I have to give Archie Miller credit.
Anybody who knows me well enough knows where I went to school and knows how hard those words are for me to write or say.
I'm the first to admit Purdue-Indiana is the one topic where objectivity doesn't become me. Diploma and personal allegiance aside, there's no denying what the Hoosiers coach was able to do with his first recruiting class, garnering a good group that became great when Romeo Langford ended the drama and committed Monday. (As an aside, I hope we can all agree these staged college decision shows have run their course.)
"Landing Romeo's obviously a huge get for IU and coach Miller," Valparaiso coach Barak Coolman said. "Indiana produces a lot of good basketball players and they've had issues recruiting the state. As a high school coach and as a basketball fan, I like to see talent stay in state. It's a vote of confidence for Archie. It could help change the tide."
IU had plateaued in the last few years, part of the reason it and Tom Crean went their separate ways. Whether it's the lingering allure of the national championship banners of another era or Miller himself, he was able to gain immediate traction on the recruiting trail, winning the state for the 2018 class in a runaway.
"I think it's a combination of everything," Coolman said. "Archie's the exact opposite of who he replaced, personality-wise, a mile deep instead of a mile wide. He's stoic, very business-like. He's not glad handing. He doesn't sweet talk you. There's not a lot of fluff. It's substance. He follows the same proven model as (Purdue) coach (Matt) Painter and that turned the program around for him. That has to be real refreshing to a lot of IU fans as well as high school coaches."
Coolman went with Vikings junior Brandon Newman, part of a deep 2019 Indiana high school recruiting class, to an IU game this season and said the fans seemed to have more interest in Langford sitting in the stands than the team on the floor. Miller spoke at the recent Indiana High School Basketball Coaches Association clinic and Coolman was impressed by both the words and the demeanor.
"He's very detailed," Coolman said. "There are used car salesmen and quality coaches. Some are good at selling, some are good at teaching. The great ones are a good balance of both."
Recruiting success doesn't always equate to wins as IU's acclaimed 'The Movement' several years back attests, but it's an essential starting point.
"Time will tell," Coolman said. "You can't win without talent, but you can lose with it, too. They have to prove it on the court."
Even if Langford stays just one year, it figures to positively impact IU's recruiting going forward. Purdue hoped for the same when Painter, not known for reeling in the big fish, landed Caleb Swanigan. It has had the upper hand on the floor the last few years, but the bar seemingly remains the Sweet 16. The graduation of four starters, coupled with Miller's immediate inroads, suggests the arrow could be shifting back to the south. The recruiting battles for the 2019 stars, many of whom have drawn interest from both Purdue and IU, could go a long way in establishing not just the direction of the rivalry but the national relevance of the programs in the coming years.
"People love their Indiana basketball, the Hoosiers," Coolman said. "It's a big deal to a lot of people to put on that jersey, to win Mr. Basketball. It's a lot of kids' dreams, just as it is for a lot of kids to go to Purdue or Notre Dame. It's good to have Indiana talent go to Indiana schools, represent the state and do well."