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The Race for Romeo — KU, Indiana and Vandy all vying for 5-star guard Romeo Langford

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New Albany guard Romeo Langford (1) shoots over McCutcheon forward Haden Deaton (32) in the second half of the Indiana Class 4A IHSAA state championship basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 26, 2016. New Albany won 62-59. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

New Albany guard Romeo Langford (1) shoots over McCutcheon forward Haden Deaton (32) in the second half of the Indiana Class 4A IHSAA state championship basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 26, 2016. New Albany won 62-59. (AP Photo/AJ Mast) by Matt Tait

As the calendar gets set to flip to February and the recruiting wars for college basketball's 2018 talent start to taper off, all eyes are on Romeo Langford, the top remaining uncommitted player in the 2018 class.

There are other prospects still searching for the right fit, of course. And a couple of them rank even in the teens among the top recruiting sites. Most of the rest are in the 25-65 range.

And then there's Romeo, at No. 5 in the 247 Sports composite rankings and No. 6 on Rivals.com's Top 150.

While many in the college basketball world are waiting to see what Langford will do, only three schools appear to have a real shot at the 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard and scorer extraordinaire, who has narrowed his list down to a final three of Indiana, Kansas and Vanderbilt.

There is no exact time table for Langford to make a decision. Initially, it was believed to be slated for the April signing period and that still very well may be the case. But there have been recent rumblings about a decision coming sooner than that and coaches at all three of Langford's finalists are well aware of the importance of the next few weeks in their quest for the dynamic playmaker from New Albany, Indiana.

KU coach Bill Self and Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard were in Indiana last Friday to watch Langford and they were treated to a heck of a show, one that featured an alley-oop dunk in which Langford nearly went horizontal at the rim on the finish (1:48 mark in the video below). Videos of the moment showed that the dunk brought a smile to Self's face and inspired a standing ovation from Howard, who merely was joining the rest of the frenzied crowd that was wowed by Langford's athleticism.

In a recent interview with indystar.com, Langford's father, Tim Langford, told Zach Osterman that all three programs on his son's list of finalists had made solid impressions thus far.

The hope in the Hoosier State is that Langford will stay home and help bring Indiana back to national power status. He would be a cornerstone of new IU coach Archie Miller's rebuilding process and immediately would bring some serious local and national buzz back to the IU program.

At Vandy, head coach Bryce Drew is hoping Langford will become that player that puts his program back on the map. According to Osterman's article, Drew recently brought his entire coaching staff to New Albany to watch Langford play and gestures like that — which KU has made for plenty of players in the past and still could make with Langford — tend to go a long way toward catching a young man's attention.

And then there's the case for Kansas. Self loves the class he has signed already and believes that transfers Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore all will be ready to contribute next season after experiencing Kansas basketball as red-shirting spectators and practice players this season. And in Grimes and Dotson Self has the kind of guards that he so often desires, interchangeable parts with the ability to score and handle the ball while playing fast and furious on both ends of the floor.

What is uncertain is whether Kansas has a perimeter scorer in the wings to fill the void left by the departure of Graham and Mykhahiliuk. That's where Langford comes in and that's why Langford remains a priority for the Jayhawks. He is, by definition, a scoring threat from the wing and it's not hard to envision a scenario in which he competes for a starting spot at Kansas regardless of who returns and who doesn't.

So far this season, he is averaging 34 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists a game while doing virtually everything for his team night in and night out.

One of the most interesting things about Langford's recruitment is just how similar his three finalists are. No, Indiana, Kansas and Vandy don't sit at the same table when it comes to the history and exposure that all three can provide.

But they are each "perfect fits," according to what Tim Langford told The Athletic's Brian Hamilton in a terrific look at Langford's life as a superstar prospect in a basketball-crazed town. And because of that, the family believes that Langford cannot make a bad choice.

At this point, Langford already has taken official visits to each of his three finalists. So any future visits, which may or may not come, would be of the unofficial variety and would merely be another opportunity to check out each program.

He was at Indiana, sitting behind the Hoosiers' bench, for a recent IU win over Northwestern. And his father told Osterman that he plans to try to get to Vanderbilt again at least for a practice. It may be harder to get to Lawrence, with the distance and his prep schedule not always lining up, but Tim Langford told Osterman, “As far as Kansas, we just pay attention on TV and see how they run things, stuff like that.”

There was some speculation that a nationally televised game on ESPNU in January would inspire Langford to announce his decision then. It didn't happen.

