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Devonte' Graham named Naismith Trophy semifinalist; list of stats, accolades starting to look familiar

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Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) raises up the Fieldhouse after a string of buckets during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) raises up the Fieldhouse after a string of buckets during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. by Nick Krug

Asked for his thoughts and emotions about watching senior point guard Devonte' Graham play his final game at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self flashed back to one of the first days he spent with the Raleigh, North Carolina native.

“I thought Devonte' Graham could own this place the first day he walked on campus,” Self said. “And, basically, he has about as much as any player we've had here.”

As a fan favorite and one of the most popular people on the entire KU campus, Graham's senior season has been lifted straight out of a story book.

While not every moment has been 100 percent good and because Graham and his teammates have had to endure their share of ups and downs throughout the season, watching the culmination include yet another celebration of a Big 12 title —No. 14 in a row for KU — has been just one small part of Graham's wildly successful season. And there's zero doubting that any of it would have been possible without him.

Taking the keys from reigning national player of the year Frank Mason III, Graham stepped out of the shadow but into some enormous shoes.

While everyone believed Graham could and would be the same kind of face and leader for the KU program that Mason was a year ago, no one expected or even thought that Graham could follow up Mason's season with something even close to as good, statistically speaking. But he has. Big time.

In winning Big 12 and national player of the year a season ago, Mason became the first player in Big 12 history to finish a season averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game. Graham is not going to become the next member of that exact club. But his overall numbers are certainly on par with Mason's and, in some areas, a tick better.

Graham enters the final game of the regular season with eye-popping numbers. His 17.7 points per game and 7.2 assists per game make him the only player in NCAA Division I this season averaging 17-plus points, 7-plus assists, 1.7-plus steals and fewer than 3 turnovers a game.

Because of those numbers and many other traits, Graham on Wednesday was named one of 10 semifinalists for the 50th Citizen Naismith Trophy for men's college player of the year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced, following in Mason's footsteps yet again.

Graham joins DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), Marvin Bagley III (Duke), Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Miles Bridges (Michigan State), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Keenan Evans (Texas Tech), Jock Landale (Saint Mary's) and Trae Young (Oklahoma) as semifinalists.

That list will be trimmed down to four finalists next months and fans will be able to vote for Graham, should he make the final list, at www.naismithtrophy.com/vote from March 19-30.

There are already a handful of college hoops analysts out there who believe Graham is the frontrunner for the award.

A quick look at all of the things Graham already has achieved this season reveals a list nearly as long as Mason's from a season ago. And there are surely more to come.

Devonte' Graham 2017-18 Honors

Citizen Naismith Trophy Semifinalist - 1 of 10 (2.28.18)

Citizen Naismith Trophy Player of the Week (2.26.18)

Big 12 Player of the Week (2.26.18)

Citizen Naismith Trophy Late Season Team - 1 of 30 (2.12.18)

Wooden Award Late Season Top-20 (2.5.18)

Bob Cousy Award Midseason Watch List - 1 of 10 (2.5.18)

USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List (1.22.18)

Lute Olson Award Midseason Watch List (1.11.18)

Wooden Award Midseason Top-25 (1.11.18)

USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy Player of the Week (12.5.17)

Lute Olson Award Player of the Week (12.4.17)

NCAA.com Player of the Week (12.4.17)

Big 12 Player of the Week (12.4.17)

Hoophall Miami Invitational MVP

Wooden Award watch list

Naismith Player of the Year watch list

USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list

Bob Cousy Award watch list

Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year

Preseason All-Big 12

Graham ranks seventh nationally and second in the Big 12, in assists per game and second in the Big 12 Conference in scoring behind national leader Trae Young.

Graham is third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7), eighth in free throw percentage (82.6), fourth in 3-point field goals made (3.0), sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (42.3) and fifth in steals (1.6).

Beyond that, his 37.4 minutes per game average ranks as the fifth highest average in a single season at KU. His 90 3-pointers made are sixth on the KU single season list and his 216 assists are tied for ninth with Aaron Miles (2005).

Historically speaking, Graham is just the 15th player in KU history to score 1,600 points. He currently sits in 15th place on KU's all-time scoring list with 1,605 points.

Graham also is just the third player in school history to tally 1,600 points, 550 assists and 180 steals in a career. KU All-Americans Darnell Valentine and Kirk Hinrich are the only other Jayhawks to hit those numbers.

Graham currently ranks second on the KU career 3-point field goals made list, with 274, ninth in assists at 555 and ninth in steals at 183.

