Keith Langford, who was not selected in the 2005 NBA Draft despite being the sixth-leading scorer in Kansas University history, signed a contract Friday with the San Antonio Spurs.
Langford, 24, was plucked from the roster of the Austin (Texas) Toros, where he averaged 23.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in nine games for the NBA Developmental League team affiliated with the Spurs.
Langford made his NBA debut Friday night. He missed his only shot attempt and failed to score while playing four minutes, four seconds in the Spurs' 83-73 home loss to the Toronto Raptors.
"After he was cut in the preseason, coach Popovich (Gregg, Spurs) told him to go down to the D-League and be more aggressive, to have more of a killer instinct," said Langford's agent, Michael Whitaker of Reid Entertainment in Maryland.
"He said, 'This league is all about kill or be killed. With the game you have, the explosiveness you have, use it.' Look at the numbers he put up. The motivation was from coach Popovich doing the talking."
Langford declined six-figure offers from teams in Germany, Greece and Slovenia to attend Spurs' preseason camp, where he was a late cut. Instead of heading overseas, he elected to try to turn some heads in the D-League.
"It was a big financial risk. It paid off for him. He just needs to maximize the opportunity with the Spurs," Whitaker said. "With (Brent) Barry out two weeks (torn left calf muscle) and (Manu) Ginobili out (sprained index finger), there's a chance he'll get an opportunity. He has to make the most of it."
Whitaker said Langford stands to make about $6,000 per game until Jan. 10, when the Spurs must decide if they want to guarantee his contract.
If Langford is kept on the roster past Jan. 10, he would make $278,000 the rest of the season, the agent said.
"He understands the contract is not guaranteed until Jan. 10," Whitaker said. "As a player, you look for a shot. He's getting a shot.
"They like him. They told me he came close to making the team in camp. He had a real good camp. He knew he played well enough in camp to make it. He figured, 'I'm really close,' so he went to the D-League, where he was tearing it up. Now he has to play like he belongs."
Langford had a recent workout with the Denver Nuggets, who decided not to sign him. If he's cut by the Spurs, any other NBA team has the right to tender him an offer.
The Spurs cut point guard Darius Washington to make room for Langford, who spent last season with Vanoli Soresina in Italy and averaged 19.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 34 games. During the 2005-06 season, he spent time with the Fort Worth Flyers of the D-League and the Kansas Cagerz of the USBL.
He becomes the 10th Jayhawk to be on an NBA roster during the '07-08 season. He joins Billy Thomas (New Jersey), Nick Collison (Seattle), Drew Gooden (Cleveland), Kirk Hinrich (Chicago), Raef LaFrentz (Portland), Paul Pierce (Boston), Scot Pollard (Boston), Jacque Vaughn (San Antonio) and Julian Wright (New Orleans).
¢ Intelligent players: No. 3-ranked Kansas (12-0) does not figure to overlook (3-6) Yale at 7 tonight.
"How can you not get up for Yale? They're a pretty smart school. They might try to outsmart us," senior guard Russell Robinson said with a smile. "We're coming off a break. We've got to be focused. We're playing well. We don't want to have any lapses."
"They are a good team," noted senior center Sasha Kaun. "They might not be a big name. (But) they run good offense. They are one of the teams you still have to take care of business and be prepared for."
Yale, which is led by guard Eric Flato (12.2 ppg), has lost by nine points to UMass, 11 to Stanford and 34 to UCLA.
"Our guys like playing games. Even though it's only been a week since we played, the guys will be excited to play," KU coach Bill Self said. "I think we'll have a good crowd. There will be a lot of people who haven't seen us play who will be able to come to the game (buying GA tickets). That lends to more enthusiasm."
¢ Happy anniversary: Yale player Travis Pinick will have several relatives and friends at tonight's game, including his grandparents, Ed and Valeda Pinick of Topeka, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Sunday.
Travis' dad, Gregg, who was born and raised in Topeka and now is principal at Lutheran High in Orange, Calif., has been a lifelong KU fan, as has Travis, a 6-7 junior forward out of Lutheran High.
Gregg will be on hand for the game as well as Sunday's anniversary celebration.
Travis averages 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds while logging 18.2 minutes a game for the Bulldogs.
¢ Thomas on TV: KU signee Quintrell Thomas will be playing on ESPNU (Cable channel 141) tonight. His St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) High team will meet Houston Yates High in an 8 p.m. tipoff.