Charlotte Hornets

Hornets' Devonte' Graham got his NC homecoming. Now? Prove he's more than feel-good story.

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak (right) traded two future second-round picks to the Atlanta Hawks to move up to the 34th pick and select Kansas point guard Devonte Graham.
Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak (right) traded two future second-round picks to the Atlanta Hawks to move up to the 34th pick and select Kansas point guard Devonte Graham. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Go ahead. Try to uncover something, anything, about Devonte' Graham that isn't already a well-known fact.

We already know this — and be warned, it's a lot — about the Charlotte Hornets' newest second-round draft pick:

▪ That he was born and raised in Raleigh.

▪ That he attended Broughton High along with Jerome Robinson, the former Boston College star and the No. 13 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft.

▪ That he originally committed to play college ball at Appalachian State, before fighting and failing to be released from his national letter of intent.

▪ That he then spent a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy (N.H.) while waiting for his release from Appalachian State.

▪ And that when he was finally free to sign with other schools, he opted for faraway Kansas instead of nearby Virginia or N.C. State.

And the oft-rehashed story of Graham's upbringing isn't all. Once at Kansas, he steadily developed into one of college basketball's top guards, leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four as a senior and being named Big 12 Player of the Year.

And, as of Thursday night, we also know this: The Hornets, who are two and a half hours west of Graham's hometown, craved the 6-foot-2 point guard so much they traded two future second-round picks to move up to No. 34 in the draft and select him.

"I feel like everybody already knows everything there is to know about me here," Graham told the Observer, laughing as he said it. "There ain't no secrets with me."

Maybe not. Maybe so. But there are at least a few things — some more pressing than others — that Hornets fans, and Kansas fans, and Raleigh sports fans don't know about Graham.

Like, say, how he's an avid bowler. His uncle and his uncle's custom, personalized ball got him hooked, even if he now says he's "not that good."

Or how about this: On Friday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the Hornets selected him, he still had 441 unanswered text messages. If nothing else, he'll have something to do on the car trip back to Raleigh Saturday with his mother, grandmother and sister.

Or, and here's a bit of a surprise, he didn't hear from Hornets management — with whom he did not work out, but did interview with at the NBA draft combine in Chicago in May — until after he was drafted.

"I didn't even get a call," Graham said. "Literally. I had no idea I was coming here. It wasn't like, 'Hey, we're about to draft you,' or 'You're traded,' or nothing.

"We were just sitting around and (on TV) they were like Devonte' Graham, and then we just went crazy."

So there, a few quick unknowns about one of the Hornets' newest picks. But the great unknown, and the one that won't be determined until summer league in Las Vegas in July, is how Graham fits on this roster.

General manager Mitch Kupchak said before the draft that one of the Hornets' biggest remaining needs was for another ball-handling guard. Does he believe Graham fits that description?

"He does," Kupchak said after the NBA draft on Thursday night. "(Our extra picks) gave us the ability to be aggressive and get a player who we did not think would be there in the early 30's.

"Does that mean he’s ready to step in and make a contribution next year? I can’t say that’s the case, but I think a guy who has spent four years in basketball at a program like Kansas, if anybody can contribute, it will be a player like that. So we fulfilled the need."

The only true point guard on Charlotte's roster before the draft was two-time All-Star Kemba Walker. His backup from last season, Michael Carter-Williams, is no longer with the team. Malik Monk, the team's 2017 first-rounder, played sparingly at backup point guard given his smaller size (6-3, 200 pounds) for a shooting guard. But behind Walker, there was a clear need for a backup floor general.

And Graham believes he can be that player.

When asked about which of his skills would translate immediately to the NBA, Graham said, "Just being able to be that floor general and being able to make plays." He also noted how he played both backcourt positions at Kansas, so he "can play off the ball and (be) able to knock down shots.” As a senior, Graham averaged 17.3 points on made 40.6 percent of his 3-pointers.

It would be easy and understandable to pencil Graham into Carter-Williams' backup role from last season, but that isn't the reality of the situation. Kupchak said that while he hopes Graham continues developing, and that there's a chance he could play behind Walker as a rookie, there still remains a very real chance the team signs a veteran free agent to fill that spot instead.

"I think we will still look to get another player back there, so I think that is possible. I don’t think you can have enough at that position," Kupchak said. "If you look at our backcourt, or before we made the deal, it was just Kemba and Malik, so now we have three back there, and of course so many other guys can bring the ball up the court.

"I think we would still look to perhaps get another position in the backcourt. ”

Because of the Dwight Howard trade to the Brooklyn Nets, which cannot be finalized until July 6, the Hornets will have some salary cap space — roughly $8.6 million thanks to the mid-level exemption — to sign another player.

But Graham said he isn't worried about that, or all the text messages piling up on his phone, or even that he's barely slept in the last day. (All right, he did admit to being a little tired, but who wouldn't be?)

All he's trying to do at this point is savor the moment. And, of course, prove he belongs.

Prove he's more than just a feel-good story making his North Carolina homecoming.

"I feel like the kid from down the road. It's always going to be that kind of story. You can't shake that," Graham said. "But I've just got to go out and hoop, man. I don't want to think too much of it right now. Just trying to enjoy the moment, but stay focused, though.

"It's just an opportunity. You've gotta make the most out of it. ...You've got to get over this little surreal moment right now, and then it'll be time to get back to work."

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889; @BrendanRMarks

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