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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy Indiana University Indiana freshman Romeo Langford goes up for dunk during Hoosier Hysteria last month in Bloomington. The 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball enters this season with high expectations.

Thursday, November 08, 2018 1:00 am

Langford prefers wins over stats

Phenom not your normal IU recruit

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Romeo Langford insists he's a normal Indiana student.

“It's not as crazy and hectic as you would think, like being stopped going to class,” the freshman guard said of his campus experience so far. “I think I've probably been stopped maybe like once or twice this whole time since I've been going to class.”

The reality, however, is that Langford isn't a normal student and can't be. He's the first Indiana Mr. Basketball to play for the Hoosiers since Cody Zeller (2011), the highest-ranked recruit to choose Indiana since Eric Gordon (2007) and the most important piece of a recruiting class that is supposed to lead the Hoosiers back to national prominence.

So, how is he handling those expectations? Easy, he's ignoring them.

“I really don't feel pressure,” said Langford, the fourth-leading scorer in Indiana boys high school history with 3,002 points. “I'm just coming here to play basketball and do my job, and that's all I'm focusing on, having a successful season with my teammates.”

Of course, that's a typical cliché-filled response that hundreds of players across the country have uttered some version of over the last month. With Langford, however, he is genuinely focused on his team's success over personal accomplishments, according to teammates and coach Archie Miller.

Juwan Morgan, the Hoosiers' leading scorer and rebounder last season, came away impressed with Langford's work ethic after just a few practices. Morgan raved about one practice in which the 6-foot-6 guard worked especially hard at rebounding and grabbed “eight or nine” defensive boards.

“Sometimes the stigma is you don't really expect that from somebody who has that many accolades coming into college,” Morgan said. “But (Langford)'s really doing all the dirty work and I think that's a testament to the person he is.

“I think he's really put in the extra work,” Morgan added. “As good as he is, he's only getting better.”

Although he averaged nearly 10 rebounds as a senior at New Albany, that will probably not be Langford's primary job with the Hoosiers. Last year, the Hoosiers lacked a perimeter player who could get his own shot off the dribble. Langford fills that role and his playmaking ability, both scoring and finding open teammates with smart passes, figures to be his most important contribution.

Miller has done little to tamp down expectations for his star freshman. Although he's acknowledged that there will be a transition period, as there is for every player moving from high school to college, the coach also compared Langford's athleticism to Randy Moss and Usain Bolt and praised his ability to raise his teammates' level of play.

“He just seems to be a guy that has the ability to play with others around him,” Miller said. “He can make guys better. He's not afraid to make guys better, and that will be a big attribute to him with the amount of attention that maybe he'll see in terms of being able to drive into traffic.”

As a high school senior, Langford scored 35.5 points per game. He'll take plenty of shots at Indiana, as well, but projecting scoring to be his only contribution would be a mistake. He said he plans to do whatever it takes to make the Hoosiers winners.

“(In high school) I had to score points like that, but when I didn't score that many points, as long as we won, that's all that matters to me,” Langford said. “It's not really about my individual performances. I know if I have a bad game, I'm going to be mad, but really all it boils down to is getting a win.”

If he does lead the Hoosiers to wins, he can expect to get stopped on campus far more often.