HeÃ¢ÂÂs no Jim Ryun, Wes Santee or Glenn Cunningham, but Jeff Graves is a good enough distance runner to join Kansas UniversityÃ¢ÂÂs menÃ¢ÂÂs basketball team.
Graves, a 6-foot-9, 275-pound junior forward from LeeÃ¢ÂÂs Summit, Mo., on Wednesday put on his track shoes and completed 61Ã Â¼2 laps of the Memorial Stadium track in 12 minutes Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; a standard that must be reached before a prospective Jayhawk becomes an official KU basketball player.
Ã¢ÂÂWe have a new member of our basketball team. Jeff Graves passed the running test and I will start treating him nicer, being nicer to him,Ã¢ÂÂ KU coach Roy Williams said Friday at his first weekly press conference of the 2002-03 season. Ã¢ÂÂHe made it Wednesday afternoon and I was really happy for him because I have been really tough on him.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams has been tough on Graves both in practice and in the media this semester Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; ever since the former Iowa Western Community College standout reported at 293 pounds and failed several times to pass the running test that the other Jayhawks aced in August.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve been pretty doggone tough on him in every scenario, but now heÃ¢ÂÂs partially gotten over on the good side and gotten partially out of the doghouse. Now weÃ¢ÂÂll see how he can play,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said.
KUÃ¢ÂÂs coach said Graves still has some weight to lose, but making the running test is a good first step.
Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs still way overweight. The number that everybody keeps saying (275 pounds) is still low,Ã¢ÂÂ said Williams, not revealing GravesÃ¢ÂÂ current weight. Ã¢ÂÂHe is getting better. HeÃ¢ÂÂs working harder. HeÃ¢ÂÂs trying more.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams sensed some urgency for Graves to make his 61Ã Â¼2 laps after the coach told Graves the only reason he played in last MondayÃ¢ÂÂs exhibition game is he considers exhibitions Ã¢ÂÂglorified practices.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs a bright youngster because he figured out when I said Ã¢ÂÂ'glorified practiceÃ¢ÂÂ he knew that meant he wasnÃ¢ÂÂt going to play against Holy Cross, and the next game, and the next game, and the next game. If weÃ¢ÂÂd have gone through 35 games or whatever and if heÃ¢ÂÂd never passed the running test he never would have stepped out on the court,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂHe knew he had to get it done so he might as well make up his mind he was going to.Ã¢ÂÂ
So Graves passed the test with little breathing room Wednesday.
Ã¢ÂÂWhen he came in Wednesday he had a smile on his face. We were all congratulating him, happy for him,Ã¢ÂÂ sophomore forward Wayne Simien said.
Ã¢ÂÂNow he has something to get some praise about. HeÃ¢ÂÂs been getting beat up a lot by the coaches and by the press a little bit. In the locker room weÃ¢ÂÂve been trying to encourage him, motivate him as much as possible, because no matter how tough you are Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; you can say those things donÃ¢ÂÂt bother you Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; but you can tell it was kind of getting to him.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams was glad to see a smile on GravesÃ¢ÂÂ face.
Ã¢ÂÂHe was about as happy as IÃ¢ÂÂve ever seen him immediately after that,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂI have not had him on the blue (first) team a single day at practice, even as a sub. Now thereÃ¢ÂÂs a chance he could get some time as a blue team member at practice now.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams explained why heÃ¢ÂÂs been so miffed at Graves.
Ã¢ÂÂHe made some huge mistakes in the offseason. He allowed himself to really get out of shape,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂIt was very unfortunate he was involved in the (car) accident. Now he was going through a period he couldnÃ¢ÂÂt condition because of the accident he was involved in.
Ã¢ÂÂI was bad to him because I was so mad at him for the previous stuff. My only question (after the accident) was, Ã¢ÂÂ'Are you OK?Ã¢ÂÂ And after I found out he was OK, then I went back to being mad at him again.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams said he had no set weight for Graves to reach.
Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs got to be able to go up and down the court a number of times without hurting us. But heÃ¢ÂÂs still got several pounds to go to be able to do that consistently and to be able to play for long periods of time and he knows that,Ã¢ÂÂ the coach said.
Ã¢ÂÂEven though his weight has not gone down as much as I would have liked to, I think his percentage of body fat Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; which we are checking now Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; I think it will show it has gone down.Ã¢ÂÂ
Graves scored eight points with six rebounds in 10 minutes Monday against EA Sports. He could play more in TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs 7 p.m. battle against Washburn.
Ã¢ÂÂHe will be considered just like everybody else,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂI didnÃ¢ÂÂt play him as much the other night. I didnÃ¢ÂÂt think he deserved to go as much as the other guys. He was the last of the scholarship players to go in the game.Ã¢ÂÂ
Everybody seems to think heÃ¢ÂÂll eventually be a big factor for KU, which is thin off the bench on the inside.
Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs huge. HeÃ¢ÂÂs just huge,Ã¢ÂÂ Simien said. Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs tough to get around in practice. He moves pretty well for his size. A lot of people expect him to be kind of out of shape, but heÃ¢ÂÂs got good feet. I think he can definitely help us.Ã¢ÂÂ
Graves is off limits to the press until his first regular season game.