Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2003

Self suspends senior forward Graves

December 13, 2003


Jeff Graves knew he was in big trouble early Friday afternoon when he checked the alarm clock next to his bed.

"I woke up and was like, 'What the hell is going on?'" said Graves, Kansas University's senior center, who had overslept for an 11 a.m. practice at Allen Fieldhouse.

The 6-foot-9, 255-pounder tore off his night clothes, threw on his practice gear and hustled to the fieldhouse in time to shoot free throws with teammates after practice about 1 p.m.

Shortly afterwards in a brief meeting with coach Bill Self, Graves learned his "irresponsibility and lack of respect for the basketball program and his teammates" had cost him a suspension from the squad.

That's until Monday at least, when Self will meet again with Graves to decide whether the player will be allowed to practice.

"I was just being irresponsible, being late and stuff like that. I just messed up a little bit, real quick," Graves said Friday while walking to his vehicle in a parking lot north of Allen Fieldhouse as his teammates were boarding a bus for Kansas City, Mo., in the south parking lot.

"I have to suffer the consequences. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody is not perfect, so I have to learn from mistakes and not do it again," Graves added.

First suspension for Self

Graves, who reportedly has been tardy for some other practices and meetings this season, will not be with the team for today's game against Oregon (1 p.m., Kemper Arena).

He will not sit on the bench in street clothes. He said it was unlikely he would attend the game as a spectator, although he is not prohibited from doing so.

"I don't know. It'd be embarrassing to show up there and have people say, 'Aren't you supposed to be out there on the floor?'" Graves said.

A Lee's Summit, Mo., native, Graves said he probably would spend the weekend "going home and thinking about a lot of things and working out."

No way Self would let him be with the team today after Friday's episode.

"We have been on Jeff about being responsible. Things had been accumulating and he missed practice today," Self said. "We want Jeff to be a part of our program, but if and only if he's able to show the same responsibility his teammates do."

Self, who said he had never had to suspend a player in 11 seasons as a head coach, took away Graves' starting spot before KU's first exhibition game for arriving five minutes late to a team meeting.

"Jeff is totally aware of what we expect and what his role is," said Self.

A basketball issue

Self said Graves hadn't broken any laws or had problems in the classroom.

Pure and simply, this is related to basketball.

"It's a responsibility issue," Self said. "This has nothing to do with anything other than Jeff being responsible for carrying out his daily basketball/school-related activities."

Monday, Self and Graves will meet to determine whether he will be allowed to return to practice.

"Jeff is totally aware of what goes along with being a University of Kansas basketball player," Self said, "and he has failed to be responsible enough to live up to those standards."

Graves has been in hot water before. Last year, he reported grossly overweight for preseason workouts. Then-coach Roy Williams wouldn't allow Graves officially to become a team member until the junior-college transfer passed conditioning test days before the first game.

"It's been a problem last year and been a problem this year," Self said of Graves' behavior.

Apology issued

Graves seemed to respond well to Williams' criticism a year ago. The player insists he will respond well again this year.

"You can probably say this is a wake up call for me," said Graves, who indicated he, indeed, wanted to remain a part of the team.

"This is not going to happen again. I know that."

Graves said he could understand frustration of fans who wondered why a senior would sleep through an 11 a.m. practice. KU's classes were not in session Friday.

"I'd say I'm pretty sure there are people out there, some people saying, 'Why does Jeff do this?' To them I say, 'I'm sorry. I apologize,'" Graves said.

As far as his teammates, who were not available for comment Friday, Graves said he had spoken to several.

"They are behind me," Graves said. "And they are like, 'Sorry this happened. Come back on Monday and holler at us.'''

Thinning bench

Self said this, of course, was not good for a team already thin in the middle.

Junior power forward Wayne Simien, who missed Wednesday's game because of a slightly strained groin, is to return to action today.

Freshman forward David Padgett sprained his right ankle at practice Thursday and was unable to finish practice Friday, but should be able to play today, Self said.

Look for Moulaye Niang and Christian Moody to possibly play significant minutes against the Ducks today, Self added.

"I would say anytime you have one of your program members that is irresponsible, it doesn't necessarily become a downer for the team, (but) is certainly something teammates notice," Self said.

Take it like a man

Self said he definitely wanted Graves to remain on the team.

"I like Jeff," Self said.

The feeling is mutual.

"It's just like what coach says: If he didn't talk to you and didn't yell at you a lot, he didn't care about you. He loves you. I have the same feelings toward him as he has toward me," Graves said.

For now, the player said all he can do is be humble, apologize and move on.

"I accepted this like any student-athlete or adult would of being late to work, suffer the consequences," Graves said.

"You can't do anything but take it like a man," he concluded.

Graves has averaged 3.8 points and 4.0 rebounds while logging 15 minutes a game this season. He played in all 38 Kansas games in 2001-2002, his first season at KU, averaging 6.0 points and 6.8 rebounds.

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