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Monday, February 15, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Devonté Graham just goes and goes and goes

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets under Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) for a shot during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets under Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) for a shot during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

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Ever on guard against the slightest hint of complacency and overconfidence, Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self is a master at pointing out the blemishes of an athlete’s smooth day.

Self didn’t go anywhere near that path in discussing Devonté Graham after the sophomore guard from Raleigh, N.C., scored 27 points, delivered in the clutch and held Buddy Hield without a field goal for the entire first half of KU’s 76-72 victory against Oklahoma on Saturday.

Instead, Graham’s endurance wowed Self.

“He didn’t get tired,” Self said of Graham, who played 39 minutes and guarded Hield from start to finish. “I don’t know. That didn’t seem possible to me.”

Self went on to point out specific plays tired athletes typically lack the energy to execute late in games that Graham managed to complete.

Big game with the crowd fueling the other team, played midway through February, seems a prescription for exhaustion. So how did Graham stay fresh?

“I think they get more efficient as the season goes on, for sure,” KU’s strength-and-conditioning coach Andrea Hudy said.

That challenges conventional wisdom, always the first step in finding better ways to do things. Hudy banks on technology to tweak workouts.

“We monitor the fatigue and strength and power,” Hudy said. “If they get fatigued, then they won’t be able to produce force as fast. So then we pick up on that, and if we need to do more recovery or do something different, we do that.”

Whatever Graham is doing physically at the urging of the strength-and-conditioning staff is working wonders.

Next comes the psychological challenge. It’s so difficult for young athletes not to defer to older ones. No one disputes that Graham has the personality best suited for leadership on KU’s roster. It’s on Graham and the rest of the prominent players to knock down the age-hierarchy hurdles and follow the upbeat force’s lead. That should become easier for all parties in the wake of his coming-out party Saturday in Norman, Okla.

On the topic of leading, coming out of Saturday’s action, Graham leads the Big 12 in conference games only with a three-point percentage of .490, followed by Hield (.475) and OU teammates Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard (tied at .444).

In many ways a hybrid of KU’s hybrid-guards starting backcourt of Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers, Graham averages 34.7 minutes per Big 12 contest and is the team’s best perimeter defender. He’s a leader worth following for the next 26 months.

Comments

Michael Sillman 6 years, 4 months ago

I have to admit that I was incredibly impressed and surprised by Graham's performance against OU.

More surprising to me than his 27 points was the great defense that he stuck on Hield especially the first half.

From my viewpoint in every prior game, any guard in the league was easily able to get by Graham on the dribble.

I hope that this game was the start of something great for his kid and, to use Self's favorite expression, not just some fool's gold.

John Randall 6 years, 4 months ago

Having the endurance to maintain pressure, even when Buddy adapted at halftime, is impressive.

Having the acumen to see advantages in new defensive scheme and use same relentlessly is MORE than impressive.

By "new scheme" I mean the switch from chasing to be-there-waiting.

Doug Cramer 6 years, 4 months ago

Want to see this guy mature as a leader. A guy that ACTS like he can play like a big leaguer every night he steps on the court.

The day that happens is the day we have much more potential to play deep into April.

Great job Graham...be humble and make your teammate's needs your priority.

Bob Thompson 6 years, 4 months ago

Now, if we could get Selden to play like a big leaguer EVERY game we would win out.

Doug Cramer 6 years, 4 months ago

Agree Bob. Maybe this will light a fire for Selden.

Chad Smith 6 years, 4 months ago

I like devonte, but making any comparisons to Chalmers and Russ rob after one good game seems a little bit, I dunno ridiculous. You're talking national champ cred, NBA cred, lockdown defensive cred, and two of our best guards in KU history. Keegan, slow down.

Jared Reeves 6 years, 4 months ago

I loved to see Devonte yelling at the crowd after he made a big shot. With a team full of stone faced, often emotionless players (Mason, Ellis, Lucas, Selden), Graham's passion fueled him to a big game.

Mick Allen 6 years, 4 months ago

Agreed Jared. But as we both know you must walk the walk before you talk the talk. Incredible performance by Devonte who had the walk down Saturday.

Michael Sillman 6 years, 4 months ago

Proper phrase is to walk the talk. Walk the walk does not make a lot of sense. ;>)

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 4 months ago

Devonte is clearly a natural leader, even as a sophomore. The thought of having him for two more years is thrilling.

Given his heroics at both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, his performance Saturday can hold its own in comparison with any Jayhawk performance this year, and we have seen some beauties.

The kudos to Andrea Hudy are also well deserved. She is much more than an unsung hero of the program. I notice how, on Senior Night, every speaker thanks her for what she has done for him. She really is invaluable to the team and other coaches.

Timothy Rake 6 years, 4 months ago

Where are the "Fire Bill Self voices" after this last week?

Freddie Garza 6 years, 4 months ago

FIRE THE GUY WHO COACHED THE BASKETBALL TEAM TO 11 CONSECUTIVE LEAGUE TITLES, POSSIBLY A 12TH THIS YEAR, A NATIONAL TITLE, MULTIPLE FINAL FOUR APPEARANCES, ETC. ETC. ETC.!!!!!!

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 4 months ago

Don't worry. The next time KU loses a game, the naysayers will be back. Nothing ever really satisfies them other than perfection. Don't imagine that those same expectations apply to themselves.

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