Devonte’ Graham replaced Frank Mason last season as Kansas’ point guard.
On Thursday, Graham filled his former backcourt partner’s spot in the NBA Draft.
Graham was selected No. 34 overall by the Atlanta Hawks, the fourth overall pick of the second round in the event held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mason, the Jayhawks’ former national player of the year and, like Graham, a consensus first-team All-American in his final season, was selected No. 34 in the 2017 draft by the Sacramento Kings.
Graham’s draft rights were later traded to the Charlotte Hornets for two future second round picks, giving the Raleigh, N.C., native an opportunity to play for his home-state squad.
In a post-draft teleconference, KU coach Bill Self said No. 34 is right around where he expected Graham to be selected.
“Certainly I think he’s in a great situation,” Self said. “I would think that’s low enough in the second round that he’d get guaranteed hopefully at least a couple of years. I don’t know Charlotte’s roster perfectly but depending on the situation with Kemba (Walker), he gets a chance to learn behind one of the best guards in the league, and certainly playing in his home state has got to be a huge thrill for him.”
Svi Mykhailiuk, a four-year teammate of Graham with the Jayhawks, went off the board as the No. 47 overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He wants to go to L.A.,” Self said of Mykhailiuk. “And certainly who knows what’s going to happen, but if the rumors are true I think that’s a nice piece to have a corner jump shooter when maybe one of the best players ever has the ball in his hands, if it plays out that way like it’s rumored to be. That could be a great situation for Svi and certainly I really anticipate him making the team.”
Other former KU players Malik Newman and Billy Preston were not selected and became undrafted free agents, and Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania reported Newman signed a two-way contract with the Lakers shortly after the draft’s conclusion.
“There are some times where (going undrafted) occurs that you’d be better off to be a free agent and pick right now,” Self said. “Like with Malik, I’m really disappointed for Malik. I’m disappointed. This isn’t what we expected. But, the fit is more important than the number, without question, and we talked about that with his dad today. The bottom line is you’d rather get in the right situation than you would to go for the number.
“I think from a pride standpoint everybody wants to hear their name called, and who wouldn’t? But in terms of making the team it’s more important to be in the right fit.”
The 6-foot-2 Graham averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 assists across a staggering 37.8 minutes per game for the Jayhawks in his senior campaign, which was capped with a Big 12 player of the year award and a Final Four berth. Graham shot 40 percent overall but 40.6 percent from 3-point range, playing more minutes than any other Jayhawk in coach Bill Self’s 15-year tenure.
A four-star prospect at recruiting outlet Rivals.com coming out of high school, Graham was named a first-team All-American last season by the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, among other outlets.
Other former Jayhawks selected with the No. 34 pick include Mario Chalmers (2008) and Kevin Pritchard (1990).
Mykhailiuk, a 6-8 native of Cherkasy, Ukraine, hit a school-record 115 3-pointers as a senior and drained 237 for his career. Still just 20-years-old, Mykhailiuk shot 44.4 percent from beyond the arc last season and hit a game-tying trey with 25.7 seconds left in his team’s Elite Eight game against Duke, forcing overtime in the Jayhawks’ eventual 85-81 victory.
As for Preston, there was no doubt in Self’s eyes the drama of the last year dragged down the draft stock of the former five-star prospect — an early season accident on campus set off an in-house investigation into the vehicle Preston was driving, which led to his eventual midseason departure from the program having never played an in-game minute.
Self said multiple teams told him the 6-10 forward has “first-round talent,” but the limited opportunities to see him perform worked against Preston.
“It hurt him, there’s no question about that, as far as the draft goes, but what happens in 2018 isn’t what defines whether or not you’re a pro in 2026,” Self said. “The object is to have a career, not a paycheck, at least initially. Everybody that may be a little bit disappointed tonight wherever you come from, there’s still opportunity, but the bottom line is you’re probably going to have to show some toughness.”