He’s one of the most popular players in the illustrious history of Kansas Basketball, but how did Devonte’ Graham find his way to Kansas in the first place?
This week on “The Jayhawker” podcast we take you inside Graham’s improbable journey to Kansas and the even longer odds he beat to become an All-American, and now National Basketball Association (NBA) star with the Charlotte Hornets.
For Graham, the road to NBA stardom started with a tight-knit family that banded together to raise him. The matriarchs of that family were his mother and grandmother – two women that Graham says had a profound impact on this life.
“She had me when she was 14,” Graham said of his mother, Dewanna. “That’s a kid having a kid. It was tough for her growing up, but my grandma kept everything intact. She made sure she still went to college, finished high school, all while still having me by her side.”
Graham says their collective guidance got him to where he is at today and inspires him to bless them in return.
“Those two are like my backbones,” described Graham. “(My mom) did everything for me and to see me get to this level, I just want to give it all back to her for all the sacrifices she made for me growing up.”
Graham’s entire family and support system rallied together to help get him to his games and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournaments while his mother worked multiple jobs.
“My mom – every game, every time we traveled, if she couldn’t make it, she would send me with the coaches. She found a way for me (to go). If we had to find a way to pay for the hotel or the jerseys, she always found a way because she saw that I loved playing basketball so much.”
While Graham’s passion for the game grew immediately, his height was a bit slower to follow. Graham stood in at only 5 feet 6 inches tall beginning his high school career and consequently, was overlooked by many bigger schools in recruiting. With most interest coming from local mid-majors, Graham initially committed to Appalachian State.
Soon after, a growth spurt would come and his talents really started to take flight prior to his senior year. Graham then started to re-evaluate his college options. After an initial hang-up on being released from his commitment, Graham re-opened his recruitment, with Kansas, Virginia and NC State now all in contention.
According to Graham, it was a visit to Lawrence that won over both him and his mother.
“I always go back to mom,” recalled Graham. “After we had (the three visits) back-to-back-to-back, you really had a good feel for what school you wanted to be at. Afterwards, my mom was like, ‘I don’t even think it’s close.’ She was like, ‘Kansas. You have to go there.’’’
Graham did and the rest is history – All-American, Final Four, Big 12 Player of the Year history. Hear more about Graham’s journey to greatness and the family support it took to get him there on this week’s edition of “The Jayhawker” podcast.