Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It’s NBA combine time for five Jayhawks

Azubuike, Graham, Mykhailiuk, Newman and Preston all set to tackle pre-draft showcase in Chicago

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) ties his shoe quickly before the ball is inbounded during the first half, Friday, March 23, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) ties his shoe quickly before the ball is inbounded during the first half, Friday, March 23, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.


The mere idea that former Kansas point guard Devonte' Graham — he of 17 games of 40-plus minutes and 11 more of 38-plus during the 2017-18 season — could be deemed “out of shape” less than two months after the end of his senior season is borderline laughable.

Yet, there was Graham, in front of his old college dorm late last week, talking about how the end of the season, now 46 days ago, brought with it a little rest that put Graham's conditioning in slightly less stellar shape.

And in the six weeks since that time, Graham has worked hard — arguably, harder than ever — to rework his body into tip-top shape in time for the NBA's predraft combine, which begins today in Chicago and runs through Sunday.

“I'm just trying to get in as best shape as possible,” said Graham, who will join former KU teammates Udoka Azubuike, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Billy Preston in participating at this week's combine. “My trainer told me I came in in pretty good shape, but I'm trying to get in NBA shape, faster shot clock, more physical. So you just have to be in better shape and get stronger and get quicker and tighten up things, my shot, little things like that, my feet. That's about it.”

Based on conversations with former Brewster Academy teammate Donovan Mitchell, now a bona fide star with the Utah Jazz, as well as former KU teammates Frank Mason III (Sacramento) and Wayne Selden Jr. (Memphis), Graham has learned that there is a slight discrepancy between being in good shape and being in NBA shape.

“It's definitely a different thing,” he said. “It's a different game. They move fast, but also slower at the same time, so I'm just trying to adjust to all that. The agent that I signed with (CAA Sports), his guy's Donovan Mitchell. I went to Brewster with him and I've been in Salt Lake City after the season, so I really just talked with him, what he went through, the workouts, how to get in shape and what I needed to do.”

What was the best advice Graham heard that might help him attack this week's combine with the right approach?

“Just, you got to grind it out every day,” he said. “It's not college no more. You're not representing a university, you're representing yourself. You got to figure out how to take care of your body, do everything you need to do to make sure that you're healthy and ready for these combines coming up.”

For four years, Graham smiled and scored, ignited and improved and, for much of that time, was the unquestioned personality of the KU program.

But with his college playing career now finished and his life as a college student officially over after last weekend's graduation ceremonies, Graham is ready to move on to the all-business, money-making aspect of his basketball life.

It starts today with the combine.

The event, which is essentially a giant job interview, will take place at Quest Multisport and will be attended by scouts, coaches, general managers and other front office brass from all 30 NBA franchises.

For the next four days, 69 draft-eligible players will compete in various drills and scrimmages, while also being poked, prodded and measured by doctors and trainers and interviewed by team officials.

Of the five former KU players in Chicago for this week's combine, only Azubuike is eligible to return to KU for the 2018-19 season. The rest are either out of eligibility or decided to forego their remaining college years in order to turn pro early.

Graham knows that what happens this week is just the beginning of his journey to pro basketball.

He has yet to work out with any teams on an individual basis, but has his first such session scheduled for Monday with the Chicago Bulls in the Windy City.

As for how many team workouts Graham expects to attend between now and the June 21 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., Graham laughed when he answered.

“Enough,” he joked. “Probably like 12 to 15. Around there.”

Regardless of what the next few weeks bring and how well Graham does or does not perform with NBA eyes on him, the former KU point guard said he was thrilled to be beginning his journey with so many Jayhawks by his side.

“I haven't seen them in a minute,” Graham said of the four other Jayhawks who are Chicago-bound. “So we're definitely going to see each other and interact with each other. We're always going to keep in touch with each other. It's a brotherhood.”

Much of this week's predraft combine can be seen on ESPN2, specifically from 2-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. And even more of the showcase can be watched via online streaming through ESPN's WatchESPN app.


Mallory Briggans 1 year, 3 months ago

Good luck to the Jayhawks at the combine. Last night ESPN showed KU vs Iowa State 2014 game in Ames .................Anyone who has a computer needs to google that 2013 - 14 roster and then ask yourself ....HOW DID THAT TEAM LOSE 10 GAMES .........10 ....That roster had 5 current NBA players ,,,,,,,WIGGINS EMBIID SELDEN MASON BLACK ......add ELLIS FRANKAMP GREENE LUCAS THARPE TRAYLOR WHITE III ........When I saw that I had to scratch my head.......

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 3 months ago

That team relied far to heavily on Tharpe.

Also, they needed another season together to develop team chemistry. Those 5 current NBA players all were in their first year at KU.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 3 months ago

Tharpe's leaving helped Self land Graham. That's about the best (and only) good comment I can give Tharpe.

Craig Carson 1 year, 3 months ago

that team was extremely young..Wiggins was never aggressive enough and Emibiid at KU was a far step below the Embiid that is in Philly..Mason had the habit of getting block seemingly every time he drove to the basket, Black was a foul machine..Selden wasnt as good either though he had showed flashes, Lucas really didnt play too much on that team, Greene was good as long as he didnt have to dibble, defend and could just catch and shoot, White III barely saw the floor

Dirk Medema 1 year, 3 months ago

Wasn't that the year we had the ridiculously tough schedule?

Dee Shaw 1 year, 3 months ago

Mallory it must be the coaching. Your right, how did they loose 10 games with ALL that talent? Fire Self and his whole staff.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 3 months ago

The coaching wasn't great that year either, or the year after that. But it has clearly improved quite a bit since then.

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 3 months ago

And shortly after that game, Embiid was injured, and things went downhill. Still managed to win the conference though!

Jacob Zutterman 1 year, 3 months ago

I know Vick said he wasn’t returning, but did he sign with an agent to make him ineligible to come back?

Matt Tait 1 year, 3 months ago

As of last check, he had not. But he eventually will so don't waste your energy entertaining the idea of a return. He's not coming back.

Jacob Zutterman 1 year, 3 months ago

Thanks, Matt. Didn't plan on him coming back, was just curious if I missed something.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 3 months ago

He's not coming back for other reasons besides eventually signing with an agent.

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