Thirty-six talented high school basketball players from around the country converged at the U.S. Olympic Training Center over the weekend in hopes of being named to the Team USA U17 squad that will compete for a gold medal in Spain later this month.
Eighteen of those players made the first cut Sunday. One notable omission was Romeo Langford, who is considered one of the top prospects in the country and has already emerged as one of Kentucky’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2018.
Langford — a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from New Albany, Ind. — has scholarship offers from many of college basketball’s biggest programs, and he was named the MaxPreps.com national sophomore of the year following the most recent high school season.
Based on credentials alone, he seemed like one of the favorites to make the Team USA squad and was certainly expected to make it past the first cut.
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But neither happened.
“First off, this environment is tough for anybody that’s a newcomer and hasn’t been in it before,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels, who attended the weekend practices. “Romeo’s a pretty unselfish kid with a laid-back demeanor. He was a little passive here at times. I think he needed to be a little more aggressive.
“He’s not just going to go get the ball and demand it and go get points. That’s not his game. … He’s had an awesome spring. He just didn’t fully replicate it here.”
A few subpar days at Team USA camp won’t lower Langford’s recruiting stock, however. Scout.com ranks him as the No. 3 overall player in the class of 2018, and he’s currently leading the Adidas circuit with 23.6 points per game.
As a sophomore, he averaged 29.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, leading New Albany to an Indiana state title.
“At 6-5 with a 6-11 wing span, he’s got pretty awesome attributes for a shooting guard,” Daniels said. “He’s bouncy — quick off his feet and athletic. And that’s just the physical gifts. He can score the ball. He hasn’t shot it all that well from three, but he’s able to slash to the basket and score at the rim. He can rebound, he can defend.
“He’s a really good prospect moving forward.”
Coach John Calipari was at that Indiana state title game, and Langford counts UK among his scholarship offers. Duke, Indiana and Louisville are also on that list. He told 247Sports over the weekend that U of L is recruiting him the hardest, and he’d like to hear more from UK.
Though Langford hasn’t listed any favorites — and many other programs have offered — the conventional wisdom is already that his recruitment will come down to the four schools mentioned above.
“I think if you look at the list objectively, those would be the four that would stick out in my eyes,” Daniels said.
Five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt won’t be among the 12 players chosen for the U17 squad this week, a year after helping lead the U16 team to FIBA gold.
Vanderbilt showed up to training camp with a foot injury over the weekend and was diagnosed with a stress fracture.
Robert Vanderbilt, the player’s father, told the Herald-Leader on Monday that his son is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with the injury. The elder Vanderbilt was not sure if Jarred would be able to play in next month’s Nike Peach Jam.
Vanderbilt — a 6-9 combo forward from Houston — was one of the first players from the class of 2017 to receive a UK scholarship offer, and he often mentions the Wildcats prominently when speaking of his recruitment.
A total of 65 players earned invitations to compete in this month’s Team USA U17 and U18 training camps. The only Kentuckian in that bunch was class of 2017 prospect David Sloan, who did not make it past the first cut at U17 camp Sunday.
Sloan — a 6-foot guard — helped lead Taylor County to back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances over the past two high school seasons, but he recently transferred to Ballard and will suit up for the Bruins as a senior.
His scholarship offers so far include Louisville, Butler, Iowa State, Memphis, Missouri and Tennessee.
The U18 invitees arrive Tuesday night, and that group includes several UK recruiting targets.