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Big Ten’s Best Recruits of the Decade: 2018-19

Did the best recruits of the last ten years live up to the expectations?

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This is the final part of the five-part series looking back on the college careers of the best recruit each year that committed and played their college careers in the Big Ten. For rankings’ purposes, we used 247Sports’ Composite rankings.

2018: Romeo Langford, Indiana

Archie Miller picked up his first huge recruiting win as coach of Indiana when playmaking guard decided to stay home, choosing the Hoosiers over Kansas and Vanderbilt, among others. He arrived in Bloomington ranked as the No. 7 overall recruit in the 2018 class after dominating the high school circuit. Langford grew up in New Albany, IN and was childhood friends and teammates with Rondale Moore, Purdue’s All-American wide receiver/return specialist.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Indiana-Ohio State David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Langford entered the college game as a lengthy playmaker with the athleticism to play above the rim but also the rare shooting touch that most young guards fail to cultivate early in their careers. His first real test came just three games into his career against Marquette, facing up against elite scorer Markus Howard. The new Hoosier showed his quick transition to college, scoring 22 points on 8-15 shooting. While he struggled two weeks later against the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils, he quickly rebounded from that performance scoring 20 points in his Big Ten debut against Northwestern.

As the season progressed, the wear and tear of the Big Ten took its toll on Langford. He became the focal point of opposing defenses and tore a ligament in his thumb in November that plagued him for the rest of the season. Without Langford at his best, Indiana struggled to keep up with their lofty expectations. They lost 12 of their 18 games after January 1, often relying too much on Langford’s playmaking ability to find points.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana-native finished his college career winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors four separate times and was named Second-Team All-Big Ten after scoring 16.5 points per game on the season. Despite his superb personal numbers, Indiana missed the NCAA Tournament, prompting them to accept an invite the NIT - hardly a success in the eyes of Hoosiers’ fans. Langford declared for the 2019 NBA Draft and was selected with the 14th pick by the Boston Celtics. There, he’ll look to learn from Kemba Walker to hone in his playmaking style and become more efficient while picking his spots more effectively. Despite, the team’s lack of success in his lone year in Bloomington, Langford was far from the problem as Archie Miller failed to find the right combination of players to surround Langford with to maximize the star recruit.

2019: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

Trayce Jackson-Davis comes in as the lowest-ranked recruit covered in this series, ranked as the 30th overall recruit in the 2019 class. He also represents a coup for Archie Miller as he likely wants Jackson-Davis to take over the spot vacated by the departure of big-man Juwan Morgan. Jackson-Davis is another Indiana Mr. Basketball that decided to play for the local Hoosiers. His biological father, Dale Davis, played for the Indiana Pacers.

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Jackson-Davis comes Bloomington as a raw, but athletic, big that is most likely going to play the center position. He has displayed the type of rim-running and rebounding ability that will immediately translate to the college game. His soft hands allow him to catch passes and go up relatively quickly for a young big and he’s also shown the vision and coordination that will allow him to pass out the post and dribble out of potential double-teams.

While Jackson-Davis has shown great strengths in his game, there are a few things that he will need to work on - not unlike all bigs entering college ball. He’s listed at 6’9”, 230 lbs which is a slight frame that will need work to compete on the blocks in the Big Ten. He also hasn’t shown the ability to step outside and stretch defenses with his shooting. However, the shooting display - or lack thereof - may just be that coaches have not asked him to do that yet in his young career.

High School Basketball: McDonald’s High School All American Portrait Day Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson-Davis looks to lead the Hoosiers to a rebound year after a disappointing 2018-19 season in which they missed the postseason despite having Romeo Langford on the roster. Indiana loses Langford and Juwan Morgan, but return the rest of their roster, including Justin Smith, Devonte Green, and Aljami Durham. Look out for the Hoosiers to compete for a tournament bid as the Big Ten appears to be wide-open behind Michigan State.