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Top 30 Seasons Under Bill Self: #4 Devonte Graham 2018

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Graham isn’t thought to have carried the same type of load as a Thomas Robinson or Wayne Simien, but in some ways he was the most depended upon Jayhawk on this list. Graham led the Big 12 in minutes played as a senior, playing in an astounding 97.8 percent of the team’s Big 12 minutes. His 1474 minutes played that season is the most ever by a Big 12 player, more than 100 more than the next closest player (Svi Mykhailiuk, also in 2018). It’s also the most ever by a Jayhawk.

Despite that insane minutes load, Graham was excellent until the end. He finished his career with 23 points, shooting 50 percent from both 2 and 3, and if not for Malik Newman’s overtime explosion, Graham would have been the hero of the Elite 8 win over Duke with 11 points and 6 assists.

Graham consistently showed up in big games in 2018, including a 26 point effort playing all 40 minutes in the Big 12 clincher against Texas Tech in addition to the aforementioned Final Four and Elite 8 performances.

I’ve buried the lead here, but I think Graham is the best shooter in school history. He made 293 threes for his career on a 40.8 percent clip, including shooting 40.8 percent on 271 attempts as a senior. He’s 11th in Big 12 history in threes made, and 2nd in KU history in threes made, attempted, and percentage. What’s more, Graham did it after the 3-point arc had been moved back, and took a ton of them off the dribble. Long time readers know Jeff Boschee, the school’s all time leader in threes made, is my favorite Jayhawk of all time, but I have to admit he wasn’t taking many threes like this.

Scoring aside, Graham is also the best passing point guard Self has had at KU other than Aaron Miles. His 32 percent assist rate was 4th in the Big 12 that year, and coupled with a 15 percent turnover rate makes him an elite point guard. His turnover rate is 5th best among point guards at KU under Self.

Prior to his senior season, Graham had shown the ability to both pass and shoot, but many (myself included) wondered if he would be able to be a go to guy and if he could score hard buckets. Question answered. While he was a poor shooter inside the arc, Graham went from drawing fewer than 3 fouls per 40 minutes as a junior to almost 5 as a senior. Couple that with shooting over 82 percent from the line and that takes quite a bit of sting out of his 2-point shooting.

Graham was also a leader from day one, and a smart player throughout his KU tenure. It was actually he who suggested a big adjustment against Purdue in 2017 which led to a blowout Sweet 16 win. The two aren’t always correlated, but his turnover rate as a senior (and throughout his career) further illustrated his smarts.

Graham also gets bonus points for me for not only keeping the streak alive with his heroics, but helping lead Kansas to the Final Four in a year that few Jayhawk fans thought they’d be going there. I’m not sure he gets bonus points for this, but his love of the program and KU in general really stands out to me, and while I’m definitely not a “we need more 4 year players” guy, there’s no doubt it was extra special having Graham in Lawrence for his entire career.

Graham came to Kansas as a late addition to the recruiting class, left a fan favorite, a Big 12 player of the year, a 4 time Big 12 champ, a Final Four participant, and one of the best players Bill Self has ever had.

Previous entries:

5. Thomas Robinson 2012

6. Marcus Morris 2011

7. Wayne Simien 2005

8. Devon Dotson 2020

9. Mario Chalmers 2008

10. Sherron Collins 2009

11. Perry Ellis 2016

12. Dedric Lawson 2019

13. Jeff Withey 2012

14. Tyshawn Taylor 2012

15. Brandon Rush 2008

16. Joel Embiid 2014

17. Sherron Collins 2010

18. Darrell Arthur 2008

19. Cole Aldrich 2010

20. Ben McLemore 2013

21. Markieff Morris 2011

22. Andrew Wiggins 2014

23. Jeff Withey 2013

24. Josh Jackson 2017

25. Marcus Garrett 2020

26. Travis Releford 2013

27. Perry Ellis 2015

28. Udoka Azubuike 2018

29. Wayne Simien 2004

30. Devonte Graham 2017

31. Malik Newman 2018

32. Wayne Selden 2016

33. Keith Langford 2004