I've found the documentation on how to get the selected value from a drop down list on the DataBound event to be non-existant.
I eventually found the solution here: https://www.telerik.com/forums/dropdownlist-mvc---set-default-value-at-runtime
It is easy to get the selectedIndex in this event handler. Getting the value that this corresponds to so I can run some custom logic (show/hide fields, for example) when the document is being loaded (as opposed to a select event) was the tricky part.
I already had a generic function I called to obtain this value across the board. I was able to finally solve the issue of getting the selected value when not in the Select event (where the dataItem object is available) using the following code:
I can then use this like this (you can see how it will then generate a usable result in the select and databound events):
Perhaps the documentation could be clearer how this can be achieved, considering how simple it actually is in the end, yet how difficult it is to find the solution.