After a summer spent wearing wild and wacky No. 99 with the Phoenix Suns’ summer league team, it appears that former Kansas standout Josh Jackson is prepared to enter his rookie season with a number that’s more common in the basketball world.
Jackson, who wore No. 11 at Kansas, will be wearing No. 20 for the Suns this season, largely because veteran guard Brandon Knight already wears No. 11.
Sure, guys have been known to pay for numbers in the past. And, yeah, it’ll probably happen again many times over in the future. But not Jackson. At least not now.
When he got to KU, that was a totally different story, as he had to work out a deal with Tyler Self for the coveted No. 11.
If I remember correctly, Jackson said the terms of the deal were a nice meal, maybe a steak dinner, on Jackson, which, clearly, was good enough for Tyler, who gave up No. 11 and switched to No. 20, the number his dad wore at Oklahoma State.
That’s where things get funny and the short comedy skit played out on Twitter on Friday.
Here’s a look:
Not a bad jab by Tyler followed by a pretty solid reply from Jackson.
The other night, when I was perusing yet another NBA Summer League box score, a thought occurred to me that inspired a little extra examination.
Why is it that a short story about an average game by new Sacramento Kings point guard Frank Mason III gets a ton of love on our site, while a similar note about former KU forward Cheick Diallo topping 20 points and impressing New Orleans’ coaches entering Year 2 of his pro career draws far less interest?
The answer was easy to find. And it has everything to do with how long the two players were in Lawrence and what they did while they were here.
With Mason, a four-year player and three-year leader who capped his KU career with the best individual season by a guard in Big 12 history, the opportunity for fans to watch him succeed and fail, to share the ride through college basketball’s ups and downs with him, took KU fans on a long journey and provided time for them to feel a true connection with the once-quiet Petersburg, Va., native.
With Diallo, and others like him, the time was short-lived and left many Kansas fans with a ‘We hardly knew ya,’ attitude toward the once-hyped, highly coveted former prep standout.
I’ve long been a believer that the Kansas basketball players who are remembered the longest — and the fondest — are the ones with whom the fans feel a true connection.
Sure, winning a title trumps everything. So, yeah, Danny Manning, Milt Newton, Kevin Pritchard, Chris Piper, Scooter Barry and that gang, along with Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun and the 2008 crew will always be beloved for bringing home the hardware.
But there’s more to the college basketball experience than cutting down nets. Especially for the fans. And there have been more than a few KU players throughout the decades who have held a special place in the hearts of thousands of rabid KU fans for reasons beyond their basketball accomplishments.
Be them personality traits, hardships, memorable moments or unforgettable toughness and courage, those players have endeared themselves to Kansas fans everywhere for eternity and will not soon be forgotten.
For this exercise, and because KU coach Bill Self last season called Mason the greatest guard he’s ever coached, let’s take a quick look at the most memorable fan favorites of the Self era.
1. Frank Mason III
Heading into his senior season, I’m not sure I would’ve put Mason on this list, let alone this high on it. But then he became the unanimous national player of the year, turned in one of the best seasons in Big 12 history and did it all while being the face of the standard of toughness for all past and future Kansas players. Add to that his sudden rise in the NBA Draft, which came with Mason still maintaining his underdog persona, and you’re talking about a player who every KU fan felt like they knew on a personal level and rooted for like family.
2. Thomas Robinson
This is tied directly to the death of his mother, Lisa Robinson, who passed away unexpectedly during T-Rob’s sophomore season, just weeks after the powerful power forward lost two of his grandparents. At such a heartbreaking time in the young man’s life, the Kansas faithful opened their collective arms as wide as possible and wrapped them around the KU forward, who, beyond using the KU family to help him get through such a tough time, also turned in All-American numbers in leading the Jayhawks to the national title game one year later. The wins were great. But it was the bond created between player and fan — one that later even extended to Robinson’s younger sister, Jayla — that landed Robinson so high on this list.
