LAWRENCE — Devonte’ Graham is going to finish what he started.
The Kansas basketball guard announced Sunday that he will return for a senior season, forgoing the NBA Draft for a fourth and final season with the Jayhawks. Graham made the announcement via Twitter.
“I would just like to announce to my family, friends (and) fans that I’m coming back to school for my senior (year),” Graham wrote in a tweet accompanied with two emojis — one of a winking face with its tongue sticking out and another of a pair of hands raised in the air. The tweet also included a photo of a smiling Graham with the caption, “How I feel about senior (year).”
A KU media relations member confirmed the legitimacy of the tweet shortly after it was sent.
Graham averaged 13.4 points, 4.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds in his recently completed junior campaign, shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from 3-point range in 35.3 minutes per game.
“The thing about it is, Devonte’s obviously very bright, he’s going to graduate, and I think he’s looking forward to being the face of the program,” KU coach Bill Self told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “And I also think that he’s looking forward to have the opportunity to have the ball in his hands more, and he knows that can do nothing but help his stock.”
A 6-foot-2 junior from Raleigh, N.C., Graham’s decision softens the blow of KU losing consensus national player of the year Frank Mason to graduation. He is expected to join junior Malik Newman, who sat out the last season after transferring from Mississippi State, in what is now a potent backcourt.
Graham was projected as the 50th overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft at DraftExpress.com, but in announcing his intention to stay at KU, Graham forgoes annual draft combine college players can now participate in and receive feedback at with the possibility of returning to school.
After visiting with Graham and his mother, Self said he wasn’t surprised by the guard’s decision.
“I encouraged him to do whatever he wants to do, and I think he’s earned the right to look into it and test,” Self said. “He basically told me, ‘Coach, if I’m not going to do it, why would I test?’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s up to you.’ ”
The Jayhawks now await decisions from freshman guard Josh Jackson and junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk. Jackson, a projected top-three pick at DraftExpress.com, has long been seen as a surefire one-and-done, while Mykhailiuk is currently projected as a late first-round selection in the 2018 draft.
Graham’s return, though, ensures KU will have at least one returning starter from the team that went 31-5 last season but lost in the Elite Eight for the second straight year. Graham went 0 for 7 from the field and missed six 3-pointers in a season-ending 74-60 defeat to No. 3-seeded Oregon on March 25 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.