And there's been recent talk, including in Osterman's article, about the idea of announcing his choice at the McDonald's All-American Game on March 28.

“If he had that decision, (he could) make that announcement (at the McDonald's All American game),” Tim Langford told Osterman. “But if not, we’ll wait until April.”

Regardless of when his decision comes or where it happens, it's clear that all three schools are still alive and Langford's focus, at least as of today, is more on helping New Albany win a state title before worrying about the next step.

As things stand today, with Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk headed out the door and Billy Preston's scholarship obviously available for next season, the Jayhawks are full.

Class of 2018 signees Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack will take those three scholarships and Silvio De Sousa took this year's unused scholarship made available by the departure of forward Jack Whitman.

So in order to take on another player or two, which remains KU's goal, the Jayhawks will need to find a way to create a spot. With Udoka Azubuike, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick all having the potential to entertain their NBA options following the 2017-18 season, it's not a stretch to see one of those three players leaving. And there is always the possibility of a player or two deciding to transfer out in search of a new challenge or more playing time.

Regardless of how that all plays out, the numbers crunch and finding spots has never been an issue for Self in the past and there's no reason to believe it would be now if the Jayhawks were able to land a player of Langford's caliber.

At 12-11 in the Big Ten and 8-14 in the SEC, Indiana and Vanderbilt, though not officially eliminated from contention, are, at this point, unlikely to become NCAA Touranment teams this season.

While neither staff will stop charging toward that goal, their current realities at least afford them the opportunity to keep one eye a little closer on the Langford situation and give them an easy opportunity, if not excuse, to send more resources that way.

Kansas, meanwhile, is in the middle of its quest for a record 14th consecutive Big 12 title and, once again, is trying to position itself to be a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. That does not mean the Jayhawks will take a day off in the Langford arms race, but it does put them more in line with Langford, who is thinking more about the immediate task at hand and less about his future.

That's not to say reaching a decision is not weighing on his mind. In that, all four parties involved have something in common.

“It’s not stressful,” Langford told Hamilton of the recruiting process. “But it is something I think about almost every day.”

Be that as it may, Langford appears to be juggling all that goes into it wonderfully well. The small-school stardom in a basketball state, the constant questions from friends and reporters, the exposure, the attention, the elevated status as the guy who can turn around an entire program — all of it is a part of Langford's day to day life. And all of it is preparing him well for what comes next, regardless of where that may be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulraOGfwXUI

Comments

Joe Joseph 1 year, 11 months ago

Would you rather have a senior Malik Newman? Or a freshman Romeo Langford?

I'd love to have both - and that may be possible - but I'm going with Malik.

Joe Joseph 1 year, 11 months ago

Thanks for the correction and also for your passive aggressive ellipses.

I suppose the intent behind my question remains relatively unchanged.

Jay Hawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to have Romeo, but I'd rather have Senior Malik or Junior Malik or . . . maybe even RS Sophomore Malik than Romeo.

I'm a big fan a lot of the kids that have unpacked their bags for a few months in LFK. Some OADs have done a good job here. But, for the most part, the kids who have made the biggest impact under Self's watch have been here for a couple of years.

To your question, Joe. I'd MUCH rather have a Senior Vick than Romeo.

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 11 months ago

Tend to agree, Joe. If Malik comes back, having a seasoned player usually bodes better, given that Romeo will likely be a "one and done" wherever he goes.

If Romeo decides to come to KU, never fear, there will be an available slot for him.

Robert Brock 1 year, 11 months ago

If Newman returns next season, he would only be a Junior. I hope that he comes back - his ball-handling and rebounding have been helpful to the team. Vick, on the other hand, might leave rather than return for his Senior year. He lacks specific skills so...nada lost. If Vick leaves, it would be great to replace him with a natural scorer like Romeo Langford.

DiscGolfer Jason 1 year, 11 months ago

It would be nice to get Langford, but I'd take Newman any day if he stays. He'll certainly improve his NBA stock.

2 things about late signees:I think they are headcases, and when the players' father determines what is best I'd veer away. Not even worth it.

I think he stays in Indiana. He'd be the star player. KU has some seriously good players next year. Langford would just "blend" in with the rest of them.

Len Shaffer 1 year, 11 months ago

Do you have any evidence to back up your statement about late signees being head cases? I haven't seen any kind of pattern one way or the other.

As for the father being involved, what are you talking about??? Langford's father said that any of the programs would be a perfect fit; that doesn't sound like he's involved in determining what's best. And even if he was involved, what's wrong with a father wanting to guide his son to what he thinks is a good situation for him? It's one thing to be a jerk like Lavar Ball; it's another thing to give your opinion on what you think would be good for your son.

