Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tom Keegan: Voice of current Jayhawks listens to voice from past

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) smiles as he meets Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) in the handshake line following the Jayhawks' 83-77 win over Iowa State, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. Graham went two of five from the free throw line in the final minutes.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) smiles as he meets Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) in the handshake line following the Jayhawks' 83-77 win over Iowa State, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. Graham went two of five from the free throw line in the final minutes.


If Kansas basketball coach Bill Self trusted another player enough to put the basketball and game in his hands, Devonte’ Graham wouldn’t have a streak of nine consecutive 40-minute outings.

Graham not only brings the ball up the court, sets up teammates and shoots his team out of scoring droughts, he usually guards the opponent's best perimeter player. He leads the team in scoring (17.5), assists (7.2), steals (1.7), head-fakes and smiles.

Self talked Thursday about other ways Graham leads the Jayhawks.

“This is not a knock to our other guys," Self said, "I don't know if I've ever been around a team where a guy gets less help."

He said that he didn’t mean help in terms of basketball plays, adding, “I’m not putting down anybody.”

He specified the ways that he meant Graham is on his own: “From talking, from ownership, from coaching others. He is doing it all. He has shown as much leadership this year to me as what anybody we've had here do. He's Aaron Miles, but he's getting 17 a game. That's how I look at it.”

No matter how full his plate, when things don’t go well, Graham looks first in the mirror and asks what he can do better. When he's stumped for an answer, he seeks counsel elsewhere.

Kansas had just lost back-to-back games to Pac-12 schools Washington and Arizona State in early December when Graham reached into KU’s past for answers. He sought advice from former Kansas All-American Sherron Collins, who resides in Lawrence and sits with Wayne Simien behind the KU bench at home games.

“That’s my guy, I talk to him a lot, just talking about what he can help me with, what I need to do, when I need to be aggressive,” Graham said of Collins. “He’s definitely been helping me out since I’ve been here.”

Graham and Collins have different games, frames and personalities, different means of coming at the leadership aspect of playing point guard for Self, a coach who masterfully camouflages his relentless intensity with charm and humor.

Graham shared what advice Collins gave him after the back-to-back losses.

“I just remember him telling me you might have to get on some guys,” Graham said. “He knew that wasn’t my personality. He didn’t say I would have to fight somebody, but in other words: You might have to jack somebody up, get them on the same page as you, just tell them what they need to do because I’ve been here the longest and I know what it takes and at the time they didn’t really know what it takes to win.”

Graham has mixed in some tough, direct talk to go with the positive energy he uses to try to inspire teammates. It’s all on him.

“If you look at it,” Self said, “Malik (Newman) doesn’t speak, Svi (Mykhailiuk) doesn’t speak, Lagerald (Vick) doesn’t speak, (Udoka Azubuike) doesn’t speak (on the court)."

As a result, Self said, “It’s Devonte’s personality that’s basically getting us through the intangible things. Doesn’t mean he’s always going to play well, but from an intangible standpoint, he’s as good as we’ve ever had here.”

Graham tried to say his teammates talk more than the coach thinks, but he couldn’t quite say it with a straight face.

“I think this is one of the quietest teams that I’ve been on, in large part because it’s a lot of guys who really don’t know what coach is looking for, a lot of first-year guys who have come in, (need to) figure out their role, and figure out coach and what he likes, when to talk,” Graham said.

Scorer, passer, defender, vocal leader, interpreter.

“I understand it from their point, so I just try to be as vocal as I can, talk, encourage, just do all the little things,” Graham said.

Then the Graham spoke up for teammates, but nobody believed what he said.

“They talk," he said. "They talk a lot. Coach might not hear them. They definitely might whisper sometimes.”


Tom Jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Really gonna miss Devonte. Great kid and a great player.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 3 months ago

We need Newman and Vick to REALLY turn up the intensity. They both always seem to be playing at about 75%, rarely breaking a sweat. I don't know, you just rarely see either winded or looking like they are going at 100%.

John Myers 1 year, 3 months ago

Which is really frustrating because when they really turn it up, they’re both insanely good. Athleticism off the charts. I don’t get why they’re not always in high gear.

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 3 months ago

Absolutely, Tom. What a marvelous success story, and I predict that it is just the beginning. He has everything it takes to have a big impact both on and off the court.