Asked recently how he had been able to handle such a heavy workload and still produce the kind of numbers he has, Graham flashed his signature smile and offered up the equivalent answer to “it's no big deal.”

“I don't think it's been real taxing,” he said. “It just puts more responsibility on me to take care of my body because I want to play. It's my last go-around. Each game is my last. Everywhere we play on the road is my last. I want to be out there. I want to help the team. And I just have to be more responsible.”

Asked if he had a favorite Devonte' Graham memory that jumped out at him, Kansas coach Bill Self answered quickly.

“No, probably not,” he said. “I mean, I've probably got a lot of great memories. I always thought his best moments were at OU his sophomore season. But I think he topped that in Lubbock (last weekend). I'll probably look back at the Lubbock game and say we saw a guy carry us. I mean, we win the game at Lubbock when we ran crap offense for 20 minutes and the only times we scored was at the end of the clock when he just took a 6-9 guy or whatever it was. Those are hard plays. He put us on his back down there.”

And he has put both himself and Kansas in position to achieve all of those things people have come to expect from Jayhawks as KU gets set to enter postseason play.

I got roasted for this a bit earlier in the season when I gave you a look at where Graham stood in comparison to Mason a handful of games into the season.

Now that we're 30 games in, it's worth looking at again.

KU Senior Points per game FG % 3-point % FT % Assists per game Rebounds per game Steals Minutes Played Turnovers
Frank Mason III
2016-17
(36 games)

20.9
49.0
(241-of-492)
47.1
(82-of-174)
79.4
(189-of-238)
5.2
(187 total)
4.2
(150 total)

47
1,301
(36.1 mpg)

86
Devonte' Graham
2017-18
(30 games & counting)

17.7
40.9
(156-of-381)
42.3
(90-of-213)
82.6
(128-of-155)
7.2
(216 total)
4.1
(124 total)

49
1,121
(37.4 mpg)

80

Comments

Steve Corder 3 months, 2 weeks ago

For all those OU fans, when did Trae Young ever put his team "on his back" in the B12 race? Losing 10 of last 12 is not a resume builder for POY.

Roger Tobias 3 months, 2 weeks ago

In retrospect I'm glad we didn't land Young. He would have been another selfish OAD, inasmuch as he can't play Bill Self defense, and wouldn't have gotten the PT that he has had to have at OU. Conversely, he would have complemented the team and not had to be the whole show. Which makes me wonder just how successful he will be in the NBA. I just don't see Allen Iverson in him.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Who in the world are ignorant enough comparing Trae to Curry? SMH.. I respect Trae for his ability to pass, his quickness and his range, but yes, playing selfish like that? You won't survive in NBA, dawg...

Dirk Medema 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Trae put the team on his back in even bigger ways early in the season, which is why he got the hype he did. He just didn't sustain it, or execute when it mattered most.

Trae wouldn't have scored as he has needed to this year for OU, and Devonte wouldn't have needed to play 40 mpg either. We would have been that much more lethal if TY had been playing alongside and backing up DG.

Joe Joseph 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I said this the first time around: comparing Devonte with Mason is only natural. It's what we do as people. We like to compare and think about who will be the next Jordan, Lebron, Tiger, etc.

I didn't think the comparison was fair early in the season, but I will concede that it is a fair comparison now. DG's performance has exceeded my expectations. I don't think his performance has been national POY worthy - let alone consensus POY worthy - but yeah... He's had a great season.

Roger Tobias 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm surprised his minutes per game is not more like 38.5.

Shannon Gustafson 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Who would have thought Graham would be as good of a rebounder as Mason? That's the stat that is most shocking to me.

Gary McCullough 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The best player on the best team in the best conference in the nation should count for something.

Robin Smith 3 months, 2 weeks ago

His chances are legit. The next two weeks, if he's lights out, he just might take it.

Matt Tait 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Great question. Just pulled that from a press release sent out by KU and did not even double-check it, figuring it would be deadly accurate. Lesson learned there. It's fixed now. Thanks.

Harlan Hobbs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Perfect summation, Gary. I suppose that someone else will likely win the Naismith Award, but there is no better leader than Devonte. He comes as close to reaching his maximum potential as anyone, which is basically what we said about Frank Mason last year.

Hopefully, lightning will strike again this year, but if it doesn't, nothing can take away what Devonte has meant to the program and to life in general. He should be infinitely proud of his accomplishments.

Thanks, Matt, for giving us such a complete synopsis of Devonte's achievements.

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