Once considered a likely top-five pick, Romeo Langford’s draft stock slipped in the past year, and the Celtics ended up taking him 14th overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Langford, who was ESPN’s No. 1 shooting guard in the Class of 2018 and Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year, played one college season in his home state at Indiana University before declaring for the NBA Draft. With the Hoosiers, he started 32 games and averaged 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists but was limited by a lingering thumb injury.
“If they would have been more on the national radar, and he would have not hurt his thumb, he probably would have been even more discussed,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said at the Auerbach Center on Thursday. “He’s a guy we were all aware of before his first game at IU.”
Here’s what you need to know about Langford.
He was the guy in the state of Indiana.
Langford graduated New Albany High School as the fourth-leading scorer in Indiana high school basketball history with 3,002 points. He led the Bulldogs to a 25-2 record, averaging 35.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and three steals per game his senior season.
He reportedly considered Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, UCLA, and Vanderbilt, among other schools, but he decided to stay close to home.
“He’s been a good player for a long time,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that, as far as the state of Indiana high school basketball, was probably as followed as anybody in the last 15 years.”
Not surprisingly, as an Indiana guy himself, Stevens has followed Langford closely for a while. Stevens called him a long, versatile, athletic wing who can handle the ball. He said he’s capable of playing multiple positions and thriving in the pick and roll.
“He can do a lot of things on the basketball court,” Stevens said. “He’s been well-coached, both in high school and in college, and he’s a guy that we think has a lot of things that translate to the NBA.”
Danny Ainge isn’t worried about Langford’s thumb long-term.
Langford tore a ligament in his thumb in late November at IU, but he played through the pain and didn’t miss a game all year. His shooting numbers were lower than one might expect given his talent, as he shot 44.8 percent from the field and 27.2 percent from 3-point range.
“I think that’s something he’s going to continue to have to work on to improve,” Stevens said. “I don’t think that there’s any doubt. If you picked an area he’s going to have to work on, that would be it. He’s a better shooter than he shot this year.”
Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, said he isn’t worried about the injury long term, noting that the team’s doctors will take a look at the hand when Langford arrives in Boston.
He, too, acknowledged Langford’s shooting wasn’t great in college, but he expects that trend to rectify itself with time.
“He didn’t shoot the ball as great this year,” Ainge said. “He was playing with a messed up thumb and had surgery on it.”
Langford is more of a slasher than a pure shooter, and he could help fill a void the Celtics had last year as they struggled to get to the free-throw line.
He shares an agent with Marcus Smart.
Romeo Langford’s agent, Happy Walters, to the Globe: “I think Smart & Rozier & those guys will toughen him up even more. That mentality, that go 1000 percent that Romeo has will be amplified with the Celtics. I think it’s great. They would’ve been one of my top 2 places for him.”
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) June 21, 2019
He’s far from the only Indiana guy on the Celtics.
The Indiana-Boston pipeline is gaining momentum by the day. The Celtics now have: Stevens, Gordon Hayward, RJ Hunter, Langford, and Carsen Edwards.
Langford’s Hoosiers and Edwards’s Boilermakers faced off twice this year. Purdue won both meetings, but Langford pieced together a 14 point, nine-rebound performance in the second meeting, a two-point loss.
Micah Shrewsberry recently left the Celtics staff to join the Boilermakers.
He already has a basketball court named after him.
Langford has already achieved more before his 20th birthday than many people do in a lifetime.
In fact, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Romeo Langford Basketball Court at Kevin Hammermsith Memorial Park took place in New Albany in 2018.
Is it too early to suggest we rename Main Street as Romeo Langford Way?
— Pete Palmer (@lawguyNA) May 8, 2018
Langford is eager to add to his legacy in Boston, where he believes he has a real chance to contribute.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” Langford told ESPN’s Maria Taylor. “I’ve been doing it for a long time.”