It was late May last year, a little more than two months after Archie Miller was hired away from Dayton, when the new Indiana basketball coach made an indirect mention of Romeo Langford while speaking to a crowd of fans and media at Huber's Winery and Orchard about 25 miles south of the five-star prospect's hometown.
"We can't talk about recruiting," Miller said. "But I do know where New Albany, Indiana is."
Naturally, the crowd loved it.
That quote got tweeted. Langford retweeted it. And, from that point forward, what happened Monday night always seemed like the likely outcome. Yes, Kansas was an appealing option for obvious reasons. And, yes, Vanderbilt made some sense given that two other McDonald's All-Americans are committed to play in Nashville next season. But anything other than the Indiana high school legend committing to play at Indiana would've qualified as a surprise -- especially after Langford scheduled an elaborate and over-the-top announcement that was certain to largely pack New Albany High's gym with Indiana diehards.
You don't do that to disappoint the locals.
You do that to be cheered.
So, unsurprisingly, Langford was cheered when he (finally) said these words: recruiting class that ranks ninth nationally. He's the projected star of a team that could make the 2019 NCAA Tournament. And he could be the key to reversing something that was trending the wrong direction in recent years.And the reason he was cheered is because he's the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2018 (according to 247 Sports' composite rankings), the fourth-leading scorer in Indiana high school basketball history and the highest-rated player to pick the Hoosiers since Eric Gordon in 2007. Simply put, almost nobody, if not nobody, loves in-state products starring for the in-state school quite like Indiana fans love in-state products starring for the in-state school. So the idea of Langford picking anywhere other than Indiana would've been a big blow to Miller's goal of rebuilding this traditional blue blood. Folks would've panicked, fairly or unfairly. But now all is well in the state where basketball matters so much. Romeo is staying home. He's the centerpiece of a
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In the previous five classes -- i.e., 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 -- there were 23 players from the state of Indiana who were either four-star or five-star prospects, according to 247 Sports. Trey Lyles was one. Caleb Swanigan was another. Jaren Jackson was another. And there were 20 more. But only one -- James Blackmon in the Class of 2014 -- signed with Indiana. Only one. Out of 23. Which is difficult to comprehend. But there are four players from the state of Indiana in the Class of 2018 whom 247 Sports lists as either four-star or five-star prospects -- none bigger than Langford. And Indiana secured commitments from three of the four, including Langford, much to the delight of those who wear candy-striped pants proudly and fill Assembly Hall annually.
"It's truly impressive for Archie Miller to land a five-star in 12 months on the job when the competition included, at one point, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA and others -- and when it was a down-to-the-wire battle with Kansas," said longtime Indiana writer Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs.com. "For him to land an in-state player of this caliber in that setting takes it to another level. Hoosier Nation cherishes when it gets to watch Indiana high school stars and then see them head to Bloomington. Archie Miller and Romeo Langford just teamed up to give Hoosier Nation what it loves the most when it comes to recruiting."
Bottom line, you cannot overstate what this means in the state. And you cannot overstate what this means to Miller and his staff. They were hired to #MakeIndianaBasketballGreatAgain -- and there was no way to do that in their first season. But their second season always had a chance to be interesting if they convinced the in-state talent in the Class of 2018 to stay home.
They did it with Damezi Anderson and Robert Phinisee first.
Then they got Romeo Langford on Monday.
No, it doesn't guarantee greatness anymore than any recruiting class has ever guaranteed greatness. But what it undeniably does is suggest good things are on the way -- and that the days of Indiana missing on Indiana stars might well be over.