Self supports KU seniors at graduation, gives combine advice, discusses Doke

By Gary Bedore

Bill Self posed for pictures with Kansas basketball seniors Devonté Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Clay Young — and with dozens of other students dressed in caps and gowns — by the historic 62-year-old bronze Jayhawk statue in front of Strong Hall on Sunday, Graduation Day, on KU’s campus.

After completing many hugs and handshakes, Self, KU’s 15th-year basketball coach, then paced hurriedly downhill toward the Allen Fieldhouse parking garage, where he hopped in his car, hoping to make good time on a drive to Oklahoma for a midafternoon Mother's Day celebration for his mom, Margaret.

“It’s a great day, a beautiful day. So many happy families and graduates out here is always fun to see. It’s especially good for my threesome,” Self said, talking as he was walking, in a Sunday morning interview with The Star.

“You coach for a lot of reasons, (but) certainly seeing the completion of a cycle with the guys always makes you very proud. It can’t be complete unless you actually walk down ‘The Hill,’’’ Self added, referring to graduating from college and taking part in the annual ceremony in which graduates parade through the Campanile bell tower into Memorial Stadium.

Two of the three KU seniors — Graham and Mykhailiuk — will be traveling to Chicago this week for the Wednesday-Sunday NBA combine.

Self’s advice to the Jayhawks who are hoping to impress NBA scouts and front office personnel enough to be selected in the June 21 draft?

“I would say obviously present yourself in a way that you know everybody is watching,” Self said. Former KU players Malik Newman and Billy Preston also will be attending the combine, as well as current sophomore Udoka Azubuike, who is in the process of deciding whether to keep his name in the draft or return for a junior campaign.

“Obviously you need to perform well, but the biggest thing is being able to perform well with a free mind. Understanding it’s important, but also understanding it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go well,” Self stated. “It’s also not meaning the competition (for draft slot or roster spot) is complete if things do go well. The biggest thing is go try really hard, carry yourself well, try to be as relaxed as possible, know that regardless of what takes place this week, there always will be another opportunity to impress somebody after that.”

Currently, Graham, Newman, Preston and Mykhailiuk are all considered possible second-round selections in the 2018 draft. Azubuike — who made his way to Strong Hall on Sunday to pose for pictures and support his three teammates and some KU hoops managers on their graduation — has not been listed in any mock drafts yet, possibly because some analysts have suggested the 7-footer could use another year of school.

“The only thing I can tell you,” Self said, “is on or before May 30 … that’s all I know.” Self was speaking of a decision date for Azubuike.

Players must remove their names from the draft by 11:59 p.m. on May 30 if they wish to return to school.

“I believe Doke will make an educated and informed decision. I don’t think he can be comfortable with that decision until he goes through the process. The process could end early or the process could take us all the way to May 30. I don’t know what’s in store for him after the combine,” Self added, ostensibly referring to individual workouts with teams. Azubuike has already worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers.

KU still has one scholarship to give in recruiting, two if Azubuike stays in the draft.

“Nothing for sure,” Self said of possible additions to the 2018-19 team. “I am pretty comfortable with our roster. If we can’t find somebody that obviously makes this team better immediately, then it would not be very smart, I don’t think, to use the scholarship. A transfer always would be a possibility as well if we can’t find somebody right now that would fit a need. But I feel good about our roster. A lot of it depends on Doke on his decision on what he does. You can get pretty excited about our young kids coming in.”

KU, which has been picked preseason No. 1 in the country in various polls, has a 2018 recruiting class of guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, wing Ochai Agbaji and forward David McCormack. Self also has added preferred walk-on guards Garrett Luinstra and E.J. Elliott.

“Our roster isn’t set but isn’t far off,” Self concluded.

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