Devonté Graham hugged fellow Kansas basketball returnees Udoka Azubuike and Malik Newman and shook hands with newcomer Charlie Moore on Sunday, huddling with his teammates after the 2017-18 Jayhawks completed the first group activity of the summer: a two-hour signing session for coach Bill Self’s campers in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.
“I’m just happy to be back with the guys,” said an enthusiastic KU senior point guard/team leader Graham. He’d spent the last 2 1/2 weeks in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C. — a short vacation taken between the end of the 2016-17 school year and start of 2017 summer school on KU’s campus.
“We’ve got a new group here, about seven new players. It’s our first day together as a whole. We’re still missing Marcus (Garrett). I’m just happy to be back playing some pick-up with them and getting ready for Italy.”
Kansas freshman Marcus Garrett graduates from Dallas Skyline High on Monday and will report to KU’s campus later in the week. His arrival will leave senior Svi Mykhailiuk as the only Jayhawk who will not be in Lawrence for an extended period of time.
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Mykhailiuk is in Ukraine preparing to play for his country’s national team in FIBA Eurobasket 2017 to be contested Aug. 31 to Sept. 17 in Israel and Turkey. Self said he does expect Mykhailiuk to be available for KU’s four exhibition games in Italy (July 31 to Aug. 8) though he may not be back for practices leading up to the overseas trip.
Mykhailiuk, who is Graham’s roommate, on May 24 announced plans to remove his name from the 2017 NBA Draft pool and return to KU for his senior season.
Graham announced his decision to return for his senior year on April 9.
“I was happy to hear he was coming back, man. He actually had me kind of worried,” Graham said of Mykhailiuk. “I know he had everybody else worried, but he texted me an hour before he actually made (announced) his decision. I’m happy he’s back, definitely.”
As far as Graham’s decision to return … he said he simply wasn’t ready to start his pro career.
“My mind wasn’t fully into going into the draft, so I didn’t want to go and halfway do something I really wasn’t ready to do, so I just wanted to come back,” Graham said.
He said the Jayhawks are ready to begin molding the 2017-18 team.
Newcomers on hand Sunday: transfers Moore (Cal) and Dedric and K.J. Lawson (Memphis), who can practice this season but not play in games until 2018-19; graduate transfer Jack Whitman (William & Mary); and freshmen Billy Preston and Chris Teahan.
“It’s definitely going to take a while. We’ve got a whole new cast,” Graham said. “They’ve got to learn what Coach likes and the system and stuff like that. It’s just basically learning everything over again, just trying to teach them the Kansas way.”
Of the transfers joining the program, Graham said: “If anything, it’ll make us better. We picked up the (Lawson) brothers and Charlie. Jack can play (now). He’s going to help us this year. Those guys will make us better just competing against them every day throughout the season and summer.”
Graham, who said he worked out with North Carolina State players on the Wolfpack campus during his trip home, hadn’t heard he’d been selected the 11th best player in college basketball by ESPN.
“I appreciate that man,” he said, “but I don’t focus on that kind of stuff.”