Pius Waldman 1 year, 11 months ago

It is easy to be critical of players that prolong their decisions where they are going to play college ball. But the elite players can wait and see what happens before they decide.In fact not even sign just wait until school starts and their choice will still be available. Coach Self realizes that Langford might not be a KU guy so he elects to sign one that really wants to be a Jayhawk. Look for him to become a Hoosier.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 11 months ago

Considering all the daily constant pressure he is put under to stay at home, it's a compliment to the KU Program that we are even in consideration.

Let's look at the facts:

1] Malik is a third year transfer sophomore. He may be feeling the pressure to get to the NBA sooner than later and with this second half surge, if it continues, his stock may never be higher. I think Newman will be gone.

2] I don't think Vick is going anywhere but back to KU next season, but with the departure of Devonte, Svi and Malik there's room for him and Romeo in the rotation.

3] KU has the advantage over Indiana, [I am not even counting Vanderbilt as a serious contender], in every phase of opportunity for coaching excellence, exposure, tradition [well, that may be a toss up], etc except for one...and that's a big one...Playing Time. I have heard that the Hoosiers are offering "Trae Young type" offensive freedom to Romeo.

4] Look at this guy. He'll have one of the best hairdos in college basketball and how can you not love a guy named Romeo!

5] Just two questions...... what kind of car does he drive and who's is it?

DiscGolfer Jason 1 year, 11 months ago

2.If Vick stays it'll probably be due to his mom telling him to stay. 3. If Langford gets the offensive freedom then why would he pass that up? He'll get all kinds of playinv time.

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

IU offered Langford head coaching, assistant coaching, AD, and I think Chancellor. Also, he has the option to play basketball in his spare time too. I think it's Romero Langford University of Indiana.

It will be Romeo Langford starting and all others will be coming off the bench with limited playing time. No car, he will have a driver with a state vehicle providing his transportation needs, a jet, and a chartered private bus.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 11 months ago

3] Then you aren't paying attention to what Bryce has done down there.

Elliott Teters 1 year, 11 months ago

Who would be asked to seek other opportunities if we were to land Langford: Vick (presuming he does not improve dramatically and enter the draft.), Lightfoot, Cunliffe, De Sousa (not likely)? My guess is that Langford takes a hard look at where he can play immediately, with the least resistance, and chooses one of the other programs. I don't think he will want to compete that hard for a starting spot. I expect Newman will be back after testing the NBA waters (there are too many good guards already a given for the draft) unless he continues to improve and achieves MVP status for the Big 12 or NCAA tournaments.

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

Cunliffe if he doesn't translate during the off season. Also, Charlie Moore will need to provide immediate results. We may be hearing about some departures once the incoming class hits campus for some bball.

It's D1 bball at it's finest. Survival of the more fittest.

DeSousa isn't going anywhere. The beast is a permanent fixture in the Phogg for 3 years. I think we will likely lose Doke too. Meeotch, DeSousa, and Big Dave will handle the interior.

Speaking of the interior, Bill Self will have a dinner bell and feed the bigs at will. Those boyz will make a living inside. They will punish other teams. If Doke stays, KU will likely be the most dominant team in bball next year.

Joe Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

In all seriousness Matt, why doesn't Langford just pick IU or Vandy? I find his delayed announcement interesting to say the least. They need him way more than KU, yet he waits this long? Plus he will get pt every single game and guaranteed to be The Big Man on Campus.

Remember, our most valuable recruiter Devon Dotson has been in his ear since his commitment to KU. Let's hope it provides good results soon.

DiscGolfer Jason 1 year, 11 months ago

I didn't know that about DD. Recruit Langford DD!!!

fingerscrossed

Dillon Davis 1 year, 11 months ago

Guards for next year as of right now:

Vick Newman Cunliffe Garrett Moore Dotson KJ Lawson Grimes

Big men:

Udoka Silvio McCormack Lightfoot Lawson

So much depth on next year's team and multiple guys are going to be the odd man out. I think Cunliffe should transfer. If he can't get on the floor with this year's team there's no way he can get minutes next year. Garrett won't be playing if he can't learn to shoot. I don't know which big man is first off the bench next year, Lightfoot or De Sousa. Then what do you do with McCormack who is a McD All-American?

