Former Kansas guard Keith Langford’s Panathinaikos OPAP Athens team will meet defending champ Real Madrid in the first game of a best-of-five EuroLeague quarterfinal playoff contest on Wednesday in Madrid, Spain.
The 6-foot-4, 35-year-old Langford averages 11.1 points and 2.4 rebounds a game for Panathinaikos, which is led by former Kentucky and Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The four quarterfinal winners will advance to the EuroLeague Final Four, set for May 17-19 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
Langford — he had a two-handed highlight-reel dunk in a Greek League victory over AEK last Wednesday — has provided instant offense off the bench since returning from a groin injury several weeks ago. He’s helped Panathinaikos roll to seven wins in eight tries entering the playoffs.
“It’s important since I came back just to accept my role. I think it’s been really big for this team,” Langford said in an interview after a recent game. “Being a little bit older, being a veteran … they brought in Sean Kilpatrick (6-foot-4 guard). I decided when I came back I was going to back him up, be the best I could be off the bench and really give the team a boost.”
Hall of Fame coach Pitino was hired by Panathinaikos in December. It’s his first coaching job since he was fired by Louisville in October 2017. Pitino led Kentucky to the 1996 NCAA Tournament title and coached Louisville to the 2013 NCAA crown, which was vacated by the NCAA.
“I asked Langford to change his game a little bit for me,” Pitino said on the official EuroLeague Twitter page. “He’s a one-on-one, pop back shoot a fadeaway and I asked him. I said, ‘I want you to get to the foul line and I don’t want you to dance on offense. I want you to catch it and I want you to duck your head and go.’ For a veteran player to change his game spontaneously because the coach asked is quite a talent,” Pitino added.
Pitino told eurohoops.net he’s had a great time coaching overseas. He’s been rumored to be a candidate for various college jobs back in the U.S.
“I’m enjoying being a pro coach,” Pitino said. “So far, we’ve had Las Vegas (UNLV opening), we’ve had UCLA. It’s very difficult for me to be a college coach. I would have to leave to be a college coach and these guys are way too important to me for me to leave at any point. There’s no amount of money, there’s no job, there’s nothing that would make me leave this team right now as we start the playoffs. I would not pay attention to any rumors because this basketball team is way too important to me to leave them at this time,” Pitino added.
North Crowley grads make impact
Former KU guard Langford is one of three Fort Worth (Texas) North Crowley High School graduates to play in the Final Four. The three are: Langford (KU, 2002, 2003), Langford’s brother, Justin Wesley (KU 2012) and Norense Odiase (Texas Tech, 2019). Former North Crowley players Willie Warren and T.J. Franklin reached the Elite Eight with the Oklahoma Sooners in 2009.
Svi has surgery on finger
Former Kansas shooting guard Svi Mykhailiuk of the Detroit Pistons will not be available for the NBA playoffs. The 6-foot-8 rookie had surgery on his left index finger last week and is out for the remainder of the postseason.
The Detroit News reported that Mykhailiuk should be able to play this summer following a short rehab period.
Mykhailiuk, 21, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade for Reggie Bullock in early February, averaged 2.0 points and 0.7 boards in three games for the Pistons. He averaged 3.3 points and 0.9 rebounds in 39 games with the Lakers.
Mykhailiuk averaged 23.5 points a game In eight G-League games with the Grand Rapids Drive and South Bay Lakers. Mykhailiuk scored 47-points in a South Bay Lakers game in December.
“He doesn’t back down from anybody,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey told the Detroit Free Press. “Even if he misses a play or a shot, it’s not from a lack of toughness or ability.”
Mykhailiuk may play some point guard for the Pistons’ summer league team.
“This summer’s going to be a big one for my development,” Mykhailiuk said. “In the league right now, there’s a lot of tall point guards. Ben Simmons, Lonzo Ball … Zo’s like 6-6, 6-7. Ben is 6-10. I think’s it’s a big advantage for a team to have a tall point guard because it gives you length on defense and you can see (defenses) better.”
Billy Preston update
Former Kansas forward Billy Preston, who practiced at KU during the 2017-18 season, but never played a game for the Jayhawks amid eligibility concerns, competed in the NBA G-League this past season. The 6-foot-10, 21-year-old Preston — he was not selected in the 2018 NBA Draft — combined to average 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 27 games for the Canton Charge, Erie Bay Hawks and Texas Legends. He averaged 17.5 minutes a game.
Malik Newman update
Former Kansas guard Malik Newman played in 42 games this past season, his first season as a pro, with both the Sioux Falls Sky Force and Canton Charge of the NBA G-League.
Newman, 22, combined to average 11.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 42 games. He logged 21.7 minutes a game.
Hurt shuts down recruiting
Matthew Hurt, a 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American out of John Marshall High in Rochester, Minn., has shut down his recruiting as he attempts to choose between KU, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina in advance of his Friday announcement. KTTC.com reported Sunday that Hurt canceled in-home visits with coaches from KU and Kentucky on Sunday. Hurt’s dad said it would have been too hectic to have coaches from all four schools visit in a single day. The recruiting contact period closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Hurt averaged 36.8 points and 12.5 rebounds a game this past season for John Marshall. He is ranked No. 7 in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com. Various analysts believe Duke is the leader.
Enaruna down to three
Tristan Enaruna, a 6-foot-7 senior forward from Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah, who is ranked No. 105 in the recruiting Class of 2019 according to Rivals.com, has cut his list of schools to KU, Creighton and Miami, 247sports.com reports. Enaruna will visit KU on April 28 after first visiting Miami on April 24 and Creighton on April 26. His mother, Anneliese Breijer, will fly from his native Netherlands to the U.S. to accompany him on his visits, 247sports.com reports.