LAWRENCE — One day after Naadir Tharpe announced his intentions to transfer, Kansas landed another point guard from Brewster Academy.
Devonte’ Graham has signed a letter of intent to play for the Jayhawks, KU coach Bill Self announced Friday. A 6-foot-2 guard, Graham is ranked as the No. 36 overall recruit in the Class of 2014, according to Rivals, and could battle for playing time right away at Kansas.
“I think Devonte’ will be an immediate impact guy for us,” Self said in a release. “We certainly solidified our situation in the backcourt by bringing in a quality guy and I think Devonte’ is one of the premier point guards in the country.”
He chose KU over North Carolina State, his other finalist.
Graham originally signed with Appalachian State during his senior year of high school at Broughton High in Raleigh, North Carolina. But he decided to spend a prep year at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and re-open his recruitment.
“We’re very familiar with that program,” Self said.
Graham immediately began to show that he was capable of playing at a high-major level in college basketball. He was one of the best players in the talented NEPSAC prep league in New England.
“We knew he was good,” said Josh Lee, an assistant coach at Brewster. “But he was another kid that was under the radar.”
The only problem: In order to speak with other college staffs, Graham needed a release from Appalachian State. Former Appalachian State coach Jason Capel held firm refusing to release Graham. Major college coaches were interested, but the communication lines were closed.
“The hard part for him was nobody could talk to him,” Lee said. “Even if they were interested, they couldn’t say anything to him.”
Smith and Dwayne West, Graham’s AAU coach with Garner Road Basketball Club in Raleigh, both continued telling coaches the same thing.
If he’s able to get his release, he’s somebody you’ll want to look at.
“There were a lot of schools that said: ‘If he doesn’t get his release, we’re still interested,’” Lee said.
Capel was fired after this past season, and Graham finally gained his release. He took visits to Kansas, North Carolina State and Virginia before zeroing in on Kansas and North Carolina State.
The Jayhawks, of course, could offer the opportunity for immediate playing time at a position that had been marked by inconsistency the last two seasons. The need for stability at the point became even more apparent when Tharpe on Thursday announced his desire to play closer to his daughter in Massachusetts.
Graham will battle soon-to-be sophomores Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp for minutes at the point, while Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene return on the wing. Incoming freshman Kelly Oubre is also a potential starter on the wing.
“Obviously, I’m biased,” Lee said. “But he dominated a lot of the guards that we played. Physically, mentally, he’s a tough kid.
He’s more of a pure point guard, he’s a playmaker. He understands the games of basketball, and obviously that’s very big when you’re going to a place like Kansas.”