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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Devonte’ Graham announces he’s returning to Kansas for senior season

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) turns to the bench with excitement as the Jayhawks pulls away during the second half against Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) turns to the bench with excitement as the Jayhawks pulls away during the second half against Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Three years ago today, Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham was released from his scholarship at Appalachian State, which paved the way for him to come to Kansas.

Sunday afternoon, via an enthusiastic message via Twitter, Graham announced that he would maximize his time as a Jayhawk and return for his senior season.

“I would just like to announce to all my family, friends, & fans that I'm coming back to school for my senior Yr,” Graham Tweeted.

Below the Tweet was a meme of Graham’s signature smile with the words, “How I feel about senior yr” laid over the photograph.

KU coach Bill Self said Graham told the coaching staff of his decision last week and elected to announce it on Twitter to keep the whole thing as low-key as possible.

“Devonte’ told us last week that he didn’t want to test and was gonna come back," Self told the Journal-World Sunday afternoon. "Initially, we said, ‘Do you want to announce it at the (Tuesday) banquet?' But he didn’t want the attention and he did it the way he did it and, obviously, we're excited about his decision."

Self said he would address Graham's return at Tuesday night's banquet but added that he would not make a huge fuss about it, per Graham's wishes.

“That’s not how he rolls," Self said. "He and Frank (Mason III) are a lot alike in that area. There’s not gonna be a parade or anything like that.”

As for whether the news caught Self by surprise, the 14-year Kansas coach who said — and always has with all NBA prospects — he would support whatever decision Graham made said he kind of suspected Graham would make this decision.

“He had gotten enough feedback," Self said. “I would’ve been fine either way, but if he feels in his heart that this isn’t the right time for him, then it’s not the right time. “Frank obviously had an unbelievable year, but Devonte’ deferred to Frank quite a bit and to be able to be the face of (our) team next year really excites him.”

And with that, KU’s outlook for the 2017-18 season jumped up substantially, as Graham’s return will give the Jayhawks multiple things they may not have had without him.

For one, he’ll be the face of the program, a four-year player and fan favorite who has been around Lawrence and KU coach Bill Self long enough to know how things are done and what it takes to win big.

For two, he’ll be the unquestioned leader of a team that is losing a lot of leadership from the 2016-17 team with the departures of Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas.

For three, he likely will slide right into the lead guard position and be allowed to run the team much the way Mason did during his monster senior season.

That last factor was significant. Following KU’s season-ending loss to Oregon, Graham admitted that Mason’s monster season and the thought of duplicating it, or at least coming close, during his senior season likely would play a role in his decision to turn pro or return to Kansas.

Many, including Self, believed Graham would at least seek information from NBA teams about his status in this summer’s draft, and he could have done just that, without penalty, as long as he did not hire an agent.

But Graham, through conversations with his family and coaches, evidently learned all he needed to learn about the pros and cons of leaving and staying. On most NBA mock drafts, Graham is listed as a second-round pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. Returning and having a breakthrough type of season, during which he can showcase more of his all-around game, certainly could elevate Graham to first-round status, where players received guaranteed contracts.

Consider Mason’s rise as a blueprint. After not being listed anywhere near various mock drafts for the past three seasons, Mason’s player of the year campaign has put him on the NBA radar. His goal now is to show scouts, coaches and general managers enough in the coming weeks to become a first-round selection.

With better NBA size and similar skills, Graham enters the offseason before his senior year a step ahead of where Mason was at this time last year. What his future before college holds remains to be seen, but the biggest question surrounding Graham has been answered. He’ll be a Jayhawk for one more season and the real work begins now.

The Jayhawks remain in the running for five-star point guard Trevon Duval, who said a couple of weeks ago that he was waiting to hear what Graham decided before making his decision. Pairing Graham and Duval in the backcourt would give the Jayhawks a similar attack to the one they enjoyed this season with Mason and Graham. Those two, along with transfer guard Malik Newman, who KU's coaches have been high on throughout the season, would give Kansas yet another terrific trio in its backcourt heading into the 2017-18 season.

“I feel like every year coach does a good job of recruiting guys and bringing in guys and we still know that a couple guys are coming back," Graham said in the moments following that loss to Oregon. "The future’s bright for us.”

As for fellow-junior Svi Mykhailiuk, whom Self has said all along also had a decision to make this offseason, the KU coach said he and Mykhailiuk had discussed his options but that the Ukrainian guard had not yet indicated that he was ready to make a decision one way or the other.

