomington for the Northwestern game opened his eyes to how Miller interacted with the team and the Hoosiers’ style of play. And it certainly did not hurt IU’s chances when fans showed up in droves to watch his games at home and on the road.
Langford’s father, Tim Langford, said the family sat down Friday to discuss Romeo’s decision. “He said at the beginning of the process, Indiana was not his choice,” Tim said. “He said, ‘Dad, it’s funny how long we dragged this out because Indiana was not my choice at first.’ But he has seen some things that made him say, ‘Indiana.’”
Langford, on Sunday named IndyStar Mr. Basketball. presented by the Indiana Pacers, is the biggest in-state recruiting victory for Indiana since then-coach Tom Crean corralled commitments from Washington’s Cody Zeller and Park Tudor’s Yogi Ferrell in a two-week period in the fall of 2010. Zeller and Ferrell were part of a core group that led IU to a 29-win season in 2012-13.
Langford, ranked as the No. 6 player in the country in the 2018 class by 247sports, will immediately be an impact player for the Hoosiers. The New Albany star scored 3,002 career points at New Albany to rank No. 4 in state history. As a senior, Langford averaged 35.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game while shooting 56 percent from the field.
“He is this generation’s Oscar Robertson or Damon Bailey,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said in a speech before the announcement. He added that Langford’s No. 1 jersey would be retired next season.
Langford is the crown jewel of an Indiana recruiting class that is already heavy on in-state talent with McCutcheon point guard Robert Phinisee and South Bend Riley forward Damezi Anderson. The class, ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten Conference by 247sports after Langford’s commitment, also includes 6-7 Jerome Hunter of Pickerington, Ohio, and 6-8 Pennsylvania forward Jake Forrester. All four are ranked in the top-150 on the 247sports composite with Hunter the highest at No. 54.
Even in his own house, Romeo’s decision was a mystery. He had developed strong friendships with Darius Garland, an incoming point guard at Vanderbilt, and Kansas recruit Quentin Grimes.
“I really didn’t know which way he was going,” Tim Langford said. “I told him I liked Grimes, Garland and Phinisee. I said you can’t go wrong with any of the three. Phinisee is a true point guard in my eyes. And he can also score the ball. I told him, ‘You can’t go wrong if you pick Indiana.’”
In his remarks before the announcement, Shannon told Langford, “This is your home – and this will always be your home.” That statement will carry more weight now that Langford is a Hoosier and not a Jayhawk or Commodore, even though New Albany fans who followed him throughout his record-breaking four-year career would have respected his decision regardless.
“(Staying home) wasn’t that important,” Langford said. “But I know it is a real big deal. I’m just looking forward to getting there this summer and getting to work.”
Langford’s decision was an event, like so many of his sold-out high school games. Fans waited outside, most wearing IU gear, before the doors opened at 6 p.m. for the announcement at 7. One man, a 1960 New Albany graduate named Robert Lee, sat in a lawn chair at the corner of Vincennes Street and McCaffry Drive. At 4:30 p.m., almost three hours before Langford’s decision, he was feeling confident and waving an IU flag.
“I know we’re going to get him,” Lee said. “It’s going to be a good night.”
Little did Lee – or anyone else – know that the decision was made at the Langford’s home on Friday night. All of the Langfords, including sisters Tisha and Tiffany, took their turn talking about three schools. Finally, Romeo said: “I want to go to IU.”
“I guess I was kind of surprised, in a way,” his mother, Sabrina Langford said. “He told me he wasn’t really thinking to go to IU at first. But that’s one of the benefits of waiting – getting to watch the coaches and the team go through the decision. That was a plus for us.”
And a plus for Indiana – a big one.
It was been a week of milestones for Langford. Prom on Saturday, Mr. Basketball on Sunday and a college decision on Monday. What is left? The 18-year-old with the keys to New Albany – and now the state – does not have his driver’s license.
“I told him he needs to get that done before he leaves for school,” Sabrina said.