Devonte’ Graham is latest sub-100 prospect to evolve into unheralded Kansas star
Senior point guard is the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year
A couple of months ago, while bored in an offseason that seemed boring until the FBI turned it into something else completely, I decided to identify which five players would be Kansas' Devonte' Graham off the list of point guards.. After much internal debate, I left
Turns out, I was wrong to do that.
It was stupid to do that.
"Graham was so impressive that [Missouri] coach Cuonzo Martin merely shook his head and smiled when Graham's name was mentioned in the interview room after the game," Gary Bedore, of The Kansas City Star, wrote Sunday after Graham scored a game-high 25 points, grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and also finished with five assists in Kansas' 93-87 win over Missouri in an exhibition that drew 18,951 fans to the Sprint Center in Kansas City and helped raise at least $1.8 million for hurricane relief.
And let's stop right here for a moment, if you don't mind.
Kudos to Bill Self and Cuonzo Martin for making this happen -- and for the domino-effect it had on exhibitions around the nation. Millions and millions of dollars were raised, and are still being raised, for people who need it badly. That's awesome. And though I realize there are still plenty of folks on the Kansas side who have no interest in bringing KU-MU back to the regular season, Self included, that scene on Sunday should at least make them reconsider. In short, there's nothing terrible about playing regional rivalries fans enjoy. No, they might not always resonate nationally. But they really matter in the selected markets. And that's fun. And it's why I've forever thought schools like Georgetown and Maryland; Memphis and Tennessee; Washington and Gonzaga -- just to name a few -- should play annually no matter what. Those games matter to fans of those schools, undeniably. And Sunday proved Kansas-Missouri matters, too. So it would be cool if Self and Martin figured out a way to make it work going forward. But I suppose I'll leave that up to them.
Now back to Devonte' Graham.
Man, I sured messed up on Devonte' Graham.
To be clear, it's not that I've changed my opinion on any of the five point guards I listed ahead of Graham in that previous piece -- namely Villanova's Jaylen Brunson, North Carolina's Joel Berry, Wichita State's Landry Shamet, Duke's Trevon Duval and Alabama's Collin Sexton. I still like them all (even if Berry and Shamet are both currently injured). It's just that, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems ridiculous to list five great college point guards and not have the point guard who is likely to lead Kansas to a 14th-straight Big 12 title on the list somewhere, seems crazy to list five great college point guards and not have the point guard who is dominating games and making opposing coaches just shake their heads and smile on the list somewhere. And if I didn't know that two months ago, rest assured, I know it now.
And what a remarkable thing Self has done in terms of development.
KU signed six prospects in the Class of 2013 -- among them five-star gems Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden. Also in that class: Frank Mason. Not many people expected much from him, to be honest. And yet somehow, someway, Self and his staff developed the 145th-best prospect in the Class of 2013 into the 2017 Big 12 and National Player of the Year. Meantime, KU signed four prospects in the Class of 2014 -- among them five-star gems Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander. Also in that class: Devonte' Graham. Not many people expected much from him, to be honest. And yet somehow, someway, Self and his staff developed the 110th-best prospect in the Class of 2014 into this season's preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. And postseason First Team All-America honors also seem possible for Graham as long as he, and Kansas, play to expectations.
Bottom line, Kansas has enrolled plenty of five-star prospects, won with them and then watched as they bounced to the NBA quickly. But the Jayhawks are equally as good, if not better, at taking sub-100 guys and, over time, developing them into college stars. Last season it was Frank Mason. This season it's Devonte' Graham. And if I didn't know that two months ago, rest assured, I know it now.
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