Sac State alumnus drafted in first round of G League draft to Stockton Kings

Marcus Graves selected 17th overall


Emily Rabasto

Sac State guard Marcus Graves dribbles the ball against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018 at The Nest. Graves averaged 17 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2 steals per game while at Sac State.

On Oct. 26th, Sacramento State alumnus Marcus Graves was drafted 17th overall to the NBA G League by the Stockton Kings, an affiliate of the Sacramento Kings. 

The G League is the NBA’s minor league system that helps develop players. Graves is the fifth player in Sac State history to be drafted by a G League team and the fourth in the past five years.

“I was ecstatic, I almost (cried) because I was looking back at the work I put in,” Graves said. “Coming back from back surgery and reflecting on my journey as a basketball player, I finally made that first step in my professional career. It was an amazing feeling and I was very happy.”

Graves played five years for the Hornets from 2014-19, medically redshirting during the 2017-18 season. During his collegiate career, he averaged 17.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.0 steals in 34.7 minutes per game. 

When looking back at Graves’ legacy within the Hornet program, he ranks in the top 10 of many statistical categories. Some accolades include being eighth in career points (1,354), third in assists (472), seventh in steals (141), second in total minutes (3,300), second in games started (93), seventh in field goals made (478), sixth in free throws made (307) and seventh in assists per game (4.5).

“I am very proud of what I did at Sacramento State,” Graves said. “I wasn’t really playing that much but I definitely learned a lot. Then being on the journey from not really playing, to becoming a starter and moving forward to becoming that leader, it was cool to see my progression and my growth throughout my career.” 

Michael Zhang
Sac State guard Marcus Graves shoots a jump shot against UC Davis on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 at the Golden 1 Center. Graves ranks in the top 10 in many Sac State men’s basketball statistical categories such as eighth in career points (1,354), third in assists (472), second in total minutes (3,300) and second in games started (93).

Graves said he felt that he enhanced his game while at Sac State as the school was fitting of his underdog mentality. 

“Playing at Sac State that’s kind of what you are, a bunch of underdogs, a bunch of guys who have been overlooked,” Graves said. “I think me going there was really a testament to how my life has been and it made me even hungrier and made me work even harder. I love Sac State so much and I am very happy I went there.”

Senior center Joshua Patton spent four years as Graves’ teammate on the Sac State men’s basketball team and was said he was thrilled when Graves was drafted to Stockton.

“That is just amazing,” Patton said. “Marcus is somebody I truly admire and care about, and he works hard every day. Sometimes he’d get here at practice two hours ahead of time just to get in work. I love guys like that work their butt off (and) get rewarded.”.”

RELATED: Sac State’s high-flying center stays grounded with long walks

Graves said one of his most memorable moments at Sac State came when he was kicked out of practice. 

“It made me take a step back and reevaluate myself, not only as a basketball player but as a person,” Graves said. “Before that happened, I thought I was ‘all that’ and ‘the guy’ but once (head) coach (Brian) Katz kicked me out, I just realized it’s not all about me and that not only changed my life as a basketball player but changed my life as a person.”

Graves went on to explain why the life-altering moment occurred.

“I was missing a bunch of shots and I was bringing the energy of the whole team down because you could tell I was down on myself,” Graves said.“ Katz stopped the drill and was like, ‘If you come out here and bring the practice down then you might as well get out,’ I thought he was kidding, he was like, ‘No, I am serious, get out.’ I went in the locker room, cried for like 20 minutes and I realized right there that’s not who I am, that’s not who I want to be. It really changed a lot for me.”

Katz, in his 12th season at Sac State, recalled from his own perspective what happened at practice that day..    

“Marcus got down on himself when he made mistakes,” Katz said. “He was in the shooting drill already down on himself and I just went, ‘Marcus, I can’t coach you, you got to go, I just can’t coach you today.’ And from that, I know that he learned and realized, like, so you missed some shots, big deal, there are plenty of opportunities, especially in practice. It’s because he is a perfectionist, he’s a great kid, great person.”

Being drafted to the Stockton Kings provided Graves with the opportunity to stay close to the roots he has planted in the 916.

Story continues below photo.

Courtesy of Tony Chen
Stockton Kings guards and former Hornets, Marcus Graves and Cody Demps, walk down court together against the Santa Cruz Warriors on Friday, Nov. 8 at Stockton Arena. Graves is the fifth player in Hornet program history to be drafted by a G League team and the fourth in the last five years.

“It’s awesome, I love Sacramento,” Graves said. “I really grew (here), so I call Sacramento my home.”

While at Sac State, Graves dealt with a back injury that sidelined him for the entire 2017-18 season. He said that his father Fred Graves served as inspiration on his road to recovery.

“My motivation is my dad,” Graves said. “He had a spinal injury, the doctor told him he would be paralyzed, and he kind of just said ‘No, I am going to recover from this.’… to see what he went through, the progression he did (and) how hard his rehab was, there is no reason why I can’t go that hard (or) why should I give in.” 

Marcus’ father coached in the NFL for seven different teams from 1998 to 2015. Fred Graves said he was very excited for his son getting drafted in the first round of the 2019 G League draft.

“(I’m) very proud of him, he worked hard to do it,” Fred Graves said. “He’s not one of those ‘flash’ guys or ‘look at me’ kind of guys. He just goes and works and helps his team to win.”

RELATED: Senior guard having career year after return from back surgery

Graves said he’s used to having the need to prove himself.

“I always have been an underdog,” Graves said. “It came from moving around a lot because I will be in a city playing my game and got people getting to know me, and then I move and start all over again. It has always been about me proving myself (and) proving my game.”

Graves said having an NFL coach for a father helped shape himself as an athlete.

“The opportunity to be around guys, to see how they work out, guys who are successful, (Graves)  watched as guys came through whether they made the team or not, how they worked or didn’t, he figured out what you have to do to be successful at any level, at any sport,” Fred Graves said about his son. “That really helped him.”

Fred Graves told his son from a young age that those who work the hardest are the most successful.

Courtesy of Raymond Oyos
Stockton Kings guard Marcus Graves dribbles the ball through his legs against the Santa Cruz Warriors on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Kaiser Permanente Arena. Graves was drafted 17th overall by the Stockton Kings in the 2019 NBA G League draft.

“The kind of person he is, whether he is on the court or off the court, he is not a guy who is going to downplay his teammates,” Fred Graves said. “He respects all his teammates, respects the game itself and I think that’s what I am most proud of.”

Graves explained the aspects of his game that he wants to showcase in the G League.

“My strength is getting in the lane and finding an open teammate or finishing at the rim,” Graves said. “In the NBA game, you have to be able to shoot the (3-pointer) well. I worked on that a lot and that’s something I am looking forward to showing, being able to stretch the floor and shoot that (3-pointer) and play in transition.

Graves said he knows he’s still has a long way from the NBA.

“I want to show what I can do on the floor, but the biggest thing is growing every day,” Graves said. “I want to keep getting better, get a lot of experience. My end goal is to make the NBA, but I know that can’t happen in one day. It’s a long transition but that’s what I am working for.”

As Marcus continues to chase his dream, he said his underdog mentality that grew while at Sac State will always be with him.

“You have to prove yourself every single day,” Graves said. “(Being) competitive every day in practice and (showing) the coaches what I can do so I have the opportunity to get on the floor. During games, I just got to play my game and showcase what I can do and help the team win, that’s how I attack it.”