Graham, Mykhailiuk in position to make their marks on KU's 3-point record books
It’s not a complete rarity just yet, and some very, very good Kansas basketball players recently have stuck around to play all four seasons at KU.
While that often endears them to the hearts and minds of KU fans much more than those phenoms who come and go in a year or two — think recently beloved ballers Frank Mason III, Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas, Devonte’ Graham, Tyshawn Taylor and more — it also gives them quite an advantage in their assault on the record books.
Sticking around for four years gives a player, on average, 35 more games to rack up stats than a player who left after his junior season, 70 more than a two-year player and more than 100 more games to rack up stats than the one-and-done superstars who no doubt would have a much more prominent place in the KU record books if four-year college careers were required or the norm.
Just think about the numbers Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson would’ve put up. (Wiggins, by the way, would have just finished his senior season at KU if that were the case).
Another one in this area that always gets me is Paul Pierce, who played three stellar seasons at KU before turning pro and would no doubt have been the second leading scorer in KU history (behind only Danny Manning) had he stayed for his senior year. As it is, Pierce, in three seasons, climbed all the way to sixth place on KU’s scoring chart and currently sits 10th after Keith Langford, Sherron Collins, Perry Ellis and, of course, Frank Mason III all passed him. All four were four-year players.
And that brings me to my point. With Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham announcing this spring that they would be back for their senior seasons, both have a chance to move up on a handful of KU all-time lists, including total points, 3-point shooting and games played.
Graham, who eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone during his junior season, figures to be in position for a jump in scoring with several other big time scorers who he called teammates now gone.
After a modest, 164-point freshman year, the senior from Raleigh, N.C., has averaged 456 points per season during the past two seasons and sits in 45th place on KU’s all-time scoring list, a few points ahead of Rex Walters.
Assuming Graham at least hits his two-year average during the 2017-18 season, that would move him into the Top 20, just ahead of Drew Gooden, who capped his three-year KU career with 1,526 points.
If Graham is able to even come close to duplicating what Mason did during national-player-of-the-year campaign last season, that would give Graham a shot at cracking the Top 10.
The best guess here is that he’ll land somewhere between his 456 average and that 700-point ceiling, putting him comfortably in the Top 15 by the time he says goodbye to Lawrence.
Now let’s turn our attention to KU’s all-time 3-point shooting records, an area in which both Graham and Mykhailiuk can do some damage before they’re done.
Neither player is going to come anywhere close to catching all-time leader Jeff Boschee, whose 338 career 3-pointers are 69 (a good season) more than second-place Billy Thomas.
But there’s a shot that Graham could catch Thomas for second and Svi could move into the Top 5.
To do so, Graham would need to knock down 84 triples during his senior season. While that’s far from a given, considering the amount of attention Graham figures to get from opposing defenses during his final season as a Jayhawk, it’s certainly possible. As a sophomore, Graham drilled 75 3-pointers and, last season, while playing third fiddle to Mason and Josh Jackson, Graham upped the total to 94.
Given the presence of Malik Newman and the fact that KU coach Bill Self has said next season’s team is likely to play a little more inside out than last year’s team did, it’s certainly possible that Graham could get free enough times to knock down the 84 shots he needs to slide into second place. If not, third place seems all but certain, as he needs just 51 3-point makes to move past Kirk Hinrich.
For what it’s worth, Frank Mason III currently sits in seventh place (185), five 3-point makes ahead of Mario Chalmers.
Graham’s 94 3-point makes as a junior was good for the fourth best single-season mark in KU history. And his .411 career percentage has him on the brink of the Top 10 in all-time 3-point percentage already.
And then there’s Svi, who, after a relatively slow start to his career, stepped up big time with 70 3-point makes during his junior season. Another season like that would put the young Ukrainian on the doorstep of the Top 5, as he needs 84 3-point makes as a senior to pass Brandon Rush (205) for fifth place on KU’s 3-point chart.
Regardless of how it all plays out, both Graham and Mykhailiuk, thanks largely to their status as four-year players, should be mainstays in the KU record books for quite a while.
That’s not a knock on the one-and-done phenomenon or me saying one way is better than the other. The bottom line is this: It’s every player’s goal to make it to the NBA and if you’re ready you should be able to go.
But it’s cool to see that, beyond getting an education and enjoying the college experience, there are a few other perks of staying in school for all four years.
Records are cool anywhere, but at a place like Kansas, with all of its rich history and tradition, being a part of them, can wind up being even more meaningful later in life.
Thanks to their decisions to return for one more go — not to mention one more stab at a national title — Graham and Mykhailiuk now are in position to experience that.