Comments

John Fitzgerald 2 weeks, 4 days ago

I don't see us getting Duval, but it'd be impressive if we did. I think it's more important that we focus on another big guy to help Dok carry the load. Either way, things look bright for the record setting number 13 next year.

Michael Terry 2 weeks, 4 days ago

It would be nice, but we don't necessarily need Duval now. I would much rather play a lineup of Graham, Newman and Vick. Self can add another point guard that he can bring along slowly to take over once Graham has graduated. Much like he did with Mason and Graham. This is definitely good news!!!

Noel Backwards 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I could see Marcus Garrett being that guy he brings along to take over for our veteran guards. He is a taller guard, but has experience playing 1-3 and is very talented.

Phyllis Hartwick 2 weeks, 4 days ago

This is the best news that I have heard all day!!! Devonte is so talented and I love his smile and enthusiasm. He can follow in Frank's footsteps as the team leader. I can hardly wait for next season. I hope Svi is back too!

Ashwin Rao 2 weeks, 4 days ago

With the loss of Mason, I feel that we lost a great (fantastic) player & a source of energy for the team. I didn't think Mason was a leader of the team. I noticed that even during the '16-'17 season, Devonte was the true "leader" of the team. I am ecstatic about his decision. We need a "Mason" type energy player to help us re-live the past season again next year. I have heard great things about Newman & we know that Vick is capable of doing it in small spurts, so I agree with John & Michael that we need to get some help for the bigs.

Greg Ledom 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Sorry AR, but if you don't think Frank was the unquestioned leader of this team, your clueless (imo) man. Leaders don't lead by words alone but actions (even more so imo), and he lead this team each and every game to the end. Sorry, but I couldn't let you disrespect Frank even though I'm sure that wasn't your intent.

Ashwin Rao 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Sorry I touched your sensitive side. No, no disrespect intended.

Mike Riches 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I think I get what you're saying. Devonte has always seemed to me to be a much more natural leader than Frank. That's not a knock at all on Frank, who exhibits about every positive quality a player can. It did seem to me that Devonte was more subdued this year as he deferred to Frank. Sometimes the greatest mark of a leader is the willingness to follow when appropriate. I'm super excited to see what Devonte can do next year!

Suzi Marshall 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Great news!!

In a perfect world Svi will come back and we sighs Duval along with a grad big! Id love nothing more than a chance to take a powerful team to San Antonio to defend our title.

Don Everett 2 weeks, 4 days ago

John Fitzgerald - it will be #14 next year to set the record not 13.

Very happy DG is coming back!!!!

Brian Skelly 2 weeks, 4 days ago

I've had a good day today. This just made it even better. Im with you all on Svi, but whatever happens, happens. So glad to see Graham coming back though.

Jack Joiner 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Great day. Graham back and Sergio wins the Masters for his first major.

Craig Alexander 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Yes! Ready to add a big! Can't wait for early view of the Hawks this year with their trip!

Yonatan Negash 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Not surprising news but still good to hear.

Next up, Svi Mykhailiuk will be back.

I don't see him leaving for the NBA yet.

Only threat is option to play in EURO league.

Craig Alexander 2 weeks, 4 days ago

I hope Svi is next too. One more year and he can have a degree and still play NBA or Euro. As high as Self has been on him before he can take a big step next year if he stays aggressive.

RJ King 2 weeks, 3 days ago

YYYEEEESSSSSS ! ! ! ! ! Happy Clown Face is back!

Harlan Hobbs 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I guess that if Frank Mason wasn't the undisputed leader of the team, then winning every National Player of the Year Award was a fantasy.

Devonte is a huge part of the team, and he could play an even bigger role next year. As for Duval, I agree that he likely won't sign with KU, but he might want to think twice given how dynamic the Mason-Graham combo was this year. Nevertheless, if it ends up being Graham, Newman, and Vick who get most of the guard minutes when the season starts and Cunliffe can fit right in when he becomes eligible, then the guard positions are stacked just like this year, even if Svi doesn't return.

As several have said, the key now is to strengthen the front court, so if a graduate senior is available, he probably would have a chance to play considerable minutes.

Buck Bukaty 2 weeks, 3 days ago

pause, we break away for one moment, to Ms. Hudy......"Word.......NEW MEAT!!!!!"

It goes without saying this is great news. I challenge all of the new guys, whether already on board or the Duval types, are you capable of taking to the next level what Josh Jackson pulled off for his Freshman campaign??? Be cool!!!! No Punks Allowed!!!

".......the future's so bright I gotta wear shades......"

Frank, a/k/a....the Legend, as in, Legend has it (instant trophy room), didn't holster his guns, ya'all shouldn't either!

