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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wesley has been here before

Kansas forward Justin Wesley gives a five to young Jayhawk fan Quinn Haggard, 2, as she and her mother, Carlyn Haggard greet the Jayhawks as they take the court for practice at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012.

Kansas forward Justin Wesley gives a five to young Jayhawk fan Quinn Haggard, 2, as she and her mother, Carlyn Haggard greet the Jayhawks as they take the court for practice at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012.

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— The last time Kansas University forward Justin Wesley was in the Superdome for the Final Four, he was 11 years old and there to watch his brother.

The year was 2003, and Wesley’s older brother, Keith Langford, was a key member on the KU squad that lost to Syracuse in that season’s national title game.

Wesley can recall just about every second of that weekend, largely because the fanfare, excitement and tough loss provided such an emotional experience.

“I just remember the atmosphere was crazy, and there were a lot of people going nuts,” Wesley said. “At the end of the Syracuse game, me and (former KU forward) Nick Collison’s brother just looked at each other and started crying. We were really into it at that age.”

Decked out in his brother’s No. 5 jersey — as he was every game — and sporting a suede KU bucket hat, Wesley did all he could to help give Langford a boost on the floor.

“Yeah, I looked awful,” he said with a laugh. “But I was a kid.”

With the tables turned and Wesley wearing his own jersey this time around, the KU sophomore said Langford offered a little advice via telephone earlier this week.

“He told me he was so happy that I got a chance to experience it, and he told me to enjoy every second of it, no matter what happens, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Wesley said.

Asked if he knew if Langford thought very often about KU’s close call in 2003, Wesley jumped right in.

“Oh, he’s still got a grudge against Syracuse,” he said. “He doesn’t talk about it much, but he’s always said how he wished he could go back and play that game again and not get that horrible charge called against him.”

Times have changed, and this Superdome experience is a lot different for Wesley the 20-year-old than it was for the younger version.

But like his brother, Wesley still holds on to part of that 2003 experience and is hoping to write a different ending this time around.

“Of course,” he said. “My brothers and I have such a close bond. He was hurt from that, and I was hurt from that, so, in a way, it’s kind of like I’m back here not only for me and my teammates and Jayhawk Nation, but also for him, too.”

Langford, who still plays professional basketball in Israel, will not be at tonight’s 7:49 p.m. tipoff between the second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) and second-seeded Ohio State (31-7).

Comments

Ralster Jayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Nice story. Bring everything you got, Justin! You might be in the right place at the right time at a key moment...(just like turning that Zeller rebound attempt into a tip-in 2pts for KU)--awesome!

Darren McSweeney 7 years, 7 months ago

Jerry McNamara... one NC followed by three years of mediocrity... one of the worst players in college history that just chucked the ball constantly and hoped to get lucky. Man, I hate chuckers.

jayhawker_97 7 years, 7 months ago

Wesley is going to be an excellent player. he just needs to get used to playing systematically. it won't surprise me if he becomes a beast next season.

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

It would be so awesome.

I love his story.

From Lamar to the Final Four.

Yesterday I speculated he might go with Danny to Tulsa.

But Justin's a Jayhawk!

Gotta stay!

AsadZ 7 years, 7 months ago

batye, if he were to transfer to Tulsa will he have to sit out again for one year? Just curious on NCAA rules?

Vernon Riggs 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes, he would have to set out one season. A NCAA player has five years to play four. Since he sat out one year after coming to Kansas, if he transfered to Tulsa he would have one year left. He would sit out next season and play his senior year in 2013-14.

Curtis Stutz 7 years, 7 months ago

Glad to hear I'm not the only one still holding a grudge about the many horrible calls against Keith Langford that cost KU a national title in 2003 and made JB's 2-3 zone look legit, Keith was tearing them apart. It took me a while to realize, but I actually hate Syracuse more than any other team both for '96 and '03 but mostly for '03.

aerohawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Not that I liked the call, but 12-30 from the FT line cost us the game.

Kit Duncan 7 years, 7 months ago

Agree. Collison, like Withey, was a big man who could shoot free throws. As I recall, Nick couldn't buy a free throw in that game. It might have been championship jitters that caused the KU players to miss free throws, but I believe the media put undue pressure on those guys by hounding Roy about his possibly going to UNC. It really was a media feeding frenzy and unfortunately, took a lot of the enjoyment out of the game, both for the players and the fans.

dylans 7 years, 7 months ago

That and dead legs. Collison could barely move by the end of the game. The bench was too thin. Which I don't think will be an issue this year due to awesome conditioning and the starters playing most of the minutes all season long. With fewer blowouts, and an emphasis on defense not the fast break offense.

John Strayer 7 years, 7 months ago

ditto on the FT comment...that's where the game was lost.

Steve Reigle 7 years, 7 months ago

I remember the game but not the charge call. What's the deal on that?

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 7 months ago

I was at the game and spoke with Charlene Taylor and remember "little Justin" at the time. Great family!

The charge was an absolute bogus call and change the outcome of the game. Keith was the only one able to get to the rim constantly and without him we lost. I truly feel that way.

That was THE worst loss ever that I have witnessed personally. Damn, it hurt.

DDDHawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Justin- tell your brother that KU fans still remember and love him! What fun he was to watch in the KU uniform!

Lance Hobson 7 years, 7 months ago

I think Langford was referring to the charge called on him against Georgia Tech in overtime of their Elite 8 game the following year. That would have been three straight for him.

97jhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

K-FRRRREEEEEEZZZZZZZEEEEEEE!!!!!!

He was the lane slash master!

Thad Daugherty 7 years, 7 months ago

On another note did Justin ever get the picture of his father back?

bbeckum 7 years, 7 months ago

I was just telling Rick Griggs last night that the Syracuse loss is the most painful of all for me.

Also, Justin looks so much like his brother that my brain goes into vapor lock every time I see him and I can't remember his name. I just keep thinking, Keith Langford.

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