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Men’s basketball: Joshua Langford reportedly set to play for MSU next season

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NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In an article yesterday, Graham Couch (Lansing State Journal) reported that Joshua Langford has told Tom Izzo that he plans on playing for Michigan State next year as a fifth-year senior. While Josh’s health has been in flux and in doubt for the better part of the last two season, if he is healthy he plans to play and, I am sure, play to the best of his abilities, which are considerable.

At the beginning of last season, when Izzo found out that Langford would be out for the year he said he was losing his “best player.” A bit of revisionist history later and Izzo is saying that he lost his “second best player” in Langford. Regardless of whether or not he was the best or second best player at the time, Langford was clearly playing at a terrific level before he re-injured his left foot that he first injured mid-way through the 2018-19 season.

I still have never seen reported what bone Langford actually fractured and re-injured (whereas with Ahrens and Byrd we knew they were dealing with metatarsal breaks); the kind of radio silence on a relatively straightforward question that continues to give me pause (obviously I respect Josh’s privacy on this, but I fear it may have been an injury to a ‘bad-bone’ in the foot like a fracture to the talus or a Lisfranc injury).

Regardless of the injury specifics, Josh appears to be finally on the road to a full recovery. Michigan State fans, and fans of Josh, should be as cautiously optimistic as Izzo at this point. It is doubtful that we would see Josh at peak form right away as he has been away from the court for nearly two years, but there is plenty of precedent for guys with multiple foot injuries and surgeries coming back to play at a high level among guards and wings (Caris LeVert of Michigan, for example).

At the time of his injury, Josh had been averaging about 15 points, three rebounds, and two assists per game, while shooting about 44 percent from the field, better than 40 percent from the three-point line, nearly 84 percent from the free-throw line, and playing very strong defense. Josh had scored in double figures in every full game of the season, and despite some in-game inconsistency he had been Michigan State’s most consistent player at the start of the season that would eventually end with Michigan State in the Final Four. His jump-shooting, microwave ability to get red-hot, and his willingness to take important shots had already been on full display.

Langford’s second-half burst against Kansas nearly brought the Spartans all the way back in what had been a shambolic display, his personal fireworks show against Texas nearly single-handedly won Michigan State a huge in-season tournament in one of the best displays of shot-making I have seen in green and white, and despite his uneven game against Louisville in a road, overtime loss, it is important to remember that at the time that team was very much still figuring themselves out. The thought of having Josh on the court against that Texas Tech team, when MSU couldn’t buy a bucket and was given plenty of jump-shots is almost too much to bear.

Here is a quick video recap of his display against Texas:

We do not know how close to this version of Joshua Langford he will get next season (assuming we get a season), but his talent is clearly a huge potential boost to the starting line-up and to the team overall. His leadership, caring, calm, and intensity had a huge on-court impact for the team, and I expect him to be just as savy, skilled, and good of a shooter. The swing-skills for his own season’s trajectory are his lateral agility and explosion - if he has those back, in full, then his defense will get back up to the level it was at very quickly. If I were a betting man, I would bet on Josh having a great season.

Roster Impact:

Getting Josh back is huge, and changes the talent ceiling for this team in a major way. While the roster is still up in the air with Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman still in draft-limbo, Karim Mane not-yet-committed to another school or to playing pro-ball, and possible roster attrition still to be determined, if we assume that Tillman leaves for the NBA, Henry stays, Mane goes elsewhere, and no attrition occurs the team should look something like this:

1 - Watts, Loyer
2 - Langford, Hoggard
3 - Henry, Brown
4 - Hauser, Hall
5 - Sissoko, Bingham Jr, Marble, Kithier

and here is the rough minutes breakdown for the positions, with estimated minutes in parentheses (I think Josh would start the season at around 20 minutes per game, but if he is healthy and gets his legs, game, and explosion back expect him to trend towards 30 minutes per game in conference season):

1 - Watts (30), Hoggard (5), Loyer (5)
2 - Langford (20), Brown (10), Hoggard (10)
3 - Henry (30), Brown (10)
4 - Hauser (30), Hall (10)
5 - Sissoko (15), Bingham jr (15), Marble (5), Kithier (5)

If Tillman does return, then MSU is likely the No. 1 team in the nation, with a roster looking something like this (I would expect some attrition in the front-court, or a red-shirt or two):

1 - Watts, Loyer
2 - Langford, Hoggard
3 - Henry, Brown
4 - Hauser, Hall
5 - Tillman, Sissoko, Bingham Jr, Marble, Kithier

and here is the rough minutes breakdown for the positions, with estimated minutes in parentheses:

1 - Watts (30), Hoggard (5), Loyer (5)
2 - Langford (20), Brown (10), Hoggard (10)
3 - Henry (30), Brown (10)
4 - Hauser (30), Hall (10)
5 - Tillman (30), Sissoko/Bingham Jr/Marble/Kithier (10)

[Note: I think, initially, that Izzo will give every big a chance to play their way into the rotation]

Regardless of how this shakes out, it has to be incredibly exciting for Spartan fans: we are, by all reports, adding in a fifth year senior who averaged 15 ppg, shoots it great, defends well, leads, and cares deeply about the school and program. With Rocket Watts, a healthy Josh Langford, and Aaron Henry (assuming he returns), Michigan State has potentially the best defensive back-court in the country and more than enough firepower to hang with any team.

Go Green!!!