The fans cheered Keith Langford throughout the game even christening a song for him after the Bruce Channel hit “Hey Baby”. It all went right for Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in Langford’s debut as they defeated Bnei Herzliya 97-91 in a back and forth 40 minute battle.
Langford wasn’t expected to play 27 minutes in his debut, especially having not played in roughly 2.5 months, but just as a basketball gets rolling so does a baller and that’s exactly what happened to the Kansas University product, “The first day of practice I was awful. The second day I was a little more relaxed and a bit better. I didn’t expect to play that many minutes, but once the game began the adrenaline took over. I was dead tired in the 4th quarter.”
After having played with the Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese league and dropped 15.9 points in 25 games, the the Fort Worth, Texas native joined the ranks of Rishon as he returned to Israel for a second spell after featuring for Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2011/12.
Although he may not be the Messiah, he’s certainly going to be called upon to help take his new team to the next level, “My impression was that as a team they (Rishon) were missing a piece or two, a word of encouragement here and a little more defensive possession there. It’s important not to lose sight that the other guys played hard too. It reminds me of Milan in 2013 and when Daniel Hackett came in and we went from the middle of the pack to the top 8.”
Wandering around the hallways of Beit Maccabi was arguably the best player in Israel today Glen Rice Jr. who is currently starring for Hapoel Holon. With Langford coming on board, the league not only upgraded in the caliber and quality of players but also in the potential one on one fun, but the 34-year old put that to bed, “That’s not my focus. When the time comes and when we play against each other that’s how you see how you are as a player, when you go up against other good players. He’s extremely talented and ten years younger than me, but being in competition with him is not at the top of my priorities.”
The two-time Euroleague Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner also spoke about how he feels he’ll be able to contribute to the team other than just finding the basket, “I told Jason (Siggers) from day one that he has to be even more aggressive for this thing to work. Don’t look at me and don’t hesitate, continue to play your game. I told Murphy (Holloway) when he missed a couple of early layups that even if you miss 20 that’s fine, just go back and get them again. You got to keep going and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I think that having that mentality even though he (Siggers) had a bad first half, we don’t win the game without him in the 4th quarter.”
Langford will not only provide an offensive punch but will also play father figure and leader to the rest of the team. Even his Head Coach Shmulik Brenner didn’t realize the full effect that this may have on his team, “I checked with others before we signed Keith so I knew certain things about him but you can feel that this is player that has been in these situations and has an understanding. He is a person of the highest caliber, more than I expected. Once he gets into basketball shape I believe that we will go far together.”
Having played at the highest levels of Europe, winning countless domestic league championships while picking up personal awards as well has helped the cool as a cucumber shooting guard into developing into a natural leader, “I think it’s natural as you get older. The good thing for me is that even though I talk to these guys they’re able to take it to heart because I still have the level of play to back it up.”