3. Mario Chalmers
Yes, Chalmers is on this list — and dozens of others — because he hit arguably the biggest shot in the storied history of Kansas basketball. But his status as a fan favorite was cemented long before the 3-pointer to tie Memphis in the 2008 national title game. That, obviously, did not hurt his standing, but more than the shot, or any number of deadly 3-pointers and steals that Chalmers drained or swiped during his time at KU, was the smirk. The look on Chalmers’ face that surfaced when KU had an opponent beaten or when the outcome was still uncertain, but Mario wasn’t, was the stuff of legends and endeared him to KU fans everywhere. It was the kind of look that you loved if it was on your side and absolutely despised with every fiber of your being if you were on the other side.
4. Darnell Jackson
One of the true all-heart players to come through Kansas, Jackson enjoyed the perfect career trajectory, from seldom-used sub as a true freshman to national champion starter as a senior. Sometimes, simply paying your dues along that path is enough to inspire grand appreciation from the KU fan base, but, with Jackson, there was much more that went into it. For starters, his personality. A no-nonsense guy on the court, with a fun-loving and expressive personality off of it, Jackson carried with him that lovable teddy bear vibe, provided that teddy bear came in a 6-foot-8, 250-pound, rock solid frame. As was the case with Robinson, the personal tragedies Jackson endured during his life, both while at KU and after, (his grandmother died in a car wreck and mother later passed away after an overdose of pain pills) tugged at the heart strings of many KU fans and created that deeper connection between the player and the fans.
5. Sherron Collins
The perfect combination of Mario Chalmers’ swagger and Frank Mason’s toughness, with the bulk of his playing career sandwiched right between the two, Collins’ Chicago-style persona and constant willingness to sacrifice his body in any and every way for the KU basketball program in pursuit of the next bucket or victory made him one of the most beloved Jayhawks of the past couple of decades. His passion for the game, ability to play bigger than his size and raw emotion and fiery mentality provided Self’s post-title teams with the perfect leader for the next era. Add to that the huge role he played in delivering the 2008 title and it’s easy to see why Collins was so loved and still is.
Have an opinion about which one of these Jayhawks stands above the rest? Or maybe your guy didn't make this list? Vote here in our fan favorite poll and/or name your guy and why in the comment section below.
The best thing that ever happened to Wayne Selden Jr., came on draft night 2016, when 30 NBA teams told him for 60 picks that they did not believe he was good enough to play in their league.
Until that very moment, Selden spent most of his life thinking otherwise and doing it with pretty strong conviction.
That night, however, lit a fire under Selden that led him to last weekend, when he signed a two-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies and, in doing so, became a bona fide NBA player.
Sure Selden played a handful of games with New Orleans and Memphis during his rookie season. And, yeah, he even started two games in the freakin’ playoffs. But those moments were short-lived and did not guarantee the former Jayhawk anything.
This contract does. It guarantees Selden a real chance. It guarantees that he will be able to work and fail, grow and learn, win and lose, without having to worry about what every move he makes, good or bad, will mean for his future.
Give a guy like Selden, who stands 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and appears to have his explosive athleticism back, that kind of freedom and relief and there’s no telling what’s possible.
Is Selden going to take this chance and turn it into the first chapter in an All-Star story? Doubtful. But is it possible that this chance will be the one that allows Selden to stick around the league for the next 5-7 years, providing him the opportunity to live out a dream and make some good coin while doing it? You bet.
And speaking of betting, I’d be more than willing to bet that’s exactly the way this will go down.
Selden is talented enough to play in the NBA. He’s fast, physical, can shoot it well enough and has that inner drive that is required to keep up with the best basketball players in the world.
He showed that throughout his stint in the NBA’s Developmental League (now known as the G League), where he often looked much more angry than happy to be there.
