Langford finds success in Russian league 24  august  2010
It’s been nearly five years since Keith Langford played basketball for Kansas, but this summer he received a dose of nostalgia when he reunited with members of the Jayhawks’ 2002 and 2003 Final Four teams at Aaron Miles’ wedding.
It’s been nearly five years since Keith Langford played basketball for Kansas, but this summer he received a dose of nostalgia when he reunited with members of the Jayhawks’ 2002 and 2003 Final Four teams at Aaron Miles’ wedding.

“It just really reminded me of the camaraderie in the locker room,” he said. “It was just kind of phenomenal. Just being there and seeing all those guys again made me miss, you know, the jokes, the chillin’ on Wescoe, crackin’ jokes, laughin’.”

A lot has happened in the five seasons since Langford graduated. In addition to moving to Austin, Texas with his fiancée, he was named to the 2008 NBA Development League All-Star team and enjoyed a brief stint with the San Antonio Spurs. He has played professionally in Italy and now makes a living playing for Russian Superleague team BC Khimki Moscow.

Last summer, Khimki signed Langford to a two-year, $2.6 million contract and although he said he isn’t the type to talk numbers, he’s grateful that his career has reached a point where he can make that kind of money overseas.

“I’ve been able to settle into a lifestyle that’s taking care of me and my family and put my future family with me and my fiancée into a great position,” he said.

Khimki finished second in the Russian Superleague Finals last season, losing to former Jayhawk Sasha Kaun’s CSKA Moscow. Langford and Kaun played together during the 2004-05 season.

“I already put it out there, man, that Khimki is going to take the title this year,” Langford said. “So we’ll see what they have to say about it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and claim the title right now.”

Despite being busy with basketball in Russia, Langford still keeps tabs on how the Jayhawks are doing. Last season, Langford tracked Sherron Collins’ trek into Kansas’ top-10 all-time career scoring list. Collins, who finished his career fifth all-time, passed Langford, who is now seventh.

“Everyone was asking me, ‘Oh, do you want him to pass you?’ and things like that,” he said. “I mean if I was number one maybe I might have a little chip on my shoulder about it, but the fact that I’m still in the top-10 — sixth all-time, going down to seventh — I mean it’s not a bitter feeling at all.”

Langford’s career at Kansas was certainly filled with many notable achievements. In the 2003 National Championship game against Syracuse, he was the team’s co-leader in scoring with 19 points, and he was named to the All-Tournament Team that year after averaging 18.2 points through Kansas’ six games. He will always be able to claim that he finished his career sixth all-time in scoring, which has led to discussion about whether or not his jersey should be retired.

“Ultimately, I really think that the criteria changes from year to year, and if they find a basis for me to get in then I’d definitely be all for it,” Langford said.

Besides his success in more well-known statistical categories, Langford believes what he’s accomplished in other areas, such as minutes played and three-point field goals, make his career comparable with others.

“My career and the body of work tend to speak for itself, even compared with guys that are already in there,” he said.

His contributions to the successful history of Kansas’ basketball team still earn praise from one of his former coaches.

“Keith had an outstanding career at Kansas and was a great ambassador for our program,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He was a member of some very successful KU teams that accomplished a lot and individually he put up some big numbers and collected a lot of honors. I was glad to have coached him for two seasons.”

Langford’s past at Kansas also helps him relate to the current state of the program. After losing veterans Cole Aldrich and Collins last year, the Jayhawks will be looking for new players to fill leadership roles this season. It’s a situation Langford compared to playing on a team that was trying to find their way without Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. He expressed the need for clear leaders to emerge on the team.

“I think it’s really important coach Self and those guys establish the identity of the last few years,” he said. “Being around the guys this summer playing pickup, I think they looked very well-equipped and prepared too.”

Langford’s younger brother, sophomore forward Justin Wesley, will join the team this season after transferring from Lamar University, although he won’t be able to play in games this year due to NCAA transfer rules. Langford had some advice for his protégé before Wesley started his new life in Lawrence.

“He told me to just come in here and work hard because he said that I have a lot of potential to be good after sitting out this year,” Wesley said. “Just come here and soak it all in — work hard, take all the chewing-out by coach Self and the coaching staff, and just get better on and off the court.”

Langford told Wesley that his experience in Lawrence wouldn’t be like anything he experienced before because of the affection from Jayhawk fans. He let him know how much fans embrace the players even before they’ve ever played in a game.

“It is an overall fun experience to walk around with people looking at you knowing that you play for KU, and they have so much love for you,” Wesley said. “The fans that are here are really genuine.”

Ultimately, it was the fans that made Langford’s experience at Kansas everything that it was. His appreciation for the people that cheered him on continues to grow now that he looks back on his college career.

“Reflecting on everything — the fans, the students, the people — they’re the ones who make the guys playing on the KU basketball team everything that it is,” Langford said. “There really would be nothing without them. And that’s not taking away anything from the hard work that any of the guys put in, but the appreciation they have for us — that is what makes it worthwhile.”