Saturday, February 24, 2018


Tom Keegan: After bypassing NBA draft, Devonte’ Graham delivers Big 12 title

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) puts up a shot and draws a foul from Texas Tech center Norense Odiase (32) during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) puts up a shot and draws a foul from Texas Tech center Norense Odiase (32) during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena.


Lubbock, Texas — The rapid Kansas ball movement punctuated by swishes from long distance that defined the first half had faded. Relentless Texas Tech was making its charge, drawing within one point.

And then, the best basketball player in the Big 12 closed the game the way his team closed the Big 12 basketball race — like a buzz saw with no off switch.

Devonte’ Graham was Oscar De La Hoya smelling blood, Jim Ryun kicking toward the tape for another mile record, a hungry hawk diving to pull a snake out of the grass for an afternoon meal.

Graham willed Kansas to another victory, 74-72, Saturday in lively United Supermarkets Arena by owning the game’s final 14 minutes, and with his efforts came KU's 14th consecutive Big 12 title.

During that span, the senior point guard from Raleigh, N.C., scored 18 of KU’s final 29 points, beating the Red Raiders and the shot clock with spectacular buckets from near and far.

How Graham ensured KU of at least a share of another Big 12 title was even more impressive than how many points he scored (26 points on 10 of 18 field goals, including 4 of 7 3-pointers) to do it.

He did it by dribbling into an off-balance 22-footer and by burying a long jumper over a 6-foot-9 defender, both beating the shot clock. He did it by finding Malik Newman alone in the left corner with a wildly precise and entertaining cross-court bounce pass. Graham dribbled into the lane over and over until he found himself a bucket, and sometimes a free throw to go with it.

The final 14 minutes of Saturday’s game and the 14 on the baseball cap that sat atop the head of Graham and the rest of the Jayhawks after completion of a once-wobbly title defense told the story of why Graham came back to Kansas for his senior season.

Kansas coach Bill Self shared how he heard of Graham’s return.

It started with a call from his mother, a call she asked Self not to tell her son she had made. She informed Self that Graham wanted to come back and didn’t want to get feedback by attending the NBA scouting combine. Self then told Graham he should test if he wanted to.

“‘No, no, no,” Self said Graham told him, "‘I’m not quite ready and I want to graduate from here. And I want it to be my show one time.’ I think he made the right decision, and he certainly helped his stock.”

Last season, Graham played third wheel to national player of the year Frank Mason III and No. 4 overall NBA draft pick Josh Jackson.

At this point, Graham shouldn’t need any help in earning top conference honors, but Self took the opportunity to lobby for him, just in case.

“This is probably not the time to do it, but he’s the Big 12 Player of the Year, in our opinion,” Self said. “You can talk about stats, but you have to put a value on winning, and I really felt like that Keenan (Evans, Texas Tech) or Devonte’ or obviously Trae (Young, Oklahoma) would have a great shot to win that. But after today, after what he did to ensure that this team won another league, I certainly hope the media doesn’t lose sight on the value of winning and the most important stat a guard can have, and that’s wins and losses.”

Why stop at Big 12? Why not first-team All-American?

“He’s in the conversation,” Self said.

Then he rattled off the names of four players he thinks might be ahead of his point guard: Young, Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson.

“When you get past that, I’m not sure there’s anybody out there who would deserve it more than he would," Self said. "Hopefully, if we finish strong and he has to finish strong, but what he’s been able to do in this league is pretty amazing: To play every minute of every game and still be able to have the energy to have to make every play late game, and he delivers.”

Considering what he’s done the past two games, dominating Young and then taking over the Tech game, it’s not absurd to mention Graham as a candidate for the national awards Mason won last year.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas Tech

By the Numbers: Kansas 74, Texas Tech 72.

By the Numbers: Kansas 74, Texas Tech 72.


Bryce Landon 4 years, 5 months ago

Pretty rich that Texas Tech's interview room would have the phrase "Fearless Champions" on the wall behind the podium. The Red Raiders were fearless, but not champions. Kansas, on the other hand, was both.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 5 months ago

They did win the men's indoor track championship this weekend.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 5 months ago

We need our women's outdoor track and field team to get another championship and our women's volleyball team has been a top NCAA competitor.

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 5 months ago

Averaging 35-37 min a game 3 seasons - imagine the team without 'Tae. Enough said. POY!! POY!!

Allan Olson 4 years, 5 months ago

Kudos to the unbelievable 14th title campaign. I am in awe how this seven man rotation survived a BIG 12 schedule, and put their mark forever on basketball history. Our seniors, Devonte and Siv, are truly iron men and one hell of a dynamic duo. We should still give a well deserved tip-of-the-cap to the Red Raiders. But for their star player's bad toe, maybe the streak would over. Wish them good luck representing the BIG 12 in March Madness.

Justin Daniel 4 years, 5 months ago

Devonte has been incredible this year and deserving of having his name hang in Allen Fieldhouse when you look at his career, but how about Bill Self. We are SO blessed to have the best coach in college basketball at the University of Kansas. Beard has done a great job and most years would deserve COY honors, but after the job Coach Self has done this year he has to be COY. He is truly deserving of the distinction of Hall of Fame Coach.

Mallory Briggans 4 years, 5 months ago

I want to thank 2 coaches ..................Jim Fox 9 ( App State ) for releasing Devonte from his scholarship and Bill Self for offering him one, Great job young man .

Rock Chalk !

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 5 months ago

Graham just showed his mental toughness and he did it by playing his game. Without Graham, Frank Mason would not have been the consensus #1 player of the year.

BIG 12 Player of the Year.

Brad Watson 4 years, 5 months ago

He has always been fun to watch out there...but yesterday was as good as it gets....this is his time....and he didn't disappoint...Love the the desire.

Mike Riches 4 years, 5 months ago

I made this point in another post, but I think Graham may be more deserving of National POY than Mason was last year (and I'm a huge Frank Mason III fan!)

Graham has had so much less help around him this year than Mason had. And while there were certainly times last year the team leaned on Mason, Graham is undeniably the most crucial player on this team, to the point that things just seem to collapse if he ever sits. What other player in the Self era has ever played 400 straight minutes? Every expert would agree that this team is not as talented as last year's squad, and the conference is better top to bottom than it's ever been, and yet here we are again. #14 is locked up with two games to go, and we look to be in the driver's seat for another #1 seed. And Graham isn't a reason for this, he is THE number one reason for this.

If national POY goes to the most skilled or most talented college basketball player, then congrats to Bagley or Young or Ayton. But if the voters are looking for the most valuable player, or the player who has made the greatest impact, then NO ONE is more deserving than Mr. Devonte' Graham!

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 5 months ago

Pretty much the same reasons that Mason was the consensus #1 player in college ball last season.

David Black 4 years, 5 months ago

Mike, I don't know you but I agree with everything you said. Rock Chalk and congratulations to Coach Self and his Jayhawks...14 straight..Sweet

Brad Watson 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Mike......but I also think the MVP for this years team ...might be Head Coach Bill Self.....what a tremendous coaching job...... He has been here for 15 years....arriving in 2003....and in 15 seasons as coach....he has won 14 straight titles.....Graham should be POY......but in my opinion .....Self is my MVP....We are witnessing greatness....he has surpassed the most legendary coach of all time...incomparable is a word that fits here..Its time for Keegs to write an article on the real BMOC.....14 OUT OF 15...the job he has done this year ...with these great kids.... has been a pleasure to watch...Thank you Coach...we love you and are behind you 100%... as we move forward into March.

" The incomparable William Self"

" The incomparable William Self" by Brad Watson

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 5 months ago

Stick with MVC, please. You should compare him with the other coaches, not players.. #BIBS..

Brad Watson 4 years, 5 months ago

OK Steve...MVC sounds are right...didn't think it all the way through before posting....always open to criticism that's legit...but I think most got my point.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 5 months ago

Random Thoughts:

1] As much as I treasure the National Titles, dozens of teams have won them, many, multiple times. No one has or, in my opinion, will ever do 14 conference titles again. Kansas will always stand alone with this record.......until they win the 15th next season!! :).

2] Marcus Garrett gave us a preview of what he will be like his junior and senior year....AWESOME!!!

3] Do not count out the unspoken motivation that each season's team brings to the court....."we don't want to be the team remembered as the team that broke the streak!!".

4] When they finally hang Devonte's jersey in the rafters at Allen, the better damn well put it next to Frank's!

5] It would be nice to make that 14th an individual title. That motivation coupled with Senior Night should produce a nice win for the Hawks against Texas tomorrow night.

6] Maybe the most impressive aspect of "The Streak" is that for the past four or five years, the Big 12 has been rated as the number one conference in America and, this season, the conference has been stronger from top to bottom than any other season since the conference was formed. Simply amazing.

7] I can only imagine how much KU is hated by the other nine conference partners. Thank God we have football to make everybody like us again.[Sarcasm Font ]

8] I think our Winter Olympic Team needs to work out a few kinks for next time. Isn't the square mile area of medal leader Norway about the size of Douglas County???? {see end of item seven].

9] Bill deserves Coach of the Year but I'm sure the Texas Tech guy is going to get it.

10] Totally off the subject but Grayson Allen of Duke is a total jerk!

Bj Cassady 4 years, 5 months ago

The heart and soul of a team. Devonte Graham was the heart and Bill Self was the soul. I thought 9-9 was an honest outlook for the team due to transfers a very thin bench a tough big twelve. I underestimated the heart of Devonte Graham and the Soul of Bill Self who did his best coaching job this year. The non impact of Preston, the virtual non impact of DeSousa, Conliffe he made something from nothing, motivated, coached and poured his heart into number 14. Graham what can be said. He made plays that made my jaw drop. I was a point guard but Graham is THE point guard, the shooting guard, the iron man, THE man. Hats off to you brother.

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