Towering former basketball star helps the next generation of athletes grow

Jarrett Brown
6 min readNov 29, 2023

Hometown heroes sometimes leave the area where they grew up and never look back. Kris Lang’s basketball talent took him from the basketball court at Hunter Huss High School in Gastonia, N.C. to hallowed hardwoods all around the globe. After playing 18 professional seasons over a span of 16 years, Lang retired and returned to Gastonia in 2018. He moved into a home he had originally purchased for his mother and set out to share his skills and wisdom with the youth of Gaston County and surrounding areas.

1n 1998, as a senior at Hunter Huss, Lang was named North Carolina Mr. Basketball and was selected as a McDonald’s All-American and Parade All-American. North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Dean Smith, one of the most admired coaches in the history of sports, recruited Lang to Chapel Hill to play forward and center. Lang kept his commitment to North Carolina even after Smith announced the end of his Hall of Fame coaching career. Under Smith’s successors, long-time top assistant Bill Guthridge and former player Matt Doherty, Lang was a starter for all four years of his collegiate career from 1998 to 2002, including his freshman campaign in which he was named to the All-ACC Freshman team.

Photo Courtesy of UNC

Lang wasn’t drafted by an NBA team after his stellar career at North Carolina ended in 2002, but his hoop dreams did not end there. During his 16-year professional career, he played for the Asheville Altitude and
Austin Toros of the NBDL, was on the preseason roster of the San Antiono Spurs of the NBA, and played for international teams in Poland, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Turkey, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Uruguay. He was a member of championship teams with Anwil Wloclawek (Poland) in 2003, the Asheville Altitude (NBDL) in 2004, Turk Telecom (Turkey) in 2008, and Cocodrilos de Caracas (Venezuela) in 2013.

After returning home to Gastonia in 2018, Lang built a court in his backyard with three basketball goals and started training local basketball players. He quickly gained clients and a reputation for his ability to
teach basketball fundamentals. One problem that Lang had was that he and his players were out in the elements and were at the whim of Mother Nature.

“I was at the mercy of the weather,” Lang said. “Sometimes it was raining or it was too cold. We would actually train out there until it got down to 38 degrees. We had a bunch of heaters and while I was leading the discussions the kids would be warming their hands up until it was time to shoot.”

In 2022, after searching for a suitable property for more than a year, Lang came upon an old cotton mill in Belmont that had most recently been used as a shrimp aquaculture facility. The building was just what Lang was looking for because it had open space and the roof was not held up by beams in the middle of the floor. The space was open enough, large enough, and high enough to serve as a basketball gym. It also had plenty of adjacent space that could be turned into a workout room and “Chill Room” for congregating, relaxing, playing video games, and other activities. After renovating the facility to meet the needs of the people who hoped to welcome as members, Lang opened the Kris Lang Sports Complex.

KLSC’s large workout space has a variety of equipment to help members stay in shape

Since opening in August 2022, Lang has been a hands-on business owner and a leader who has created a community that he refers to as a family. On any given day Lang can be found mopping floors, maintaining equipment, and making sure the members’ needs are met. Lang referees basketball games, coaches skills camps and summer camps, hosts birthday parties, and leads afterschoolers in all sorts of games and activities. Running the facility is a non-stop job because it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, and 365 days a year.

“The fact that we are open 24 hours is what people like most,” Lang said. “Most rec centers close at 5 or 6 o'clock. The parents can’t get their kids to the gym to work off energy until they get off work which is 5:30 or 6 o’clock. There is security with all of the cameras so it is a safe place. That makes parents feel good as well.”

Basketball players of all ages work on their skills at KLSC.

Standing at 6–11, Lang towers over most people. The kids who come to the facility are much shorter than Lang, but he possesses an innate ability to connect with them on their level. He treats each kid like an individual and coaches them the way that is best for them. Using what he learned from the many coaches he had during his playing years, Land finds ways to help each kid develop.

Although Lang never played for Dean Smith at North Carolina, the late, great coach influenced Lang.

“Even though Coach Smith wasn’t my coach he was around all the time,” Lang said. “And being with Coach Guthridge is like being coached by Coach Smith because they were together for 38 years.”

Photo Courtesy of UNC

Playing basketball overseas for many years also influenced Lang. He played under coaches who had vastly different styles of leading their teams over the course of his long professional career.

“Different coaches had different styles,” Lang said. “Some yelled and cussed, some made you run, and others were more relaxed. The trainers were the same way. Some trainers would work you really hard and some trainers would let you determine how good you wanted to get.”

“I have taken a little bit from all of my coaches,” Lang continued. “I try to learn each kid’s personality and push them the way that is most effective for them.”

Lang’s desire to help young people grow and get better has been a part of who he is since his days on the basketball team at North Carolina. He was always quick to volunteer for opportunities to make a little extra money by coaching at basketball clinics and camps that were held for young hoopers in the summer months.

“I was like a little kid in a candy store. I loved it,” Lang said. “You know how some players just want to hang out on the wall and be quiet? I was playing, sweating, and having fun. Being around kids all day is
my calling. It truly, truly is.”

Learn more about the Kris Lang Sports Center and all it has to offer by visiting More information is also available by email at or by phone at 704–904-