New Albany’s Romeo Langford chooses Indiana University. Clark Wade/IndyStar
(Photo: Scott Utterback/Courier Journal)
NEW ALBANY – Archie Miller ate Monday night at Janko’s Little Zagreb, Bloomington’s most popular steak house. He brought his coaching staff, and St. Mary’s grad transfer Evan Fitzner.
And if he didn’t know where Romeo Langford committed, during a ceremony held at New Albany High School — Langford said afterward he didn’t tell any of the coaches recruiting him before he announced — then the applause that broke out across the restaurant will have clued Miller in.
Now, for Indiana’s second-year coach, the clock starts running.
Miller’s first season at IU, because of injuries, NBA departures and the natural speed bumps of a coaching change, broadly seemed to be treated more like Year Zero than Year One. But now, Assembly Hall will expect again.
Insider Zach Osterman and columnist Gregg Doyel discuss Romeo Langford’s decision to play for Indiana University. Clark Wade/IndyStar
A player who could very well have skipped college entirely if allowed, so immense is his talent, just committed to Indiana. Here is the byproduct of success in college basketball — it makes people want more.
It makes them expect more, especially at a place like Indiana, and that is what’s next for Miller.
He’s just landed Romeo Langford, perhaps the most talented player this state has produced in a generation. Scorer of 3,000 points. Mr. Basketball for his class. A state champion, a McDonald’s All American who has already represented his country playing basketball.
New Albany coach Jim Shannon on Monday night compared Langford to in-state legends Damon Bailey and Oscar Robertson. Whether Langford winds up enjoying a career so successful, that’s the weight of this decision.
Let’s assume for the moment Miller also gets Juwan Morgan back from the NBA draft.
Morgan, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree a season ago, has declared but not signed with an agent. And the absence of his name during even a cursory look at mock drafts and top-100 lists suggests the 6-7 power forward who averaged more points and rebounds per game in league play than overall last year could well be advised to spend one more season in college.
Justin Smith’s emergence, plus the 2018 recruiting class already signed, will give Miller enviable (if young) wing options. De’Ron Davis is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. But the development of Clifton Moore or Race Thompson —or both — should ease the burden on Davis to give IU added size inside.
Point guard remains a question mark, but now with a massive carrot attached.
Devonte Green ended last season better than he started it. Robert Phinisee turned in an outstanding senior year at Lafayette McCutcheon. Now, Miller can offer them both the chance to play alongside a future NBA swingman. Roll the ball between them and given them an entire summer and fall to work it out.
The broader point: Should Morgan return, Indiana has everything it needs to be competitive in a Big Ten that will be turned over at the top.
Ohio State loses Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate. Purdue graduated a class of program-defining seniors. Michigan sent Moritz Wagner to the draft, and Michigan State did the same with Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges.
Indiana isn’t the preseason favorite. But in a conference whose power structure is bound to be shaken up this offseason, the Hoosiers have the tools to elbow their way further up than last winter’s sixth place, which itself was an admirable finish in a culture-change season.
Langford’s commitment does that. It changes the calculus for IU, and also the level of ambition. Progress won’t be cheered this year, so much as it will be expected.
"We’ve got the right pieces," Langford said Monday. "They were missing some key things last year, for them to be as good as they wanted to be. I can do those things for them."
"They" turned into "we" Monday night. That’s what has changed for Miller now. Last winter felt like a fair and deserved free hit for Miller. Now, his fans will begin to ask once more.
Now, they will expect him to make his Indiana look like their Indiana again.
IndyStar contributor Teddy Bailey contributed to this report.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.