There was a reason for all of it. Selden was angry. Angry at the ball, angry at the rim, angry at the hand the basketball gods had dealt him. But instead of allowing that anger to eat him up, Selden used every ounce of it to prove himself. Talk about a heck of a success story.
When I caught up with Selden in early June after the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, the anger was gone. Not only was he cool to talk to and happy to share his story, but he also seemed very much at peace with his life and career. That was before the guaranteed, two-year contract. And you know what? Something tells me Selden was that way because he believed good news was coming.
Now that it has, and now that Selden appears to be comfortable with where he’s at again, don’t expect him to pull back or ease up an ounce.
Selden’s smart – one of the more intelligent KU basketball players I’ve dealt with. He knows what got him here. And he knows what it will take to stick.
Now he just has to do it.
So far so good in that department. Through the first two games of Summer League action in Las Vegas, Selden has made two starts and is averaging 25 points per game on 16-of-33 shooting (48.5 percent), including a 6-of-11 clip from 3-point range.
Selden and the Grizzlies (2-0) will return to action at 3:30 p.m. today against Utah.
The wild ride as an NBA rookie soon may be slowing down for former Kansas point guard Frank Mason III, but that does not mean the reigning national player of the year will be.
Mason, who will wrap up summer league action in Las Vegas with the Kings later this week, will jump into the camp circuit shortly thereafter.
The former KU standout will host four camps in the next couple of weeks, with three of them coming on consecutive days in late July in Kansas.
The first, July 27, will take place at Olathe Community Center. One day later, Mason will return to Lawrence for a camp at Lawrence High on July 28. And he will follow that up with a July 29 camp at Wichita Hoops. The final camp will take place Aug. 5 in Sacramento.
All three Kansas camps will feature two sessions (9 a.m.-Noon and 1-4 p.m.), will be open to young athletes in grades K-12 and will cost $50 for one day and $90 for a two-day pass in two locations. The price rises to $60 and $110 after July 18.
For more information, or to sign up, visit www.frankmasonbasketball.com.
As for Mason’s latest showing in Vegas, the reserve guard exploded for 24 points in 24 minutes during the Kings' 95-92 loss to the Lakers.
Mason, who shot 9-of-13 from the floor, was 2-of-3 from 3-point range and added five rebounds, six assists and two steals in what was easily his best game of the summer to date.
Mason looked a lot like his old, national-player-of-the-year, KU self during this one, showing extreme confidence with his handles and driving to the rim for tough finishes over the L.A. defense.
His play also led the Kings on a wild comeback. After trailing by more than 20 in the first half, Mason went off for 20 points in the second half alone and brought the Kings all the way back before watching L.A. hang on late.
One night earlier, Mason's Kings fell to former KU teammate Wayne Selden Jr., and the Memphis Grizzlies on a night when Selden kept his positive momentum going.
Mason tallied just six points, three rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes in that one, but Selden dropped in 21 points in 29 minutes on 6-of-13 shooting and a 7-of-8 mark at the free throw line.
It marked the second consecutive game of 20 or more points for Selden, who, earlier this summer, signed a two-year deal with the Grizzlies.
Last Friday night, at a ballpark full of more than 30,000 Arizona Diamondbacks fans, the baseball crowd was treated to a little basketball flavor when former Kansas standout Josh Jackson was invited to toss out the ceremonial first pitch.
Jackson, who was the No. 4 overall pick in last Thursday’s NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, was there, decked out in a Diamondbacks jersey, ready to meet his newest fans and have a little fun.
The fun certainly came, but not exactly in the way anyone was expecting.
If you haven’t seen or heard anything about this, you simply have to keep reading. If you have, it’s probably worth revisiting because the whole spectacle was so hilarious.
From his spot on the mound next to Haason Reddick, the first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in last spring’s NFL Draft, Jackson waved to the crowd and then prepared to fire his pitch.
That’s where it all fell apart.
Jackson was a good sport about the whole thing, but this was 50 Cent bad. And Jackson knew it.
