Lawrence (TNS) — Bill Self says he’s ecstatic that Devonté Graham’s NBA journey will begin in a state near and dear to Graham’s heart: North Carolina.
“Certainly playing in his home state has to be a huge thrill for him,” Self, Kansas’ 16th-year coach, said late Thursday night after Graham, a 6-foot-2, Raleigh, N.C., native was chosen 34th overall (fourth in the second round) of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks traded Graham's rights to the Charlotte Hornets for second-round picks in 2019 and 2023.
“What a thrill for a guy to be playing for the franchise that obviously Michael Jordan is basically running,” Self added. “I think he’s in a great situation. I think that’s low enough in the second round that he’d get a guaranteed (contract) hopefully for at least a couple of years. I don’t know Charlotte’s roster perfectly, but depending on the situation with Kemba (Walker who is the subject of trade rumors), he’d get a chance to learn behind one of the best guards in the league. Just the opportunity to be in it is certainly terrific for him,” Self added.
Self was equally enthused for a second draft-eligible Jayhawk drafted on Thursday — Svi Mykhailiuk — who was selected 17th in the second round, 47th overall — by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mykhailiuk’s agent told Self during the draft that Svi wanted to play for the Lakers. As it turns out another former Jayhawk, Malik Newman, will play for the Lakers as well. Newman was not drafted, but his dad, Horatio Webster, confirmed to The Star an hour after the draft that Yahoo Sports reports of his son agreeing to a two-way deal with the Lakers were true.
“He (agent) said, ‘They really like him and that’s where he wants to go,’’’ Self said of Svi wanting to play in California. “This was around (pick) 32 or 33 when he said, ‘He wants to go to LA’ I really anticipate him making the team.”
Self, like everybody else, has heard rumors LeBron James may want to play for the Lakers next season.
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“Who knows what will happen?” Self said. “If the rumors are true … you have a corner jump shooter (in Svi) maybe when one of the best players ever has the ball in his hands. If it plays out that way like it’s rumored to be, it could be a great situation for Svi.”
Self spoke to the media on Thursday night before the report of Newman playing for the Lakers had surfaced.
“The fit is more important than the number (of where one is drafted) without question,” Self said. “There are some times you’d be better off being a free agent and picking a team. From a pride standpoint, everybody wants to hear their name called. Who wouldn’t? But for making the team, it’s the right fit (that is important). He and his agent can pick and choose where he goes summer league and what would be the right fit rather than be in a situation you are locked into a team if you are drafted late and don’t have much chance of making the team because of factors you actually have no control over.”
Like Newman, former KU forward Billy Preston also was not drafted. But it’s expected Preston, a 6-foot-10 forward, will soon sign to play for a summer league team.
“We talked to some people ... they told us Billy was all over the board," Self said of Preston, who left KU in January after not playing in a regular-season game because of eligibility concerns over a car he was driving. "Everybody was high on his talent but hadn’t seen him much.”
“Billy is a first-round talent," Self added. "We had more than one team tell us that. They (NBA scouts) haven’t seen him. You go to Bosnia and only play three games (because of injury). They’ve not had a chance to see him over there playing against what the NBA would consider legitimate competition. They don’t see him at Kansas. It hurt him as far as the draft goes.”
Self added that he full expected Preston will play in the league.
“The bottom line is (undrafted players) have to show some toughness and do it the harder way. Intangibles will be more important than ever concerning those guys," Self said.