The basketball gym at the U.S. Olympic Training Center has been crawling with college coaches this week.
John Calipari’s U19 training camp is in town, and a main attraction has been five-star recruit Romeo Langford, one of the few high school players here and one of the most coveted prospects in the class of 2018.
Langford — a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from New Albany, Ind. — has one more season of high school ball left, and then he’ll be able to go pretty much anywhere he wants for college.
Calipari wants that destination to be Kentucky, and he and UK assistant Tony Barbee have had a close eye on Langford this week. North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Kansas’ Bill Self and Indiana’s Archie Miller would also like Langford’s commitment, and they’ve all been by to watch him work out. Duke and Louisville have also extended scholarship offers, and their top assistants have been in town to see Langford play.
“This kid is special,” Calipari said, before breaking into a grin. “But he never says anything. I’m just trying to get him to smile, and he’ll do that every once in a while.”
Calipari’s message to his training camp invitees this week has been to have fun, but forgive Langford if he’s taking this trip a bit more seriously.
He was here last summer, too — trying out for the Team USA U17 squad — and despite being one of the most highly touted players on the camp roster, he didn’t make it past the first series of cuts.
“I feel like it’s another chance for me to prove that I should have made the team last year,” Langford said. “This year is just like redemption.”
He made it past the first round of cuts Tuesday, when the camp was cut from 26 players to 16. The final cut to the 12-player squad will take place Thursday afternoon.
Langford’s best session of the week came Monday night. He was hitting from long range, driving at the basket and bringing the ball up the floor as the point guard, something Calipari specifically said he wanted to see from Langford at this camp.
His game is and has always been built around creating offense.
“I’m a scorer,” Langford said.
He averaged 28.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 blocks for New Albany High School as a junior this past season. If he scores 1,056 points in his senior season, he would break high school legend Damon Bailey’s scoring record for the state of Indiana, set in 1990.
Langford said he tries not to pay attention to “the Damon Bailey stuff” — he’s been hearing the comparison for most of his high school career — and he doesn’t seem laser focused on his recruitment quite yet either.
He’s taken some visits — including one to UK’s Big Blue Madness last fall — and hosted plenty of coaches, but he says he lets his dad handle the texts and phone calls from his college suitors. “I don’t really talk on the phone,” he said.
Louisville is located right across the Ohio River from Langford’s hometown, and he took several recruiting visits to the Yum Center last season. The Cardinals have emerged as a popular prediction for Langford, but he says he has no favorites.
He also said the recent NCAA penalties levied against U of L would have no impact on his recruitment.
“I didn’t think too much about it,” he said. “I mean, everybody knew they were going to get in trouble, so it wasn’t really that big of a shocker. It didn’t change the way that I feel about them.”
Scout.com ranks Langford as the No. 5 overall player in the class of 2018, and national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader that Langford seems to be “a long ways” from making a college decision.
The Indiana native acknowledged that he’s in no hurry to make a choice. “Just whenever it feels right,” Langford said. “I’m not going to rush it though.”
UK’s chances with one of the nation’s top scorers could be aided by this week’s camp. If Langford makes the U19 team, that’ll mean even more time he can spend with the Wildcats’ coach.
“Coach Calipari, everybody knows him. Big-time coach,” Langford said. “I just like the way he develops his players. He gets his players where they want to go He doesn’t let you just go out there and half play. You can make mistakes, but as long as you play hard, that’s all he worries about.”