Frank last year, and Devonte this year. Doesn't get any better than that at the point.

Robert Brock 1 year, 3 months ago

Newman does a good job of attacking off the dribble; plus, he rebounds. I hope he returns next season.

Dillon Davis 1 year, 3 months ago

Speaking of voice of the Jayhawks, anyone else really miss Bob Davis? I like to listen to the radio broadcast sometimes when I'm on the road or if the weather's nice and I want to shoot hoops outside or something. And because of my superstition, I sometimes turn the TV off and listen to the radio; also helps make me less anxious lol. But it's just not the same anymore...Brian Hanni is just kind of dry and his inflection doesn't really change. I think Brian would make a great TV broadcaster but on the radio he just is kind of meh to me. Just venting here.

Clara Westphal 1 year, 3 months ago

Too bad Devonte doesn't have someone like Frank to help him like he helped Frank last year. I admire his skills and stamina. I don't know how he continually plays 40 minutes a game time after time. He has to be dead tired.

Spencer Goff 1 year, 3 months ago

This article basically expounds a lot of my last posts. Nothing to take away from Svi, he has given a lot to this team, but when senior night rolls around the people in the Phog better be giving Devonte all they can, because he did for us.

He has been killing himself for the better part of the last two months to try and capture this title because it matters so much that the streak not end on his watch. And it may not happen and I know he hates it.. But if I had to look back on this team I would rather see it through the lens of Coach Pete Bell, not Happy the Booster.

Rock Chalk

Jim Chastain 1 year, 3 months ago

This article speaks volumes on why the Jayhawks go into these funks. Most of the guys are kind of in their own world and need to be "brought out" by Devonte. That's the way he needs to lead and it's not easy if you're the only extrovert and everyone else is pretty much an introvert. It helps me understand why sometimes it looks like they've never played together and at other times they're perfectly synched.

I sometimes get upset when Devonte makes a stupid turnover but after reading this you get a sense of how much is on his plate.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 3 months ago

Random Thoughts:

1] In a strange way, Frank had it easier because he had Devonte. However, without Frank, Devonte has it harder because he has...."crickets"!

2] If we don't get number 14, the last person I'll ever blame will be Devonte.

3] Right now, Svi, Dok, Marcus, Mitch are what they are. We can't ask any more of Devonte. The fate of this season rests squarely on the shoulders of Lagerald and Malik. As they go so goes the season.

4] This year's team could end up a conference winner, league tourney finalist and sweet 16 qualifier with a record of 30 wins...OR.....lose the conference title, not make the tourney semi finals and lose in the second round of the NCAA with maybe 25 wins max.

5] Ideally, these seven things will happen; Dok continues to improve at the foul line, not fouling and dominating inside/ Svi regains his magic touch/Garrett provides some offensive contributions/ Mitch continues as Super Sub/ Malik stays aggressive all over the court all of the time/the real Lagerald shows up for the season/ Devonte doesn't turn to dust from exhaustion.

6] Despite all the trials and tribulations [Preston drama, Allen Field House woes, De Sousa playing like a high schooler, which he is, this has been one of the more interesting seasons that I can remember. Maybe this one is fated to be memorable!

7] No matter what, I'll always be thankful to my recently deceased father who swore none of his five sons would ever attend the University of Missouri while he still had a breath in his body!!!

John Gill 1 year, 3 months ago

I’d like to see Sherron hang up the sneaks and put that great b-ball IQ to work as a KU asst coach. Time for self to bring in some next gen coaching blood from his former players. Sherron and Wayne Simien bleed Jayhawk blue more than most and played with a grit, IQ, and relentless focus you don’t see often. We’re not natl champs in 2008 without clutch play of freshman Collins in crunch time. A healthy Simien on the court in 2002 would have another title in the books instead of it going to ‘Cuse. The should be on the bench teaching the next gen of Jayhawk greats.

Mike Riches 1 year, 3 months ago

In some ways Devonte is more deserving of POY honors than Frank was (and I was a HUGE fan of Mason!) This article sums it up well...he doesn't have anywhere close to the supporting cast that Frank had, the competition this year has been more fierce, and Devonte is doing it ALL. I'm not saying he'll win an award like that, but in my opinion, while he may not be the best player in the country, there is no one more valuable to his team, period.

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