Indiana basketball fans got a glimpse of what to expect from Romeo Langford on Tuesday night.
But that’s really all it was. A glimpse.
It didn’t last long. If you got up and used the bathroom or grabbed a beverage around the 10-minute mark of the first half and were gone more than five minutes, you missed five of his seven field goals.
You blinked in the first half and he had 17 points. In the second half of a blowout, nearly 50-point victory it seemed everyone lost interest. Langford scored two more points.
His free-throw shooting was painful to watch, but anyone who has seen the true freshman play in the past knew that had to be nerves or a few balls that clanked out. Romeo will make a high percentage of his free throws. Don’t worry about that one.
Still, there was just something about that performance.
Even though the opponent was just Chicago State, there was something about Langford’s effort that made most every IU fan I’ve talked to since that game say the same thing — they can’t wait to see him again.
Pick your adjective.
Romeo was smooth, explosive and graceful. It almost seemed effortless. He didn’t come out throwing up ill-advised shot after shot but instead — to use an overused sports cliché — he let the game come to him.
Early on, he could have forced a couple of shots. But instead he dribbled and found the open man. Romeo is smart that way. He knows his teammates will go out of their way to find him in most situations. But at the same time, he wants to keep others involved, too.
It’s like the quarterback who takes his offensive linemen out for a steak dinner to thank them for all they do for him. Not saying Langford will be picking up the bill any time soon, but his teammates have to know if they are open Langford is going to give up the ball.
And that’s important. For a true freshman coming in — especially a highly touted freshman who was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball last season — having the confidence of your teammates early is huge.
Plus there’s just that feel of anticipation when he plays. What will Langford do this time? Will it be a highlight film breakaway dunk or something as simple as the true freshman from New Albany using a different gear to fly by a defender? Maybe it will be a nifty pass he makes when everyone else is expecting him to shoot? Or maybe it will be a defensive gem that leads to a big basket at the other end?
He’s capable of all that and even more. And the thing that makes it that much better for IU fans is it just all seems so effortless.
If anyone could have a ho-hum 30-point game, you just feel like it could be Langford. Think about Tuesday night. If he makes those six free throws, he scores 25. And that would have been the quietest 25 points ever.
Let me put it this way. I’ve been covering Indiana basketball for 21 years. I tape every game. Sometimes I’ll go back and watch a play or a series of plays. Rarely do I want to watch the entire game. With Langford though on Tuesday night, I couldn’t wait until Wednesday morning to go back and watch and see how easy that 19-point effort turned out to be.
I remember in the 2013-14 season IU had a one-and-done named Noah Vonleh who I always thought was the answer to a great trivia question. What was Vonleh’s high game of his Indiana career?
The answer was 19 points. Yes, Vonleh never scored 20 points in a college game.
We just saw Langford yawn and get 19 points. You just have to wonder what his highest single-game output is going to be. I’ll be surprised if it’s not in the mid-30s or higher.
Now, I know it’s just one game. And that one game was Chicago State. I get all of that.
We’ll get a much better feel against Duke, Louisville, Arkansas, Marquette and Butler.
But sometimes the best players go to another level when the bright lights are on in a situation like that, too. It’s a natural instinct for the great players.
I do know this: There’s an air of anticipation with what Romeo Langford will do the next time out.
And that’s good for IU basketball.