That's 13 guys by my count. No way Self plays more than 10. If Cunliffe transfers, someone goes pro, and we redshirt someone (McCormack is the only one I can think of barring an injury to someone else), then we'd be okay. Good problem to have but man what a deep team next year.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 11 months ago

Dok is gone.

Newman will continue to blow up and leave. 50/50 for Vick leaving. Lots of season left if he can regain his early season form.

Langford is wisely waiting to see who is coming back. Technically, 1 of the 3 needs to declare, and Langford will commit shortly after declaration day in the spring.

Coach then gets eval the transfer options for any remaining vacancies.

It's becoming an annual pattern.

Allan Olson 1 year, 11 months ago

Those three will likely declare. But no agent and just to get NBA evaluated like Svi did after last season. Don't expect any of the three to leave KU for NBA. All 60 deep NBA draft forecast do not include any Jayhawks but Devonte and Svi in mid second round. And, have you seen all the top college centers play...so much more talented that Dok. If you are not a first round pick, the contract is not guaranteed. By the way, where are Brannen, Cliff, Cheik, Perry, Billy etal playing right now? Not for big bucks in the NBA. If any leave it will be for a short term, non-guaranteed, no instant millions, bus riding, never to be heard from again, pro level somewhere team.

Dillon Davis 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah Dirk I just checked 5 or 6 mock drafts and draft boards and none of them have Udoka on there. A couple had LaGerald late in the 2nd round but that's it. None for Newman either. I realize March can do a lot for a player but I don't see LaGerald taking over a March madness game. Malik could leave just to leave and go play G league or oversees I guess but I don't see LaGerald or Dok leaving.

Even if just one of the 3 leaves, that still leaves a tonnn of guards. And I don't see Langford coming here when we have 5 guys between the 1-3 spots fighting for playing time as it is...

Tony Bandle 1 year, 11 months ago

In an odd way, the best recruiting tool for KU this year?.......Four guard/ three point offense. Believe me, Dotson, Grimes and Langford have noticed.

Forgive me if this is a redundant question but is Romeo related in any way to KU alum Keith Langford?

Matt Tait 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't believe there's any relation. And I totally agree with the past couple of years of guard-heavy offenses paying off in future recruiting classes...

KD Krase 1 year, 11 months ago

I would rather have Udoka back next year rather than anyone else on the team. When he stays out of foul trouble, he can be over whelming at the basket. He needs another year to develop his offense and defense and then he will be a lottery pick.

Doug Stahler 1 year, 11 months ago

He def has the most entertainment value by far. I even like his alpha dog, BMOC, in your face t's. Those won't be t's when he gets paid $3m annum.

Drew Doerfler 1 year, 11 months ago

my completely uneducated 'guess' is that him waiting is a good indication for KU....i think he is waiting to see if either Vick or Newman leave after this year. If it were one of the other 2 schools, i think he would already have signed with them....if both vick and newman stay, then he chooses one of the other 2...and at this point i would prefer to have newman back than sign Langford....and i'm undecided between Vick and langford, but leaning towards signing Langford over getting Vick back.....but any way it plays out, i think we will be loaded and deep next year with our best shot at a national title in awhile......

Kent Richardson 1 year, 11 months ago

Deny thy father and refute thy state and you'll no longer be an Indy get.

Jay Hawk 1 year, 11 months ago

As mentioned above, the fact that KU seems to still be in this has to be a great sign. The logical inference is that he IS waiting to see how our roster shakes out.

There's no reason to question playing time at IU or Vandy so there has to be other questions that are unanswered. Does it then boil down to coaching? Fit into the offense? Teammates? Academics (haha). Car availability?

Here's something I've learned to accept. The clear OADs are VERY likely to be OADs wherever they go. I don't think their choice of schools makes that much difference. Their experience at chosen school is going to vary but if getting to the League is all that matters, the choice of school for the very best talent isn't that important. Taking it a step further, the kids who are borderline OAD but strongly desire to be OAD, might even consider going to a lesser school just to enhance their playing time and stats.

As an Indiana resident who is bombarded with his recruitment 24/7, I'm certain the draw of the home-state school is strong with Romeo and I'd be shocked if he went another direction.

David McNickle 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd rather have Newman back for his junior year. Don't know with Vick. Big 12 passive Vick has been hard to figure out. I'm hoping he's just deferring to Graham, Svi and Newman this year. I find it hard to believe that he's on the draft boards considering his lack of production in conference play. If Dok and Newman come back, this team should be tough. PG play will be the question.

Jerry Walker 1 year, 11 months ago

If Newman, Vick or Dok leave after this season...it won't be for an NBA destination.

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