University of Kansas

Former KU star guard Devonté Graham eyes bigger minutes with NBA’s Hornets

Devonté Graham benefited greatly from Kemba Walker’s presence throughout Graham’s rookie year with the Charlotte Hornets last season. Now that Walker is with the Boston Celtics, Graham might benefit even more.

Graham, a former star in college at Kansas, said at the NBA Summer League on Wednesday that with Walker’s departure comes an opportunity to emerge as one of the team’s starting guards.

“That’s my guy,” Graham said of Walker. “I wish nothing but the best for him. I can’t be more happy for him. It’s a big opportunity for me at the guard spot to get some playing time I just have to make the most of it.”

As a rookie for the Hornets, Graham appeared in 46 games and averaged 4.7 points and 2.6 assists in 14.7 minutes per game. Graham had multiple assignments to the Hornets’ G-League team, the Greensboro Swarm, and said it took him until January to fully get acclimated to the NBA lifestyle and playbook. In 13 games for the Swarm, Graham averaged 23.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Graham, a former All-American for KU, said the game’s pace and defensive schemes tripped him up the most and it took him a while to see what aspects of his offensive game would translate to the league. A 40 percent three-point shooter at Kansas, Graham struggled from behind the arc and only shot 28 percent from deep, causing him to rely more on his slashing ability to score. As he found more success on offense, Graham said his confidence grew enough to make him a regular contributor for the team.

While the Hornets also signed point guard Terry Rozier in the offseason, KU coach Bill Self doesn’t think Graham’s starting prospects are off the table. Self was at summer league earlier in the week to cheer on his former players and said he had a long talk with the Hornets’ front-office staff about Graham while he was in town. Self said he thought Graham had a great rookie season, but wasn’t sure the Hornets agreed with him until he sat down with them.

“(The Hornets) think he’s got a chance to be in the league a long time,” Self said. “I think he’s solidified himself to being a pretty good backup point guard. I think there could be ideas of him and Rozier playing some together as well.”

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.