Andrew Dunlap 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Nothing but upside in coming back. He could follow in Mason's footsteps and become a better player and improve his NBA chances

Carl O'Hair 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I think Svi is very important. He can't do many of the things that Josh could do but he is 6'8 and we would have to see Vick doing all the things Josh did bet he is a couple of inches shorter. I liked the one in and four out so much that I want them to try it again and think the guards can carry it off again. This news about Devont is great news as I think he can score as many as Frank did if he is needed for that.

Mike Riches 2 weeks, 3 days ago

As a fan, I usually think that players will be better served to come back. But there aren't too many players in recent history who I've felt that another year could really positively impact their draft stock more than Devonte. Of course it's impossible to know where he really would have ended up this year, but with a huge season next year, a national championship run, and a weaker draft, I think he can see a massive improvement in next year's draft.

Pius Waldman 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I feel that Graham wants his jersey up next to Mason. Will he become the Russell Westbrook of college basketball? Look why wouldn't Duval want to play with Graham. If he is to become a pro being the leader next year will help his chances. If Vegas makes his odds to high for Wooden player of the year hope they lose their fanny. The trip to Italy will give him a head start to be the leader. I feel that Self knows he needed Graham so look for his style of play to feature Graham. My final comment his total points will just be a few more than Mason. My comments are undisputed.

Dirk Medema 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Graham obviously has a lot of room to expand his game with Frank leaving. That's not so much the case with Svi. I think he wants to be the lead guard like when he went back last summer or when he tried to on breaks during the last 2 tourney games - and then got chewed out for not giving the ball to Frank. He faces the same situation next year with Graham already being anointed the leader and Vick + Newman being the scorers around him. I wonder how far he's from graduating.

Steve Corder 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Svi is very talented, but there is much to accomplish, on and off the court, for him to realize the talent which is just below the surface.

Brock Wells 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Dirk- I didn't see that attitude from Svi. He was much better handling questions and looked and sounded much more fluent with english. I think last year he was fully comfortable with being in America. So now that he is comfortable he can concentrate on basketball and improve with Devonte'... plus he's only 19 or 20 I believe. I'd be shocked if he doesn't graduate based on his family's background.

I agree with Steve.

Clarence Glasse 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I must have missed it, but can someone refresh the rest of us on Josh Jackson's NBA decision?

John Fitzgerald 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Still undecided from what I understand. But likely a 99.9999999% chance he declares. Probably just still sore about the loss and taking his time.

Mike Greer 2 weeks, 3 days ago

My opinion it's all about upside. Big upside for Devonté to return, very little downside. For Svi, there's a big upside for NBA chances, if he wanted to settle for playing in Europe, he could have left last year, again, very little downside for an NBA career.

Josh, now that's a horse of a different color. There is a potential upside, but there is also a considerable downside for him to return. On the upside, he could have a POY performance and move up in a weaker draft (No. 1). He could also fulfill his desire for a National Championship. The downside includes, the millions he would make in a year (he's still a top 5 pick) and the chance he could get hurt during another college season. There's also the long shot possibility he doesn't make a giant leap from this year and his stock goes down, long shot is probably an understatement.

When he got that second foul early in the Elite Eight game, you could tell he was very upset with himself. It affected his game for all of the first half and most of the second half. I think he just needs to get over the sting of that, he's such a competitor, that one's going to hurt for a long time. Once that's in his rear view mirror he can move forward and start his NBA career. I don't know what the cut off date is for the combine, but he has until May for that if they don't have an advanced cut off. And June 12th to early enter or withdraw. Love to have him back, but seriously, I'm more likely to get hit by space debris between the hours of 1:00 and 2:00 pm today.

Dale Stringer 2 weeks, 2 days ago

He is probably waiting on his court decision on the 12th. I'm hoping he gets one year probation to where he can't leave to state of Kansas unless he is escorted by a KU basketball coach.

Stuart Swaziek 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Take a cue from Devonte, Josh! Another year at AFH would be so much more fun than making millions in the NBA :-)

Tim Orel 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Dunno. He might have to compete with Duval for playing time.

just kidding, before your blood pressure spikes.

W Keith Swinehart II 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Love Graham. So glad he's returning.

Hope Svi makes the same decision. He makes big strides each year. Next year he could be unstoppable.

