LAWRENCE — Will former Kansas basketball standouts Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman hear their names called Thursday at the NBA Draft, and if so, when?
Bill Self has his sources, but the Jayhawk coach insists his guess is as good as yours.
“The one thing about the NBA Draft, and probably the NFL Draft and the (MLB) Draft too, there’s 90 guys out there all guaranteed to go in the first round,” Self joked Tuesday. “Then there’s another 60 that’s guaranteed to go in the second round. So that’s 150 players that are guaranteed to be drafted tomorrow and there’s only 60 spots. So all our guys are very optimistic.”
Draft-eligible players, as Self joked, tend to only focus on good feedback and projections, leading to draft days with little room for positive surprises and that often end with a public perception that a player fell to whatever spot they were picked.
“You ask all players what they’re hearing and every one of ’em is going to tell you the very, very best possible scenario,” Self said, “which could be a one-out-of-20 chance.”
This year appears extra volatile for the Jayhawks, who have no projected lottery picks but could see all three players selected in the draft’s later stages, four if one includes former freshman forward Billy Preston.
Self, who recently spoke with Graham and Newman, outlined a scenario where any one of the three KU contributors could sneak into the first round and therefore earn a coveted guaranteed contract.
“I will say this: I’ve talked to a lot of NBA teams and every one of them have told me Svi and Malik and Devonte’ all, if things fell perfect for them individually, could be late first-rounders,” Self said. “The reality is probably not, but they could be. So I’m very optimistic that they’ll all get drafted and hopefully go as high as they possibly can.
“I think it’s such an inexact science, but I am confident those three will go.”
As for Preston, the former top recruit who never played for KU amid an in-house investigation into the financial background of a vehicle he crashed on campus near the start of the season?
“I haven’t really heard as much on Billy other than the fact that everybody is very optimistic about his talent,” Self said. “I still think that I haven’t got anyone to tell me exactly where they thought he’d fall, but everyone has told me he's a first-round talent for sure when I’ve talked to ’em.”
Here’s where things stand for KU's interests entering the 6 p.m. Thursday draft.
ESPN’s Draft Express’ latest projection Tuesday expects Graham to be selected with the No. 33-overall pick, followed by Newman at No. 47 and Mykhailiuk at No. 57, with Preston going unselected. NBADraft.net, meanwhile, has only two KU players on its most recent projection board — Mykhailiuk at No. 45 and Newman at No. 60.
So much of where players land, if they’re even selected at all, depends on team needs and how early unexpected selections can throw curve balls into the process and rearrange big boards, Self said. The traditional thought is if a player isn’t chosen in the first 45-or-so selections, he might be better off choosing his destination as a free agent.
“I don’t know if that’s quite the scenario anymore because there’s so many more guys getting an opportunity to play in the league due to two-way contracts and things like that,” Self said. “It seems like to me there’s certain franchises, you go to the Brooklyn Nets or certain other franchises that maybe haven’t been as strong the last couple years, there’s more guys that play with them over the course of a year than there would be for the (Boston) Celtics or the (Golden State) Warriors.
“So much of it is getting drafted by the right team or being a free agent in the right camp.”
KU IN ‘GOOD PLACE’ WITH DE SOUSA — Sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa, believed to be one of two players with KU ties listed in an April indictment of an Adidas executive that alleged the transfer of impermissible benefits to an unnamed player's guardian, is “very confident” on his status entering next year, Self said.
The KU coached echoed that sentiment.
“I haven’t heard one thing to the contrary with any of our guys,” Self said of his players’ eligibility. “Now, that doesn’t mean that can’t happen, but I haven’t heard one thing to the contrary. All our guys were cleared by the NCAA, they were all eligible last year, and we haven’t heard anything that that wasn’t the case still. What we’ve read is the same thing that everybody else has read, but to the extent of how that translates to eligibility, we haven’t been told anything on that.
“I’m confident on it, and I know Silvio is very confident on it. ... We don’t have access to everything, but based on everything we’ve been told right now, we’re in a good place.”
VICK UPDATE — With KU holding an open scholarship, Self didn’t close the door on a potential return for former junior guard Lagerald Vick, but he did indicate the team has been recruiting with the idea he wouldn’t return.
“The thought when he declared was that his time at KU would be done either way,” Self said. “That’s something that I’ll visit with he and his mother about, but at this point in time it hasn’t been decided nor has he told us positively or whatever. I think he just wants to sit down with us and go over future options and if there are possibly any here. We’ll see what happens with that, but no hurry.”
Self said after all he and Vick had been through, he felt he at least owed the Memphis native a meeting, though his opinion on the matter doesn't appear to have changed to this point.
“I don’t know that it’s been weird because it has been cut and dry, in my eyes,” Self said. “Maybe not in their eyes, but it’s been cut and dry in my eyes because when he left it was with the intention he was going to go make this work. We’ll visit.”