After declaring for the NBA draft on March 20, Jayvon Graves took his name out of the 2020 NBA draft pool and announced his return to UB for his senior season.
The Bulls leading scorer from last season says he received a lot of valuable advice on how to improve his game over the two month pre-draft process.
“I learned a lot. It was a lot of basketball advice, but the best I got was to keep my foot on everyone’s neck, don’t let up and to stay aggressive.”
The Malvern, Ohio native also says the process helped him learn about what NBA coaches want from a player at the professional level
“[Being around NBA scouts] helped me grow a lot. It helped me focus on things that I need to work on. Staying in for free throws, a lot of work on defensive drills and just getting quicker on my feet.”
On top of improving his game, Graves says the process has taught him valuable lessons about being confident and not shying away from the big stage.
“The biggest thing I learned was just to believe in myself. Just put my foot in the door and say that I wanted to be drafted was big for me, and now that my name is out there more, that’s a big step for me and now I can carry that momentum to next season.”
Graves says it’s his dream to be drafted by an NBA team, but when asked whether he would rather be drafted very late in the second round or go back to UB for one more season, he said it would depend on the situation. He feels that if he could have ended up on a team where he saw himself getting playing time, he would have been more likely to leave his name in the draft.
One factor that led to Graves’ decision to return was the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty regarding next season. In any other season, players who declare for the draft have a set schedule with workouts and meetings so teams can get a feel for the players. With the unique and unprecedented circumstances of 2020, Graves was unable to display his skills in person. Instead of participating in the NBA draft combine and working out for specific teams, Graves had to rely on his game tape and interview virtually.
Although head coach Jim Whitesell says he would love to see Graves get drafted and have a chance to play in the NBA, he’s excited that Graves is returning to UB.
“I’m really happy that Jayvon went through the process. I think he learned a lot from it. Although the NBA wasn’t able to hold workouts due to the coronavirus, I think he got a lot of the information he was looking for. He was able to get an idea of what he can improve and it gives him a strong sense of what it takes to play at that level. He has an opportunity to leave UB as the all-time leader in wins, which says a great deal considering the outstanding players who have played for UB.”
Now that Graves has tested the waters of the NBA draft, he says he knows what he has to work on this season to bump up his stock for next year’s draft.
“Next season is going to be important to get my percentages up, especially my free throws. That’s the main thing. Also, I need to just lead the guys to wins because teams want winners. That, and just guarding the best player. Those are the things I want to do and prepare for that.”
A position change also may be in store for Graves to move up to the next level.
“Teams wanted to see me play the ‘1’ (point guard) more. They said they want to see me with the ball up top more. A lot of teams have guys that are versatile, guys that are 6’ 8”, 6’ 9” that handle the ball a lot, so I have to be able to do that and create for my teammates, too.”
Graves has high expectations for both himself and his team upon his return to Buffalo.
“My expectations are high for our team. I think we’ve all grown a lot from this past season. I think our guys and coaches are hungry and we have the ability to win the championship next year. … I want to be the player of the year this year, but I want to win. Winning is the main thing for me.”
Alex Lenneberg is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and @lennebergalex on Twitter.
Alex Lenneberg is an assistant sports editor for The Spectrum.