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June 15, 2012The 2012 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic was a huge success, topped off by highlight performances by former Jayhawks Keith Langford and Tyrel Reed.
A game of 'knockout' with kids chosen from the audience led off a night of basketball and support for the three beneficiaries chosen for the Roundball Classic.
ESPN's Neil Everett hosted the event for the sold out Free State High School gym and even knocked down a free throw in the second half. The winner of knockout, Austin Dixon, was awarded Wayne Simien's game jersey and recorded several minutes of playing time with the former KU greats that came out to help support the cause.
Simien, who was busy playing father to his newly born child which came into the world early Thursday morning, wasn't able to attend.
Outside of the beneficiaries, the stars of the night were former KU guards Keith Langford and Tyrel Reed.
Langford, who has won two titles overseas and received and MVP award, led all scorers with 47 points. He looked every bit the player he was at Kansas, particularly his first two years before injuries slowed him down.
"It's been good, the work I've done; it's paid off for me," said Langford following his 47-point outburst. "I won two titles and a title is a title, so you get your work done and reap the benefits of it."
As Bill Self told Justin Wesley on the bench during the second half, Langford looks just like the NBA's James Harden on the court.
"Coach Self was on the bench and he said he is just like James Harden," said Wesley. "He kind of does, when I was watching him-do I think he can play in the NBA? Yes, but at this time he's making a great living overseas, just got married, and he's going to be starting a family soon, but I would love to see him play in the NBA."
When watching him, he does indeed carry a similar style and approach as Harden. Both are incredibly smooth lefties who can knock down that outside shot as well as get to the rim quickly by getting low and getting their shoulders past defenders.
Langford has been one of the more impressive players in Europe over the past several years. YouTube videos show him knocking down outside shots and throwing down impressive dunks just as KU fans remember him doing in Lawrence not long ago.
"Just him being my brother and knowing how he is, I kind of knew he was going to be aggressive," Wesley said.
Langford said after the game once he found out what the Roundball Classic was all about, he wanted to be a part of it, and even though basketball was the highlight of the night, the evening as a whole was about something much more important.
"That's [fighting cancer] what it's all about," Langford said. "When Brian [Hanni] told me what it was about I wanted to do it. What they are going through is way more important than any game any of us have ever played."
Now with Wesley ready to start his third year at Kansas, Langford has become even closer to the program since his departure. Although he throws advice Wesley's way, he knows his brothers' path isn't the same as the one he himself went down.
"With my brother being here and some of the recent success the program has had, I think it has just kind of rejuvenated everybody," said Langford. "My love for the school has never gone away and these last few years I have really enjoyed it and I always make it a point to come back."
"Justin is Justin. I try and stay out of his ear because he is on his own path so I am just here for support however it comes and he knows he can depend on me for anything."
Although Wesley understands his brother wants him to have his own experience and find his own conclusion to his time at Kansas, he appreciates the help nonetheless.
He's just telling me, you know you went through your first year of playing, you played a little bit in the beginning and take it as a learning experience for next year and be more aggressive next year," Wesley said. "His advice means everything to me and he is the reason why I started playing ball so I take everything he says into consideration and apply it."
The common question for any sibling combo having played at the same place is whether or not their respective skills have translated from one to the other. Wesley is one of the more athletic players on KU's roster, just as Keith was during his time in Lawrence. Wesley is more of a true forward while Langford, although not always the best outside shooter at Kansas, is more of a scoring guard.
Still, Wesley knows he would be wise to at least attempt to study his brother and his skill set and maybe add a move or two to his own.
"As far as athleticism and as far as being aggressive I am starting to see myself in him a little. He talks to me every day about being aggressive. I watch film on him too so I want to take some of the things that he has in his game and try to apply it to mine."
Aside from Langford's 47, former Kansas guard and fan favorite Tyrel Reed lit up the scoreboard himself with 37 points.
According to Reed, Thursday was the first time he has picked up the basketball in a competitive forum in some time.
"I haven't played in a long time, but it felt really good out there tonight," Reed said. "That's the first time I have run up and down the court since I left Europe."
Reed gave the professional circuit overseas a shot after leaving Kansas. His performance as a senior helped him become the winningest player in KU history and quickly earned him the respect of not only those who played with him and were more heavily recruited and sought after out of high school, but with everyone in the athletic department and among the fans.
Reed, more or less a home-grown product as he hails from Burlington, Kan., was often considered the overall best athlete on the team. He would routinely win sprint drills during preseason boot camps, and was one of the more powerful players in the weight room.
Reed, always known for his outside shot, showed flashes of his athleticism while at Kansas, and on Thursday night, had several dunks.
I was in Belgium," Reed said after the game. "It was a great experience and the people over there were nice. I don't speak much French so that was a little bit of a barrier but I had a good time. It was a great experience, I loved playing over there. Different lifestyle and different game over there but it's good to be back."
"My ankle was really bugging me while I was over there and it just never got any better, but now that I'm back and I've taken a little break I feel great. I feel as good as I have since high school. I'm excited about the future."
Reed interned as a physical therapist/trainer while at Kansas, even helping other athletes with rehab after injuries. Now, he will continue down that path, adding, "I'm going to start PT school up at KU Med, so I'm really excited about that."
After the game concluded, fans quickly ran onto the court to lineup for the autograph session with all of the players. Fans were free to approach former greats like Bud Stallworth, Ron Kellogg, and others. Big Jay was in attendance, mingling with the crowd and helping put on a show for a great cause like only the Kansas Basketball community knows how.
The three beneficiaries, Ben and Aiden Turner, Taylor and Tom Gabel, and Adam Tallent were able to enjoy one night of relief with the KU family. New friends were made, and a great cause was given the attention it deserves.
If nothing else, for the three families and so many others affected by cancer, a basketball game was able to have such a profound impact on something which can be so devastating. We should all realize that the possibilities are endless in the ability to help those in need never fight another day alone.
Special thanks to Brian Hanni, Director of the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic.