Saturday, February 2, 2019

Devonte Graham’s pregame message fuels KU to dominant performance over Texas Tech

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) hangs his hand after putting up a three during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) hangs his hand after putting up a three during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Former point guard Devonte’ Graham, who is now with the Charlotte Hornets, is still finding ways to help Kansas win, even though he is 11 months removed from his last action in a Jayhawk uniform.

Before KU’s 79-63 victory over Texas Tech Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse, Graham gave the team a message that proved to be pivotal. And before the team ran through the tunnel, Kansas played that message on the TV in the locker room.

The message? Don’t be afraid to shoot the ball.

“Devonte’ told them, ‘We never passed up shots. I watched you guys, and guys pass them up all the time. I don’t care what coach says, shoot the ball,’” KU coach Bill Self said. “They listen to him more than they listen to me.”

It is safe to say that the Jayhawks got the message. They knocked down a season-high 13 3-pointers, including nine in the first half, to take down the Red Raiders and end a two-game skid.

Kansas never trailed in its win over Texas Tech, jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Lagerald Vick and Ochai Agbaji each hit a 3-pointer, showing Graham’s message had an immediate impact.

“He’s one of the greatest to come through here,” freshman point guard Devon Dotson said. “Just hearing a message from that gets you going.”

KU attempted 30 shots from beyond the arc, which was two more than any other game this season. Other than the 28 such attempts against Arizona State, KU has actually not fired up more than 23 triples in a contest all year.

For at least one day, however, the Jayhawks were searching for their opportunities from deep. In fact, 50.8 percent of the team’s field goal attempts were from long range. That is 17.1 percent higher than the team’s average on the season.

But it is merely just the latest example of Graham’s handprints on this year’s team.

After the 73-63 loss to Texas on Tuesday, Graham sent a text message to Dotson about keeping his head up, and offering words of encouragement. Graham has also kept in touch with his former roommate, Dedric Lawson, throughout the course of the season.

“He loves this place more than anybody I’ve ever met here,” Lawson said. “He’s a guy who wants to see us win more than anybody.”

Most of all, Graham has personal experience with what KU has been going through as of late.

Kansas had a similar skid last year when it dropped back-to-back contests in December, including a 95-85 home loss to Arizona State. In Saturday’s pregame video message, Graham spoke about just that.

“I was a witness to that. How people counted them out, said they were going to lose and stuff like that,” Lawson said. “Devonte’ said, ‘Just don’t worry about that. It’s early. It’s February. You still got time to go out there and prove yourselves.’”

At least for Saturday's game, the Jayhawks did just that — thanks in no small part to some words of encouragement from the former Big 12 Player of the Year.


Bryce Landon 3 years, 8 months ago

Maybe when Devonte is done with the NBA, he should consider a career in coaching!

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 8 months ago

That's the Jayhawk spirit! Let's hope it's just not a one-game thingy. You guys finally realize how long we the fans have been waiting for this kind of team to show up. That's the kind of energy, play, we expect to see from a blueblood team! Let's kick some more arses! Rock Chalk!!!

Andy Godwin 3 years, 8 months ago

I don’t care what Self says about must games, but KSU is currently playing the best basketball in the Big 12, and not winning on Tuesday in Manhattan would put KU two behind in the loss column. You can’t make up losses, so winning on the road is essential to show the Jayhawks have turned the corner. Rock Chalk. Go, fight, win in the very little apple.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 8 months ago

Aside from their game against A&M they are playing great basketball at home and on the road. Get ready for the F KU chant. Always classy in Manhattan.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 8 months ago

Agbaji needs to start at this point. A double, double, the energy, the jams.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 8 months ago

Andy, KSU just list on the road last Saturday to a next to last place Texas A&M. The team playing the best right now is Baylor who's won 7 in a row since KU beat them.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

Either way, they are both a game up in the L column and we can't afford to fall one more behind to either. We've already picked up a W in Waco, so we don't even have that opportunity to make up ground. We've got to make up for the L's at WVU & UT.

The recipe for a conference championship for the past 14 years has been win at home, beat at least the bottom half of the conference on the road. There have been some YMCA and Stillwater stinkers along the way, but that just puts the pressure on to win against a top team on the road or count on a contender whiffing someplace. Manhattan would makeup for Morgantown.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 8 months ago

The first part of that formula is following plan. We are the only team undefeated at home but we are 1-3 on the road while KSU & Baylor are both 3-1. This is looking like a nail biter.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

I commented after the second 30 sec. violation at UT that it looks like no one wants to shoot the ball. That's encouraging, or maybe I'm just a blind squirrel.

It seemed to me that it was compounded (?created?) by the 2 half-hearted drives (Grimes & Garrett) at the very beginning that were swatted. It wasn't until the very end that we actually started attacking the paint and their foul prone big guy, and almost instantly he was in foul trouble and out of the game. Just not soon enough. If we had attacked him in the beginning, he would have played half as many minutes with multiple fouls and the outcome would have been different.

That to me is also a bit of the difference in the TTU game as well. There were 1 or 2 times where Vick did the NBA giggle with the defender in front of him to get the guy off balance and just rose up for the 3 in front of him. For the most part though it seemed to be a matter guys attacking the lane, the D shifting out of place in response and easy baskets either in the lane or for wide open 3's. On a couple of Dotson's 3s it almost looked like he had gone out early for shoot around.

It would also seem noteworthy that a 10-2 start and the 20+ point lead along the way aren't just a matter of good shooting. They were also that much more active on D, and will also need to be on future nights when the "fools gold" is not falling.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if Coach ever got the Dad-Coach treatment before?

I've been telling him that for ...

Maybe this is the teacher-peer instruction concept? Sometimes other student's can comment on a lesson in a way that it clicks for their peers. It doesn't mean that anything was wrong with the lesson except that it wasn't received by certain students. There are always many ways to communicate the same message.

Ironically, it seems to me that maybe Coach's greatest strength is his ability to communicate in a way that points out errors and corrections while motivating the player to run through a brick wall like he's back in boot camp.

Bj Cassady 3 years, 8 months ago

The guard play was good other than C Moore. I still think we need to play K Lawson and McCormack more, Lightfoot is overmatched inside. Great job Dotson, D Lawson, good job Grimes, great job Agbaji, good job Vick.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

Charlie has played better in the past than he is this year. Coach knows talent and as long as you aren't making dumb plays, he has shown that he will continue to give opps, though less so as games get tight, to players with breakout potential. Charlie very much has that potential, though he's not coming anywhere close to achieving it so far.

Craig Carson 3 years, 8 months ago

KSU is a must win...maybe Graham could do their pregame speeches from now on lol...I would like to see MCCORMACK a bit more though

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