Devonte Graham, the junior guard from Raleigh, North Carolina will be the reason Bill Self captures his alluded 2nd National Championship.
Some may point to National Player of the year favorite, Frank Mason III or consensus top 3 draft pick, Josh Jackson, but Graham is a vital third component to the Jayhawks winning formula.
Devonte Graham, the kid who once committed to play for Appalachian State, has improved steadily over his three seasons at Kansas. His game has ascended him to the level of being considered for a first to second round draft pick in this upcoming draft (Kansas fans hope it’s the 2018 draft though).
The reason for his progression? He has become clutch, resilient and persistent. Graham has set himself up for a notable reputation of coming up with huge plays at the end of games which is a major factor why Kansas was able to capture their 13th straight Big 12 title.
For a kid who has to share the spotlight with superstar teammates, it is is easy to forget Graham’s contributions to the team.
Graham, now in his junior campaign, was awarded 2nd team Big 12 after averaging 13.2 points per game, with 4 assists per game, while shooting 39% from 3 and 43% from the field and joining the 1,000 point club this year. Graham’s career accolades also include being awarded
- Big 12 honorable mention,
- Big 12 All Defensive team
- Big 12 tournament MVP
Graham has become one of the better players in the Big 12 conference this season and throughout his career. He has proven to be a winner. However, there are games in which he struggles. Take the matchup against Baylor in Waco for example. Graham shot 1-12 from the field and 1-9 from 3 point range. Kansas won the game, even though Graham shot the ball horribly.
The game showed Graham’s character and determination to win.
Graham only finished with 7 points but contributed elsewhere. He added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a pair of steals.
Without Graham’s hustle and determination to win, Kansas does not win that game, and the Bears would then only trail the Jayhawks by 1 game in the Big 12 conference. Graham, on his worse night, was determined to win that game.
Just days prior, Graham led one of the biggest comebacks in Kansas basketball history. The team was down 14 points with 2:30 minutes left on the clock. West Virginia was about to make history. It would’ve been the first time in the Bill Self era where Kansas lost 2 straight home games.
Back in November, after Frank Mason hit his game winning shot against Duke, the reporters asked him “Can anyone else on this team hit that shot?” Without hesitating, Mason said “He can, he can hit that shot” pointing and referring to Devonte.
Mason was right.
Graham proceeded to go on to lead one of the larger comebacks in Kansas basketball history.
With 1:54 left on the clock, down 64-55 Graham gets a skip pass, and knocks down the 3 from the right corner.
Kansas now trailing by 5, with 37.2 seconds to go, Graham delivers. Mason has the ball, trapped in the corner, and being double teamed, Graham runs from one side of the court to another, noticing Mason is on trouble. Graham gets open, Mason finds him with the pass, Graham catches it within the 3 point arc, takes two dribbles to get past the the 3 point line, turns around and nails a three pointer.
Kansas down 2.
Graham was locked in.
Kansas tied the game and was headed to overtime. Graham decided to catch absolute fire. Graham’s first shot, less than a minute into overtime, gets the ball in the corner and nails a three. Kansas takes their first lead since the first half. And then Graham did the rest. After Kansas goes up 5, Graham gets the ball with 5 seconds on the shot clock, with 2:15 left on the clock. Graham dribbles once, shimmies his defender, dribbles behind the back, pulls up behind the line.
The Kansas faithful erupts in pandemonium.
Game. Set. Match.
Kansas clinches another unforgettable win., en route to their NCAA record 13th straight conference title.
It seems when Graham is on the court and the game gets close, he has that “FU” mentality. That its the Crimson and Blue against everyone else.
And Graham is known for having the “FU” mentality, and making the big shots. He’s not scared of the spotlight. He welcomes it.
And when Graham has that mentality; there is no one better.
This is the player Kansas fans expect to see when the lights shine brighter this upcoming March. A program hungry to overcome past tournament let downs now feels they have the backcourt duo to lead a championship run.
Kansas fans have the utmost confidence in Graham because Graham has the utmost confidence in himself and his teammates.
Championships are fueled in the pedigree of all Kansas players and fans. Now is the time to watch it all unravel.
With Graham helping the charge, all is possible.