Former KU great Keith Langford reflects on a year of retirement

photo by: Henry Greenstein/Journal-World

Kansas legend Keith Langford, left, poses for a photo with his son Kaycen, 11, at the Bill Self Basketball Camp at West Middle School on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

Keith Langford never had an issue with his identity being defined by his status as a basketball player.

In his year of retirement since stepping away from a lengthy and decorated overseas professional career, though, Langford, 40, has swiftly developed a new identity: “glorified chauffeur.”

“Just pretty much taking kids to school, picking them up, being a full-time dad … which is something I haven’t really been able to do over the years,” said Langford, who has 11- and 6-year old children. “That’s pretty much it. I get in the gym from time to time, beat up on some middle-aged men, but that’s about it.”

Langford was in Lawrence on Wednesday joining his son Kaycen, 11, at the Bill Self Basketball Camp at West Middle School. But on his visit back to Kansas, where he shone for four seasons and starred for a team that made the national title game in 2003, he also had a chance to address the current Jayhawks and share some of his experience.

Self, who coached Langford for half his career, didn’t necessarily give him notice that he was going to do so — “Coach always put the old guys on the spot, man, when they come back” — but he still had wisdom to share.

“It’s always ‘run your own race,'” Langford said. “Some guys are going to be one and done, some guys are going to go to NBA, some guys are going to go to G League, some guys may go to Europe. But it’s what road fits you best, not worrying about what the next man is doing, on your team or the other team. Run your race, do your job and let things fall in line.”

Langford’s race, after some early time in the NBA D-League and a couple of games in the Association itself, took him on a 15-year tour of Europe, where for years he was one of the Euroleague’s top scorers, and played for teams in Greece, Israel, Italy and Russia.

After struggling with an Achilles injury, Langford bid farewell to pro basketball by playing for the Mass Street Collective KU alumni team in The Basketball Tournament last summer.

One of the teams for whom he earned the Alphonso Ford EuroLeague Top Scorer Trophy, Olimpia Milano in Milan, Italy, recently inducted him into its hall of fame.

Langford said it was a strange feeling given how much of “a negative stigma” there was attached to going overseas when he was coming up.

“Maybe it still is now,” he said. “I’m not sure. Wasn’t very well informed. But to really turn that unknown into a Hall of Fame-type career, man, it was a special experience and I was glad to be able to go back and do it.”

He certainly isn’t taking to the court any longer, though — besides the “middle-aged” basketball he referenced.

“Dajuan (Harris) kind of made a joke about asking me if I was going to play with them,” he said, and then joked, “I played last summer in preparation for the TBT, and that probably was my official retirement, playing against them. I knew that I’m really not at this level anymore.”

After his team’s run came to an end in TBT last summer, Langford suggested in a post on X that he might be interested in coaching a team in the event in the future.

“I think it’d be interesting,” he said Wednesday. “I’d be willing to give it a shot, and also I think it’d be a pretty good draw for some of the KU guys. I think we really tried to give it a valiant effort last summer, but we needed a couple more horses in there, so it may take a little more to convince those guys to come on.”

No such alumni team has been officially announced yet for this year’s competition, though Tyshawn Taylor did suggest in a recent post that he was trying to put one together. Langford mentioned that he knew Taylor was working on it but that Taylor had suffered a recent injury.

“So I think right now he’s tending to that, but knowing Tyshawn, he’ll definitely multitask,” Langford said.

In one of his final basketball games, Langford, after changing his shoes at a pivotal moment, scored 13 points in the second half to help Mass Street rally to defeat We Are D3 70-67. The KU alumni beat a team of Missouri alumni in the following round before dropping their third game in Wichita.

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