LAWRENCE (TNS) — Devonté Graham says he doesn’t keep track of the number of points he scores during games.
That’s a different matter.
“As a point guard, I want to see how many I get,” said Graham, Kansas’ 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior lead guard from Raleigh, N.C.
He has dished out 28 assists to nine turnovers (that’s 9.3 assists a game) entering Tuesday’s nonconference clash against Texas Southern (0-4), which will tip off at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
“Toward the end of the (last) game, they were telling me on the bench I would have had a double-double if I scored one more bucket,” Graham said. “ ‘Smooth’ (Dedric Lawson) told me ‘Get one more shot, one more shot.’ I didn’t get it but I was satisfied with my assists.”
Graham had 11 assists to one turnover while scoring eight points in Friday’s 98-64 rout of South Dakota State.
“I just don’t want to turn the ball over. I got on Marcus (Garrett) last game because he got me my only turnover of the game (with 5:50 left). I would have have had 11 assists, zero turnovers,” Graham said, smiling. “I just want to take care of the ball and make the right plays.”
His early-season assist total puts him in elite company. The last KU player to have 28 or more assists in his first three games of a season was Jacque Vaughn in 1994-95, when he also had 28.
Though Graham’s scoring has been down through three games — he has averaged 9.7 points on 32.1 percent shooting (including 4 of 16 threes) — he’s impressed coach Bill Self with his ball-distribution skills and leadership.
“He hasn’t shot the ball well at all (but) he’s played well,” Self said of Graham, who averaged 13.4 points in his junior season. “The Kentucky game he was pressing a little bit too much. He knew it. (He) admitted it. If you take away the Kentucky game (a 65-61 KU victory in which Graham had five assists and five turnovers), his assist-to-turnover ratio is off the charts.”
Graham is obviously not alarmed about his shooting stats. He did, however, admit to being upset with himself during the Champions Classic contest against Kentucky in Chicago. He missed 11 of 14 shots and was 1 of 6 on threes for 11 points in the Jayhawks’ narrow victory.
“I got frustrated because I was missing open shots,” he said. “Last game (hitting 2 of 7 against South Dakota State) I wasn’t frustrated. It seemed like it was going in. It just wasn’t falling.
“Every time I shoot the ball it feels good, looks good, then it just doesn’t go in. That’s all right. I just want to win.”
Graham has been working overtime on his shooting. But that’s not unusual. He’s always been one to put in a lot of time at the gym.
“Just getting up shots, same thing I always do, stay after practice and shoot a little bit,” Graham said of his daily routine.
Graham — who played 39 minutes against Kentucky, 32 versus South Dakota State and 31 against Tennessee State — suffered cramps near the end of the South Dakota State game.
“I was definitely tired. I was looking to the bench for a sub. Coach ‘Rob’ (Norm Roberts) told me we couldn’t sub out. We could only sub one at a time,” Graham said, smiling.
“I need to keep pushing through it. We’ve got to start getting more rest and stuff because we don’t have as many guys. I know I can play 40 minutes if I wanted to.”
Self said he’s started reducing practice time because the Jayhawks (3-0) have just seven scholarship players currently available for games. Freshman Billy Preston has yet to play in a game this season. Self said Monday there’s been no change in Preston’s status as KU compliance looks into the financial picture involving a vehicle he’s been driving on campus.
“We are going short. Today I have it down to go for an hour and 15 minutes. I’d never have done that in November with any other team,” Self said, noting practices would normally be approximately two hours this time of year.
“We gave them off Saturday, practiced yesterday for an hour and a half. We will go an hour, 20 today. We may even cut shootarounds short the day of the game. I think that’s one reason we were cramping so much. It was so hot in here (Friday). It was hot during the day. We basically practice before our games. We may have to adjust how we do that as well.”
As far as an update on Preston … Self said, “As of this morning there was no movement. The last time you guys (media) asked me was Friday. We don’t work on Saturday and Sunday. No, there’s nothing new on that situation from what I was told this morning.”
When asked by a reporter “are you worried or do you think it’ll work itself out?” Self replied: “Sure I’m worried. Yeah I’m concerned. I do think it can work itself out based on what I’ve been told but I also think that obviously hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know.”