Sometimes people with immense talent settle on important decisions. They opt for what is easy because their talent enables them to take the simplest course of action. But, in order to meet their full potential, people with talent should put themselves in the best environment to refine their skills. Romeo Langford is a high school basketball player from New Albany, Indiana and is one of the best talents to come through the state in recent years. He has compiled a career average of roughly 29 PPG, 9 RPG, and 2.5 BPG. Because of this consistency , he is within shouting distance of catching Damon Bailey and breaking the state's all-time high school scoring record of 3,134 points. Langford needs a little over 1,000 to beat it. Langford is also considered to be the favorite to win Indiana's Mr. Basketball Award and is widely regarded as one of the top players in the country. With collegiate offers from Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, and UCLA, Langford has the talent to play anywhere in the country.
He has narrowed his choice down to three schools. The final three candidates that have a shot at Romeo include Kansas, Vanderbilt and Indiana. According to everyone close to the situation, Indiana is the favorite to land Romeo. While it is great to see Indiana born players stay in their home state, Romeo needs to pass on IU. If Romeo chooses the Hoosiers, he will settle for an environment that will not prepare him as well for the NBA Draft.
If someone is the best at something and has the opportunity to go anywhere for an education, it is fair to assume they would go to the best school for their profession right? If they were a lawyer, schools like Harvard come to mind. Even though there are successful lawyers that went Indiana, Harvard would be the better place to go. If someone had the opportunity to study computer science, Purdue would be a respectable choice for an education. However, MIT seems like a better option. Finally, Notre Dame is great with a rich football history. Yet, Alabama is the place that comes to mind when a college football player wants to make it to the NFL.
Recruiting is one of the most important and competitive aspects of amateur sports. The best coaches and programs compete against one another for the best talent to propel their program or sustain excellence. The methods coaches use have become more extreme in recent years. The best recent example of how extreme these tactics have gotten is the downfall of Louisville's Men's Basketball program. Rick Pitino, one of the most successful college coaches in the history of the NCAA, was let go as head coach at Louisville following major allegations of wrongdoing during his tenure.
Among the allegations Pitino and his staff faces include that players attended parties inside an on-campus dorm where strippers danced and prostitutes were paid to have sex with them, all with the intention of recruiting them to Louisville. Since these allegations have emerged, a federal investigation has been opened that has so far seen 10 people arrested, accused of corruption and taking bribes. Oddly enough, before this scandal became public, Romeo considered Louisville to be one of the leading candidates in his recruitment. Since then however, Romeo has distanced himself from Louisville and their now tainted program.
Why have the stakes of recruiting become so high? The first major reason for this is the amount of money that is now being poured into college sports. Major sponsorships from companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor all have a financial interest in the success of schools and their student athletes. The financial backing of these companies have caused coaches salaries to increase. While salaries have become more lucrative, the expectations have also been elevated. Sports apparel brands want to represent successful programs and the best way to win consistently is to recruit the best talent. Winning is everything and coaches feel the psychological pressure to please sponsors, boosters and "friends of the program" the real people that truly run athletic departments.
Everyone has seen the film "Blue Chips" right? It was the "friends of the program" that were able to get the best athletes committed to their school. Sure, "Blue Chips" is a Hollywood adaptation starring Nick Nolte and Shaquille O'Neal, but there has to be some truth to it. Schools and coaches approach players in a variety of ways to better position themselves in the recruiting process. Players like Romeo Langford are also a major draw for fans, boosters, and sponsors. Indiana University would benefit more from Langford being on campus than he would. Romeo would have a substantial impact on ticket sales, increased television ratings and other merchandise sold with his name on it.
Romeo Langford should pass on the Indiana Hoosiers. Now, Romeo will make the NBA regardless of where he chooses to go for skill development. However, the better alternative for Romeo would be to play professional basketball overseas. Langford is someone capable of playing competitively as a professional overseas straight out of high school. While the NBA looks at major college programs for prospects consistently, they also put significant focus on scouting throughout the world. The San Antonio Spurs are known for their scouting and having found players that are gifted at first internationally before they come to the NBA. It is likely that NBA scouts are already aware of what Langford can bring to their teams with how quickly players declare for the draft.