Despite the toss conjuring up memories of Bob Uker’s famous call of “Juuussssssst a bit outside” from the movie Major League, Jackson doubled over in laughter and then walked off the field explaining exactly what went wrong to the Diamondbacks player designated to catch the pitch.
“I shoot basketballs,” Jackson joked while making the motion of shooting a jumper.
Later in the night, Jackson was again at the center of the Diamondbacks’ fun when he exchanged hats with the D-Backs mascot, D. Baxter the Bobcat, whose oversized hat fit over Jackson’s hair much better than the MLB issued hat he had been wearing.
Clearly, Jackson already has made steps toward endearing himself to the Phoenix community and, a day later, he was at a Suns outreach event working with young people at a basketball camp in the area.
11:31 a.m. Update:
According a late-morning Tweet from Luke Winn of SI.com, Moore did not make the first cut at this week's tryout in Colorado Springs.
Despite falling short, which is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about given the talent and depth of those players vying for the spots, everything that was written below earlier today still applies to the opportunity Moore received.
If anything, not making the USA roster might add even more fuel to Moore's fire and inpsire him to take even better advantage of the upcoming year than he already planned to.
Time will tell, but it's important to remember two things when thinking about Moore:
1 - He's still just a freshman and seems to be very much on par with where Devonte' Graham was after his freshman season at Kansas. That's not to say Moore will become Graham, but Graham wasn't exactly the player we know him to be today back then either.
2 - Moore does have that one valuable year of experience at Cal under his belt, which should help him approach his current opportunity and what's ahead with more maturity than your average newcomer.
Twenty-eight current college players were invited to the tryout and 12 will make the final roster to compete for Team USA at the U19 FIBA World Cup July 1-9 Cairo.
Consider this the first important step in Moore’s potentially huge transfer year.
While practicing with and playing against current Jayhawks like Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman will no doubt be big for Moore’s development, these opportunities stand to be even bigger.
Unlike KU’s practices, where Moore can play with little pressure and without the usual make-or-break urgency, this week’s environment is a high-intensity, put-your-best-foot-forward-or-go-home experience that will force the former Cal point guard to be sharp and locked in at all times.
Whether he makes the team or not, that’s a good foundation for Moore to develop as he heads into the rest of the summer with the Jayhawks and, ultimately, the 2017-18 season, where he’ll hang in the shadows but be an important part of KU’s practice puzzle.
“He’s had some good moments,” Self told the Journal-World Tuesday morning when asked about Moore’s tryout thus far. “But he probably needed to have a really good day today to put himself in position to make that team.”
Newman, who came to KU after a year at Mississippi State, talked recently about the huge advantages of his transfer year and how he was able to spend an entire year working on the parts of his game that he thought needed the most help. Doing so under the watchful eye and tutelage of coaches like Bill Self, Kurtis Townsend, Andrea Hudy and many others certainly pushed Newman to a new level and left him saying and feeling that his confidence heading into the summer was at an all-time high.
Now it’s Moore’s turn to do the same. And what better way is there to do that than by competing against some of the best young players in college basketball while trying out for a team coached, and therefore selected, by Kentucky’s John Calipari.
Former Kansas players Tad Boyle (Colorado) and Danny Manning (Wake Forest) are assistants on Calipari’s Team USA staff, so the opportunity for Moore to pick their brains — especially Manning’s — about Kansas basketball and playing for Self only adds to the enormous gains that Moore can get out of the tryout.
Every little bit helps and it has to be viewed as a great sign that KU’s newest guard — and the potential heir to the Jayhawks’ point guard throne — is jumping into life as a Jayhawk with both feet and reckless abandon.
I liked what little I saw from Moore during the recent camp scrimmages. He looks quick, poised and more than competent and should improve his all-around game a great deal during his transfer season, much in the way Newman did.
