Devonte’ Graham seems poised for his own Player of the Year campaign, leading fans to wonder: where was this play in the Elite Eight?
Maybe Devonte’ Graham has always been more of a Batman fan than a Robin kind of guy. More likely, Graham is better-suited to lead than play a supporting role. Either way, Kansas fans are left to ponder what could have been last March.
With Graham posting a career-high 35 points in his last two games, his 0-for-7 shooting against Oregon in the Elite Eight last season seems like an impossibility rather than a sobering reality. While Graham admitted to his own shot selection struggles against Kentucky earlier this season, he impressed the likes of Pat Riley by absolutely eviscerating the Syracuse Orange with a performance that will grant him early attention for POY.
In Graham’s defense, Frank Mason was left stranded in Kansas City by most of his teammates. However, Graham’s Elite Eight play as an upperclassman was truly a disappointment given that many considered the Mason-Graham backcourt one of the strongest in college basketball. While one awful game does not define Graham’s impressive four-year career in Lawrence, Jayhawk fans will likely be apprehensive come tournament time.
Graham will post significantly better numbers all season simply because he has to for KU to succeed. Without Mason overshadowing both his accomplishments and shortcomings, Graham has shown early that he is able to make adjustments and get his teammates involved as the strong senior floor general that Bill Self can rely on. Similar to Mason’s role last season, Self will need Graham to create his own opportunities when the team falls out of rhythm.
Now at the helm, Graham has a pair of explosive guards that will hopefully prove to be a better supporting cast in crucial games. Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk have made great strides that will impress NBA scouts. Svi Mykhailiuk has emerged as one of Self’s most dependable guards, committing only eight turnovers thus far this season. If Lagerald Vick’s explosive offensive abilities and highlight reel vertical continue on their current trajectory, do not be surprised if all three players are gone next season. If Graham, Vick and Mykhailiuk can get on the same page for six games in March, they may just give fans the perfect parting gift.