Playing overseas worked for Brandon Jennings and it would work for Romeo. The added benefit of playing overseas is that Langford would be financially compensated for his play. Jennings made a solid $600,000 for his one year in Italy before declaring for the NBA Draft. With all of the debate surrounding whether college athletes should be paid or not, Romeo could solve that problem by playing overseas. Jennings had no intention of wanting to play college basketball because of the academic commitments. Essentially, Romeo would avoid the time commitment of being a student athlete, not having to study for what are seemingly worthless academic courses during his one year in Bloomington.
If playing college basketball is a goal for Langford, then committing to the University of Kentucky would be the best decision. Say what you want about John Calipari, but the guy can coach and is one the best player advocates in college basketball. Calipari knows how to pitch his players to NBA scouts and general managers because of the track record he has generated with getting players drafted. Since 2010, Kentucky has had at least two first round picks in the NBA Draft. Among these picks include All-Star level talent in Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, and Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Karl Anthony-Towns. Former MVP point guard Derrick Rose is also a product of John Calipari during his tenure at Memphis before he left to coach at Kentucky.
Indiana on the other hand has not produced any All-Star level talent in the last 25 years other than Victor Oladipo and Eric Gordon. While Indiana is a school that may have had a rich basketball history 30 or 40 years ago, it is merely a second tier program to Kentucky when it comes to developing NBA talent.
Despite an unbelievable group of talent at his disposal, Calipari is also an excellent coach with a winning pedigree. Except the 2012-2013 season, Calipari has gone to at least the Elite 8 every year since 2005. In totality, Calipari has won nearly 83 percent of his games at Kentucky, being 249–53 (.825). This success and advocacy for his players also landed him an induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
Instead of that as an option, Romeo wants to go to Indiana, a school that hasn't made the Elite Eight since 2002. Indiana has also only produced four first round picks in the last 9 years. IU is also the place that fired Tom Crean who wasn’t a great coach, but won the Big Ten Conference in 2013 and 2016. Crean was also the coach that helped develop Dwayne Wade during his time at Marquette. Sure, Wade would have made the NBA regardless of where he attended, but Crean's influence and guidance helped him in his development as a player.
Instead of playing for Crean, Romeo wants to play for a new head coach in Archie Miller who did take Dayton to the Elite Eight once in 2013. But since that season has not advanced past the round of 32, despite having regular season records of 25 wins or more three out of the last four years. This proves to me that Miller can't coach well in March when top tier guys like John Calipari, Roy Williams, and Mike Krzyzewski are in the mix.
Now, Miller is a disciple of Thad Matta, former head coach at Ohio State. This means Miller understands how competitive the Big Ten Conference can be game to game. Miller is also aware of what it takes to recruit the best talent targeted by Big Ten schools. What is concerning though is that IU failed to land Matta who was recently let go by Ohio State. So instead of having a disciple of Matta, Indiana could have had Matta himself. Let's not forget that he took the Buckeyes to the National Championship Game with Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. in 2007.
Matta would have been an ideal fit for the Hoosiers having won over 65 percent of his games in the Big Ten Conference, being 150–78 (.658) with Ohio State. Matta may not have had interest in the job with nagging health issues that have bothered him, but Matta is clearly the better of the two coaches. Indiana also failed to land Sean Miller, Archie's brother, who is also a better coach. Sean has won over 75 percent of his games at Arizona being 223–66 (.772). Sean has also taken his team to the Elite Eight three times in the last seven years.
Look if Romeo Langford wants to go to Bloomington next year and be a Hoosier, good for him. It's his decision to make at the end of the year. He has the talent to make the NBA regardless of what he chooses to do with his future. But, he owes himself the chance to work in an environment that will best prepare him for getting to the NBA. This means passing on IU and opting to play overseas or spending one year in Lexington with the Wildcats.
Jimmy Kennedy, who thinks Romeo Langford should avoid IU like the plague, can be contacted at email@example.com