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Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Graves’ stature expands

KU basketball signee ‘thick, not fat’

August 7, 2002

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The legend of Jeff Graves continues to grow and grow, much like the muscles and beef on the 6-foot-9, 270-pounder's body.

Graves, a junior college basketball All-American out of Iowa Western Community College via Lee's Summit, Mo., High, has been lifting weights and running daily this summer, while also playing basketball in the KC Hoop League at Avila College.

"He's a big guy. He's thick. Nobody is ever going to confuse him with (thin former Jayhawk) B.J. Williams," said former KU guard Greg Gurley, whose team has played against Graves' squad twice this summer.

"He's thick, not fat," Gurley added, refuting gossip that power forward/center Graves resembles rotund Refrigerator Perry more than the buff Tony Gonzalez. "Jeff's a little bigger than he should be, but it's not like he's a big, fat lineman."

Weight has been an issue for Graves in the past, but by all accounts the big guy is rounding into shape as he prepares for his first Roy Williams KU hoops training camp.

"He's very big," says Graves' brother, Robby, a former UMKC guard who plans to walk on to KU's team this season. "He's cool. His weight is about where it needs to be. We work out every day and I push him, of course I do."

Jeff Graves he's been in Lee's Summit most of the summer while completing one class at UMKC and one at Longview CC that will make him eligible at KU has bulging biceps.

"He's a big, physical kid. He has some guns on him. He has some arms," rivals.com recruiting analyst Jon Kirby said after watching Graves play Monday night at Avila. "He is a big, wide-shouldered kid. A lot of people in the Big 12 are going to have trouble moving him out of the way. He is a horse."

Gurley noted that Graves is "quicker than he looks. He can get up and down the floor."

Yet Graves will never be confused with a gazelle.

"I think he's been like a bear hibernating a bit. Once people hear his growl, they will get out of his way," said Graves' mother Sharon, who has attended several of Jeff's summer league games. "He's been doing it all. In the last game he took it coast to coast and dunked it. He handled it behind his back. He gets the ball, moves swift on his feet. After that it's 'Oh, My God,''' she said of his power moves.

Graves' mother says her son is "75 to 80 percent (in shape). I've not had to push him at all. He's been up to see the folks in Lawrence who gave him dietary guidelines and workouts. I don't have to say anything. He's talked to the main gentleman there, coach Williams, who has given him guidelines to fulfill. He has a ways to go but basically Jeff has given people (summer foes) more stuff than they can deal with."

For his part, Graves has been running sprints at 10 a.m. each morning and also lifting every day and playing basketball in the gym.

He sees himself rounding into shape.

"I'm almost there, more than halfway there. Once school starts I'll be the full way," said Jeff, who says he would like to shed "about 20 pounds, maybe 10 pounds.

"I run 1,000 yards of sprints at 10 a.m., then do some more running. Is it hard?" he said of the KU workouts he's been prescribed? "Yes it's hard considering what I'm used to in junior college, but it's good for me. I am really anxious to get to school and show what I've got."

Graves he averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 boards in juco ball last season said he's comfortable accepting passes in the paint and finishing.

"I feel confident enough if the ball does come to me there's a good chance (he'll score)," Graves said.

"He can run. He has good feet, quick feet. He is not a big, lumbering guy," Iowa Western coach Jim Morris said. "He won us a lot of games anchoring that middle."

Gurley a color commentator for KU games on Lawrence's Cable Channel 6 can't wait to see Graves play this season.

"He'll get a real awakening making the adjustment from junior college to coach Williams' system. Nobody is ready for that. I wasn't ready for it coming out of high school and Jeff will be shocked at the intensity," Gurley said. "But the bottom line is he is going to contribute. You throw Jeff Graves, Nick Collison and Wayne Simien at teams, the size and bulk those guys provide are really going to cause some teams problems."

Added brother Robby: "Jeff's definitely going to help KU. As an inside big man, he has such good hands. He has a nice shot from 15 feet and he can pass the ball."

As far as his own possible KU career, Robby, who left UMKC after his sophomore season, told analyst Kirby his "dream" is to play at KU.

"Me and my brother have always said we wanted to play together," Graves said. "Now we are going to get the chance. I'm definitely looking forward to it. The Kansas program has been so successful and consistent. Coach Williams is such a great coach you can't go wrong."

Robby told the Journal-World he needs to get some academic conflicts straightened out before he'll "go through that procedure" of trying out for KU's team at official walk-on tryouts in October.

"I had to get one more class to graduate (at Penn Valley)," Robby said. "There's a clerical error that says I didn't (graduate).

"There's a mixup with his transcript analysis," Sharon Graves said. "It's made it tough for him to fulfill a couple science classes they had him take. We don't know (what will happen). It's a harder thing for him (to qualify compared to Jeff)."

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