It’s hard to imagine him being talked about at this time next year the way KU’s coaches have talked about Newman, but it’s not hard to envision Moore becoming an important part of KU’s team for the next couple of years. Opportunities to both test and prove himself like the one he’s getting this week in Colorado Springs can only help.
As for Self, he has spent time in Colorado Springs this week with an eye on recruiting some of KU’s most important targets in future recruiting classes, and on Wednesday he’ll head to New York City for the NBA Draft to join Josh Jackson and watch what fate awaits his most recent one-and-done player along with Frank Mason III.
I love the month leading up to the NBA Draft, largely because of two things: 1. It gives us plenty of stories to track and follow during the dog days of summer. And 2. I enjoy keeping tabs on all draft rumors and trade talks that surfac up and down the draft board because the NBA, unlike any other professional sport, is a game that can be impacted by the addition of a single player.
Add the right guy, at a position of need, and a team that missed the playoffs a year earlier could jump into the mix right away.
Add the right face to a struggling franchise and an entire city and fan base could suddenly be energized.
Whether this year’s draft — 6 p.m. Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. — has those types of players or not remains to be seen. Markelle Fultz could be one. And it sure seems like Philadelphia is counting on that. Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson could join him.
And then, of course, there’s always the possibility that there’s a Manu Ginobli or Draymond Green waiting in the second round, which is another part of the annual draft experience that makes for compelling stories.
For most KU fans, the stories worth reading only go as far as the Kansas prospects in each draft. Luckily, Bill Self has done a masterful job of putting KU players in the pros of late, delivering lottery talent in seven of the past 10 years, including a five-year streak from 2010-14.
The Jayhawks have been shut out of the lottery in each of the past two drafts — No. 15 overall pick Kelly Oubre came oh-so-close in 2015, missing lottery status by one spot — but KU will climb back in this year, making it eight of the last 11 years, when Josh Jackson is drafted, perhaps as high as second or third.
Frank Mason III also figures to be drafted this week, but it’s Jackson that we’re here to talk about today because one of my all-time favorite Jayhawks to cover recently delivered one of my favorite all-time draft moments and I’m not sure everybody picked up on it.
Pegged as a likely Top 3 pick for months, Jackson skipped the pre-draft combine in Chicago in May and limited the teams with which he worked out individually to just a couple because it’s hard to imagine him falling out of the Top 5.
One of those teams in the Top 5 is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently run by former Michigan State & Lakers star Magic Johnson.
Magic loves Jackson. He loved him in high school, did everything in his power to convince him to go to Michigan State and has had nothing but good things to say about the Detroit native every time he’s been asked.
I know there’ll be a ton of pressure on the Lakers to pick Ball at No. 2, but there are plenty of people out there who think Jackson will end up in L.A.
I don’t blame them. Here’s why:
A couple of weeks ago, when Jackson showed up to his workout with the Lakers, he did so wearing a Kansas T-Shirt.
Big deal, right? I’m sure he’s got a hundred KU shirts, if not more, and it would make sense for him to slap one on to represent the program that helped put him in the position of being a Top 5 draft pick.
But there was something about this particular shirt that caught my eye. Rather than simply saying Kansas basketball or Rock Chalk or any other combination of the most common words you see splattered on KU gear around here, Jackson chose one that said, “NCAA Men’s Sweet 16” and featured the year and a small Jayhawk at the bottom.
Again, big deal, right?
Actually, it was. As you’ll recall, it was Johnson’s Michigan State team that Jackson and the Jayhawks defeated to reach the Sweet 16. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Jackson chose it on purpose.
That’s just the kind of cut-throat competitor he is. Rather than being in awe of Johnson and bowing at his feet, thanking him for the mere opportunity to even show him his basketball abilities, Jackson showed up with some swagger and an edge, the kind that a guy like Johnson would probably love to have on his team.
As subtle as the gesture was, I would bet good money that Magic picked up on it.
