Tom Keegan: Nice guys don’t always finish last
photo by: Nick Krug
Sometimes good things really do happen to good people.
Devonte’ Graham, a grounded, friendly sort who didn’t allow the gathering fame he experienced in four years at Kansas change him, decided to come back for his senior year of college to give himself a better shot at getting drafted.
It worked. He proved he’s ideally suited to point guard, something he couldn’t show with the ball in Frank Mason’s hands most of the time.
Graham improved his draft stock and as a nice little bonus led his team to the Final Four and earned first-team All-American honors.
Sometimes good things even happen to two different good people in the same night.
It’s no accident that Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham are about as close as any teammates not named Morris who Bill Self has coached at Kansas.
Svi was 16, didn’t know much English when he arrived at Kansas, and needed a friend. Graham made sure he had one right away and like Graham, Svi never grew a big head during his four seasons of increasing success at Kansas.
Now Svi’s a member of Hollywood’s favorite sports franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers. His contract isn’t guaranteed, but he shouldn’t have any trouble making the roster and with one exceptional skill, his long-range shooting, he has a shot at a long career as a marksman off the bench.
Graham has a chance to develop quickly into Kemba Walker’s primary backup. He does one thing much better than Walker’s main backup a year ago. Michael Carter-Williams has four inches on Graham, but is nowhere near the shooter.
Graham was at the back end of a rapid-fire run on experienced college point guards early in the second round. Villanova’s Jalen Brunson went with the 32nd pick, West Virginia’s Jevon Carter with the 33rd and Graham with the 34th. Graham played against both of them multiple times during his career, as well as against several other players drafted.
He tended to fare well against tough competition.
In case it wasn’t obvious what a terrific team that was Kansas edged in overtime to advance to the Final Four, Thursday night’s NBA draft drove home the point.
Three Blue Devils were taken in the draft well before Graham went off the board and three picks after Graham, another Duke player was scooped up. Freshman Gary Trent Jr. went to the Sacramento Kings.
By the way, what is it with Kansas guards and the 34th overall selection anyway? That’s where Mario Chalmers went in the 2008 draft and where Frank Mason went in last season’s draft.