Noel Backwards 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Looks like we'll have 2 consecutive Big 12 POY winners to go along with the record. I think Devonte will take full advantage of his opportunity to be the face of the team and Newman, Vick, and Svi will make his life easier. Newman will now be able to slide to the off-guard offensively, where I believe his skill set is more suited anyways. Big question answered for next year's team and only a couple more questions before the team is set. I think Svi will come back as well as long as Devonte agrees to keep him off of Snapchat Haha! Devonte is good enough and driven enough to replicate Frank's senior season and join him in the rafters in the years to come.

Harlan Hobbs 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Again, I fully agree with those who think a Graham/Duval combo would be "lights out." Devonte made Frank better, and Duval would do the same for Devonte. That's not to say that Devonte at point and Newman at shooting guard wouldn't be impressive, with Vick, Svi, and Cunliffe in the mix.

The bottom line is that KU will be well set at the guard positions next year.

Randy Bombardier 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I think this was a wise decision. I think JJ will be back too. He needs to get to a point where mentally he can take the game on his shoulders much like Danny Manning did in the championship run. He needs to fully develop that Alpha side.

Brock Wells 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Randy I love that optimism! but as Mike pointed out, there is downside for Josh returning... Josh only not KU obviously.

Alan Dickey 2 weeks, 3 days ago

If Jackson leaves this year and is drafted third, he will make $10,288,500 during his first two years. If Jackson stays and is drafted #1 in 2018, he will make $14,514,500 during his first two years.

http://basketball.realgm.com/nba/info/rookie_scale/2018

http://basketball.realgm.com/nba/info/rookie_scale/2019

I’m not saying that option #2 is guaranteed or necessarily preferable, but Jackson, won’t necessarily make more money over even the next few years if he declares this spring.

Joe Joseph 2 weeks, 3 days ago

But he'd be running the risk of injury or underperforming, which would cost him potentially MUCH more over the long run.

I can't imagine JJ returning, but his delay in announcing is interesting. I like the idea that it's a respect/tournament hanogver sort of thing. Except that him announcing sooner, rather than later, would make recruiting that much easier for Bill Self.

Mike Greer 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I wish it would happen, I really anticipated that BIG game from Josh, the one that almost but never quite happened and not on the big stage like I had hoped. I wanted to see that 40 point 12 rebounds and 10 assists that he seems so capable of performing. It's in there, it is, just going to probably watch the NBA to see it.

Alan Dickey 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Even if Jackson does not come back, I don't see too many weaknesses or gaps to fill here:

FRONT COURT
C - Udoka Azubuike / So. / 7-0 / 280
PF - Billy Preston / Fr. / 6-10 / 230 (Rivals #8)
C - Dwight Coleby / RS-Sr. / 6-9 / 240
PF - Mitch Lightfoot / So. / 6-8 / 210

WING
SF - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk / Sr. / 6-8 / 205
SF - Sam Cunliffe / RS-So. / 6-6 / 190 (Rivals #36) (ASU transfer; eligible 12/2017)

BACKCOURT
PG - Devonte Graham / Sr. / 6-2 / 185
SG - LaGerald Vick / Jr. / 6-5 / 175
SG - Malik Newman / RS-So / 6-3 / 190 (Rivals #8) (Miss. St. transfer)
PG - Marcus Garrett / Fr. / 6-5 / 180 (Rivals #37)

Bryce Landon 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Glad to hear the decision. No way Devonte should leave Kansas after the way he shot us out of the Elite Eight. I look forward to him redeeming himself in 2017-2018.

John Fitzgerald 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Too bad they have to sit out a year but this is great news. They're both studs especially Dedric.

Jason Brinker 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Having them sit out a year will work out well as they'll be eligible after Graham, Svi, and possibly Dok leave KU. So assuming Svi comes back, does this leave us with only one available scholie? Guessing that will go to one more big. Jeremiah Tilmon would be a nice addition to the recruiting class. He evidently had KU on his list prior to choosing Illinois.

Alan Dickey 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Dedric's 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game is pretty compelling. He went 30/111 (27%) from the three. If he can work on that a bit during the off-year, he could be a pretty scary addition to our lineup. K.J.'s stat line is pretty impressive too, especially for a freshman.

Harlan Hobbs 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Well, what do you know? Bill Self is a Hall of Fame coach and can still recruit! Who would have thunk?

Ho hum. I guess the beat goes on. What will the "worry warts" worry about now.

Bryce Landon 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Doesn't matter who he recruits if he still can't win a freaking Elite Eight game.

Chad Smith 2 weeks, 2 days ago

I'm not even going to go with the "i told you so" tangent but rather, thank goodness devonte is back. We need him. Especially his non Oregon shooting ( 0-6?!?!?!?) and his non-Oregon aggressiveness (only 6 shots?!?!?!?)

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