Two weeks ago, Jayvon Graves walked into head coach Jim Whitesell’s office with a surprising announcement.
He would be entering his name into the 2020 NBA Draft.
Graves, a junior guard from Malvern, Ohio, had recently been named first-team All-MAC after leading the Bulls in scoring with 17.1 points per-game. But despite his recent success on the court, his decision seemed to come out of left field. Graves was barely mentioned in the national pre-draft commentary.
That didn’t deter him from entering his name, though. And apparently, it didn’t deter Whitesell from encouraging him to do so, either.
“He told me that it’s a really good process if you can take advantage of it,” Graves said. “He told me to see what feedback I can get and if opportunity strikes with a team, to go for it. He really wants me to focus on the workouts. He feels that I could get a lot of interest from teams and just go from there. He said it’s all beneficial.”
Graves is hoping to take advantage of the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, a program that provides underclassmen who are thinking of turning pro with the opportunity to work out for NBA teams.
The program allows teams to submit confidential evaluations of Graves. Once he has their feedback and undergoes the pre-draft evaluation process, Graves has until June 3 to decide whether to stay in the draft pool or withdraw his name and retain his final year of collegiate eligibility.
Graves says he didn’t make his mind up until after the season, when an opportunity for an independent evaluation of his game proved too much to resist.
“During the season I was just focused on winning another MAC title and going to the tournament,” Graves said. “After the season, I talked with my family and coaches — both high school and college. I was thinking, at the momentum I am going at in my game, that this is the right time to enter.”
Graves attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, where he was the star player for a team made famous by LeBron James. In his senior season, he led the Fighting Irish to the 2017 State Championship and averaged 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He earned the title of Division-II State Player of the Year for his efforts.
Coming out of high school, Graves was a three-star point guard recruit with offers from 13 schools, including MAC rivals Toledo and Kent State. In a December interview with The Spectrum, Graves said he was drawn to UB because of “the style of play, the atmosphere, closeness to home and the coaching staff.”
The coaching staff, in particular, was instrumental in getting Graves to the Queen City. Former UB head coach Nate Oats made a strong recruiting push for Graves out of high school, promising him an opportunity to grow on the court.
From day one, Graves earned valuable playing time. In his freshman year, he played in all 36 contests and averaged just over 5 points and 2 boards per-game. In his sophomore season, he worked his way into the starting lineup, contributing 9.7 points for the 32-4 Bulls.
Under Whitesell, Graves enjoyed a career year in 2019. He led the team in scoring and ranked second in rebounds. He broke the school record for field goals attempted in a season and became the 23rd player in school history to notch 1,000 career points.
Graves capped off his historic season with first-team All-MAC and NABC All-District honors. On Friday, he announced on Twitter that “after discussing with my family and coaches,” he decided to enter his name in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity for him.
“It’s been a really exciting process for me,” Graves said. “I’ve gotten a lot of people congratulating me. I’ve also talked to people in the media, so that part is exciting.”
Although he hasn’t yet received interest from any NBA teams, Graves is excited to work toward it. Still, he is uncertain how COVID-19 will influence the draft process.
“It’s really different, not knowing where in the [determining] process they are,” Graves said. “They might push back the draft, and maybe the combine too. Figuring out all that stuff is kind of difficult right now, but I’m enjoying it.”
Graves says he hasn’t received much guidance from the NBA about its future plans. In the meantime, he has been working out on his own: “Conditioning drills, running drills, things like that,” he said.
He hopes to have a better idea soon of how these next few months will play out, but insists he’s taking his time with the process.
“I’m excited to enjoy the work,” Graves said. “Hard work is going to get me to where I need to be. I’m really looking forward to what’s next, whether that’s the league or college. I just hope to make the most of it.”
Justin Weiss is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Weiss is the The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald.