"I think it has intensified," said Langford. "I played the last two and half months of the season injured. I finished hurt and wasn't able to be at my best," explained Langford.
Even not at his best, Langford had plenty to brag about. He ranked second on the team in scoring, rebounding and assists with 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He reached double digits in scoring in 27 games last year and shot 47.9 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three-point land. Langford was listed a Wooden Award finalist, made second team All Big 12, and made an NCAA all-tournament team for the third consecutive year.
This year many expect Langford will contend for All-American honors. He provides leadership for a team that entered the season with a #1 ranking. But that is not enough for Langford.
"Now, people still have questions about my knee or my health. I finally have a chance to be healthy, and once again I have to show people what I am capable of. I just have so much to prove," said Langford.
Undoubtedly that gotta-show-em attitude fuels Langford. Coach Bill Self labels Langford as the player he can rely on to bring energy and a spark to the team. According to Self, his teammates feed off of that.
"If the team is half as hungry as I am, we will be fine. I feel as if I have a lot to prove," reiterated Langford again.
But who exactly is Langford trying to impress? Is it his teammates? The national media? The fans? Or does he just need to prove it to himself. It is tough to say. Even the outspoken Langford seems conflicted.
"There might be a point where people are never satisfied," admitted Langford. "It seems like no matter what you do, some people always have something to criticize."
The passion Kansas fans feel for the sport can be too much. The spotlight can be cruel and Langford has taken his share of fan criticism, on and off the court. Last year he spent time on the other side of the media, acting as a columnist for The Kansan.
"I wrote something about weapons of mass destruction and somebody wrote me and said, ‘You're a KU basketball player. You should be writing more about the games.," explained Langford with a smile.
"I got people saying I should be focusing on improving my skills, not writing for the student newspaper. There were people criticizing my columns. I got all kinds of emails and comments," said Langford shaking his head.
Last year Langford seemed noticeably absent from preseason, and even postseason, hoopla. This year, the national media paid a bit more attention. Along with teammate Wayne Simien, Langford was among fifty of the country's top collegiate men's basketball players named as preseason candidates for the prestigious Naismith Trophy. But was it enough?
"Sometimes I feel I don't get the respect I deserve," stated Langford. "But it's not what people write, it's what my teammates think," he added quickly, but not quite convincingly.
What will it take to chisel that chip down to a manageable size and ultimately knock it off Langford's shoulder? One possibility seems painfully obvious. A national title might just do the trick.
Langford undoubtedly wants that title as much as his teammates, including the three other seniors who have not shied away from declaring their intentions for the season. When the question was posed -- "What will it take?" -- all championship dreams remained unspoken though. Langford paused thoughtfully, struggling to focus his thoughts and come up with the answer.
"The respect of my teammates, coaches, and fans is enough for me," said Langford with finality. "That respect is what matters."
Originally published in the December issue of Jayhawk Illustrated magazine. Kansas kicks off the 2005 portion of the season Jan. 1. Keith Langford and the Jayhawks take on No. 9 Georgia Tech at 1:30 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. It will be the first ranked foe KU will play in 2004-05. Wayne Simien will not play due to injury.