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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, June 20, 2019 11:50 pm

Celtics select Romeo Langford with lottery pick

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Former Indiana guard Romeo Langford was taken by the Boston Celtics with the 14th pick in the NBA Draft tonight.

Langford wore a gray suit, but opened it on stage to reveal a candy-striped inner lining, a sign of how much he feels Indiana prepared him to get to this point. Hoosiers coach Archie Miller was at the table with Langford when the latter was picked.

“This is an exciting day for Romeo, his family, and our program," Miller said. "He is a special young man who is ready to do what it takes to further his basketball career on the professional level with a great organization like the Celtics. He is a great teammate who now has the opportunity to work every day on realizing his personal and professional goals on the biggest stage.

"When you look at his year with us, you appreciate what he accomplished as a freshman in a league that is consistently known as one where veteran players dominate night in and night out. He will be a great ambassador for IU and the State of Indiana."

Langford becomes the first first-round draft pick from Indiana since OG Anunoby went No. 23 to the Raptors in 2017. The 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball is the highest Hoosiers draft pick since forward Noah Vonleh was taken ninth overall selection in 2014, part of a run of three lottery picks in two years for the Hoosiers.

The Celtics reached the Eastern Conference semifinals this season, but will have to reload in 2019-20 as it seems they will lose guard Kyrie Irving and forward Al Horford. Langford will likely be part of Boston's rotation immediately and could be a starter, though he'll have to battle Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown for minutes.

Langford was projected by many to be a top 5 pick coming out of high school, but he fell as the season progressed because of questions about his shooting ability. He shot just 27.2% from 3-point range in his one year at Indiana, although it came to light after the season that he'd injured his thumb in November and the digit bothered him all season. He had surgery to repair a torn ligament in the thumb on the same day, April 4, in which he announced that he would declare for the draft.

“It’s coming along well," Langford said of his thumb. "I’m just now getting back into the swing of things with being able to dribble and shoot recently. I had torn a ligament in my thumb in November and I had surgery after the season. So I’m just getting back to dribbling and shooting."

Langford, the fourth-leading scorer in the history of Indiana high school basketball, averaged 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds at Indiana and compared his potential role on a team to that of Wizards guard Bradley Beal. Despite getting drafted later than many expected in November, Langford remained confident in his ability.

"I feel like I'm the best (player) in this draft," Langford said at the NBA Combine in April. "That's just the confidence I have and I know what I'm capable of."

His 528 points in his season at Indiana were the third-most by a freshman in Hoosier history, surpassed by only Cody Zeller and Eric Gordon. Langford could have shut down his season when he hurt his thumb in November, but decided to battle through it to help his teammates and was still able to put up solid numbers.

"I don’t know," Langford said of how he averaged 16 points despite the thumb issue. "I’m just a hooper I guess. I just know how to get buckets. I guess it’s the toughness I have from growing up with my dad. That’s how he raised me – to be tough – and that’s one of the main reasons why I chose to play through it."

Langford's selection means that at least one Indiana high school basketball player has been drafted in the first round in 14 of the last 15 years.

dsinn@jg.net