If he did, and if the Lakers were at all actually considering taking Jackson at No. 2, a moment like that certainly could go a long way toward making the decision final.
That’s a bold move and a simple declaration from Jackson to Johnson that says, “I’m a bad man and you want me on your team.”
Time will tell if that happens.
The last time Kansas basketball coach Bill Self saw his son, Tyler, hit a 3-pointer as a Jayhawk, the KU coach smiled slyly but did his best to maintain his composure.
Self knew then, of course — during the Jayhawks’ 100-62 victory over UC-Davis in Round 1 of last season’s NCAA Tournament — that the cameras were rolling and, because of that, sportsmanship was a high priority.
Thursday night, at his son’s old stomping grounds of Free State High, Self again watched Tyler knock in a 3-pointer during the ninth annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, won 104-101 by the Crimson team over the Blue. This time, however, Self sat in the stands, and, as a proud parent, leapt to both feet and threw both arms and fists in the air after the former KU walk-on knocked down the open jumper.
Many in attendance at the sold-out event caught Self’s reaction — partially genuine and partially over the top — and appropriately roared with laughter.
That was merely one of the dozen or so light-hearted moments that made this year’s Roundball Classic, like all of the others before it, such a memorable and enjoyable evening for so many former Kansas players and their adoring fans.
Here are a few others:
• At halftime, when one lucky fan received an opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for a new car and six young fans were plucked from the crowd to play a quick game of knock-out, KU director of basketball operations Brennan Bechard was called to the court to advise the half-court heaver. Bechard, of course, is the reigning half-court shot champion, having knocked in half-courters in back-to-back years at Late Night for tuition money for one lucky KU student. Bechard’s advice to the man was simple: Don’t leave it short. He didn’t, but it was off to the left and missed the rim by a foot or two.
• More from the younger Self. Although he didn’t play a ton of minutes, he did make the most of his opportunity to entertain, first knocking down that open jumper and twice later overreacting in dramatic fashion to fouls called against him. The first came when he fouled Sherron Collins on a 3-point attempt. And the other came when he bear-hugged Cole Aldrich in the paint. Each time Tyler Self threw both arms high into the air in the direction of the officials to protest the calls. Not long after, a smile of pure joy quickly filled Tyler’s face. One thing that really hit me during these exchanges was how much fun it must’ve been for him to participate in this game. Sure there were a couple of guys out there, like Wayne Selden or Perry Ellis, who Tyler was teammates with. But the good majority of them, especially those from that 2008 team, were better known as guys he once looked up to and, perhaps more importantly, the crew that finally delivered his dad a national title. Cool stuff.
• At the point in the night when the members of the 2008 national title team were asked to come to mid-court for a group photo, Roundball Classic leading scorer Ben McLemore (32 points), who played just the 2012-13 season at Kansas before turning pro, jokingly jumped out there to try to get into the picture. “Yeah, you seen me try to go out there,” McLemore said after the game. “I wish I could’ve won a championship. But it was great playing here for the University of Kansas and it’s always a great feeling to come back here.”
• During one timeout in the second half, when event organizer Brian Hanni was introducing a young boy named Cade, who last year was an honorary coach at the game and this year is on pace to complete his cancer treatment with a prognosis of a victorious battle on his side, Hanni learned that Thursday also was Cade’s birthday. With the teams mingling more and strategizing less, Collins grabbed the mic and led the Free State gym in a singing of “Happy Birthday.” He was no John Legend, but Collins definitely pulled off the role of lead singer with a passing grade.
