Overseas Vet Keith Langford Offers Insight Into Going Undrafted: 'It Can Be Overwhelming'

After going undrafted in the 2005 NBA Draft, Keith Langford has spent the last seven seasons overseas capturing MVP honors and shaking off the label of being a "semi-pro" player. Like Langford, a number of players could endure the same experience come draft night.

It happens every time on draft night.

Names are not called, questions arise and summer league invites and overseas opportunities are contemplated for a number of players fresh out of college who suddenly face the harsh reality that making it to the league is likely going to be full of bumpy detours.

While some players pray their pre-draft workouts provide them the chance to jump from a second-round hopeful and into the first round, others truly are on the outside looking in at both rounds.

Take the 2011 NBA Draft for example.

Guys like Travis Leslie (Georgia), Malcolm Lee (UCLA) and Matt Howard (Butler) were all projected guys who were on the "bubble" when it came to second round selections.

Both Lee and Leslie heard their names called by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver on draft night: Lee went 43rd overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves (via the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz), while Leslie was chosen 47th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.

As for Howard, the 6-foot-8 forward who helped the Butler Bulldogs reach the NCAA Final Four championship game in his last two seasons on college, he went undrafted and spent the 2011-2012 season playing in Europe between Olympiacos in Greece and Germany's EnBW Ludwigsburg.

Much like Howard, Jacob Pullen is another one of those guys in the 2011 draft class who held it down in college. Pullen helped lead the Kansas State Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and won all Big-12 team honors as a senior but also went undrafted despite solid workouts with Charlotte and Detroit.

Instead, Pullen spent last season in Italy with Biella where he finished fifth in the league in scoring with 16 points per game.

So what happens when success at the college level doesn't translate to a shot at the NBA?

Keith Langford's story helps provide some insight.

The shooting guard from Kansas who scored 1,812 points, won three Big 12 regular-season titles and played in two Final Fours for the Jayhawks went undrafted in 2005.

"All your peers around you are first-rounders. You're playing against guys like Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony and they're first-rounders, so everyone's like, 'OK, he will be, too', Langford recently explained in an interview with ESPN.com.

"Then it says you're the 46th pick projected or whatever and people start asking, 'What's wrong with him?' It gets overwhelming."

Today, Langford is one of the more efficient guards playing abroad. This season with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, he averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and shot 62% from the field in 19 games in the Adriatic League, and 10.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 20 Euroleague games.

After getting some D-League run and a stint with the San Antonio Spurs, Langford embarked on an overseas career that's taken him from Italy, to Russia and Israel and he has captured two MVP titles (Eurochallenge 2009, Adriatic League 2012). But even after those accolades in a seven year span, Langford admits he's still treated like a "semi-pro" player back in the States.

"... someone will ask me if I want to work a camp to make a little extra money. I want to yell, 'Hey, I'm a millionaire, too,' but it's not worth explaining. Guys ask me all the time, 'Don't you want to go pro? I'm like, 'Man, I am a pro.' But it's just NBA or nothing."

Who will it be this year?

What group of players will leave behind "being the man" on campus to the uncertainties that playing professionally in Europe at times can hold?

Undrafted - it's probably the one word on draft night no one wants to be associated with.

Then again as Langford's experience has shown, it could also be the best move of their career.

Note: In keeping with the topic of this post, make sure to check out "Undrafted" -- a 10-part documentary running now at SLAMOnline. The series details how college player go about chasing their NBA dreams.

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