• A couple of funny quick-hitters from the game itself: At one point, after Mario Little blocked a driving shot attempt by Tyshawn Taylor, Mario Chalmers waived the Dikembe Mutombo finger Taylor’s way; Late in the game, with both sides competing harder in an attempt to snag the victory, Collins asked the scorer’s table how many fouls Taylor had. The scoreboard operator was not keeping track, but Collins was sure that Taylor had six fouls and should no longer be on the floor; During one timeout midway through the second half, Collins, on the Crimson team, looked over to the Blue bench and told J.J. Howard, son of Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard, that he was with the wrong team and that he should, “Come over to the good side.” J.J. stayed put; During a two-on-none late in the first half, as Wayne Selden and Drew Gooden raced toward the unprotected rim, an easy opportunity to throw an alley-oop presented itself. Instead of tossing it to Gooden, however, Selden fired it off the glass to himself and finished the play with one of the more impressive jams of the night. Rather than call him out for not giving up the rock, Gooden simply ran back on D with a huge smile and a look on his face that suggested he might be thinking, “Yeah. Good idea.”
• Finally, on a night designed to celebrate several former Jayhawks and honor the brave fights of a handful of young cancer warriors and their families, it’s worth noting that several members of the current Kansas basketball team showed up to enjoy the event. Those spotted in the crowd on Thursday were: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Mitch Lightfoot, Marcus Garrett, Dedric Lason, Charlie Moore and the entire KU coaching staff. Several former players mentioned in throughout the postgame festivities, but this truly was a family affair.
One of the most popular rumors during the stay-or-go portion of the 2016-17 Kansas basketball team’s immediate offseason — and even throughout the season’s final couple of months — was that the NBA decisions facing junior guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk were tied together.
As close as any two Jayhawks not named Morris during recent years and roommates during their days leading up to their respective decisions, it made sense for folks to speculate that the two Jayhawks would consult one another about their futures during the process and perhaps even agree to make the same decision one way or another.
To hear Graham tell it, that wasn’t the case at all.
“Nah, that didn’t have anything to do with it,” Graham told reporters Sunday afternoon following registration and check-in for this year’s Bill Self Basketball Camps. “We weren’t doing it for each other. He wanted to test and see where he would end up and he just made the decision to come back. He felt like that was best for him at the time.”
Graham did not need nearly as long to make up his mind, deciding to return to KU for his final season a little more than two weeks after the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight.
Because Graham’s announcement came much quicker, a full 45 days before Mykhailuk’s, that left all eyes on the young Ukrainian, who revealed on May 24 that he would return to KU for his senior season.
Two of those eyes belonged to Graham.
“He actually had me kind of worried and I know he had everybody else kinda worried, too,” Graham said. “I was happy to hear he was coming back.”
Unlike most of the rest of the world, which found out Mykhailiuk’s decision via Instagram and Twitter, Graham got the VIP treatment, receiving a text message from his good friend about an hour before the big reveal went public.
Graham, who this season figures to slide into his biggest and most important leadership role yet, said he checked in with Mykhailiuk often throughout the process — mostly via FaceTime chats — and said he, too, learned some things about the whole pre-draft process from Mykhailiuk and other past teammates who had gone through it.
“That can definitely help me,” Graham admitted. “You know, I talked to Wayne (Selden) about it, the whole process, and Frank (Mason III) and people who did it before. So I’ll talk to (Mykhaiiluk) once he gets back about everything that he went through. I was Face-Timing him during the whole thing and stuff like that, too, so I know a little bit about what was going on.”
While Graham and the rest of his teammates will get a jumpstart on preparations for the 2017-18 season, which unofficially began Sunday and will take a massive step forward when KU begins practicing for its August trip to Italy for four exhibition games in Rome and Milan, Mykhailiuk is already overseas working out for the Ukrainian national team for a spot on Team Ukraine in this year’s FIBA Eurobasket 2017 tournament.
Mykhailiuk is not expected to be on campus any time soon but is expected to play with the Jayhawks in Italy. The FIBA event is slated for the first two weeks of September.
Graham said Sunday that he and Mykhailiuk once again would be roommates during the upcoming school year and season, which not only will give them a chance to further build their bond as friends but also to lean on one another in their quest to become senior leaders for the Jayhawks during the 2017-18 season.