Graves All But Says He's A Heel

GREENSBORO, N.C. – William Graves accepted Dudley's MVP trophy for his performance in Monday's overtime loss in the evening game of the Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic, at which point the media quickly swept in -- with one question in mind: 'Has he committed to North Carolina?'

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    First came the inquiries about the game, about his showing, about his team – the usual questions with the usual responses. But then it was time to cut to the chase. To pursue the topic that was on everyone's lips Monday night.

    Since Graves attended the UNC-Maryland matchup in Chapel Hill more than a week ago and two days later had Roy Williams in attendance for one of his games, the rumor mill began to work overtime. Numerous sources close to the situation have said for the past week that Graves has already made up his mind, that he has decided to be a Tar Heel and early Monday informed the North Carolina coaching staff of this decision.

    But since then Graves has tried to avoid the questions, and when confronted he and all those around him have publicly denied a decision or commitment.

    So this was the chance for the reporters in attendance to ask him, face-to-face, the obvious questions. Had he decided? Was he going to announce? Was there a reason for this all being so hush-hush?

    "I'd like to keep that to myself," was his first answer. "I don't know" was his second. Then came, "I'm just focused on high school basketball," in response to yet another, mixed in with wide grins and some laughter.

    This reporter tried to word it every way possible. Finally, a response with some substance …

    "I'm close to my decision and Carolina is No. 1 …" he said.

    So, when will he decide or announce? What is he waiting for?

    "You're just going to have to wait," he replied on two different occasions.

    Dudley head coach David Price offered the final word.

    "You've got so many rumors out there, his thing is he's trying to release [his decision] at the right time," Price said.

    So much for getting any definitive quotes, though it's clear all that's left is the announcement itself. Graves is indeed a Tar Heel, as sources close to the situation confirm.

    (Before exiting the court, Graves did say, "My grandfather was a Carolina fan [and] I wanted to keep the tradition alive.")

    As for the game, with UNC assistant coach Steve Robinson sitting courtside, Graves posted 29 points and seven rebounds, as Dudley lost, 91-82, in overtime to Winston-Salem (N.C.) Reynolds. The junior was 10-for-25 from the field, 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and hit 9-of-11 free throws.

    "He scored when they needed him to score," said Dave Telep, of "He had a couple big buckets in the second half when they needed points."

    In fact, Graves had the potential game-winning basket in regulation before a goaltending call on the other end forced the extra session.

    In evaluating Graves, he is not a typical prospect, for starters. Despite standing 6-6 and 235-pounds, he prefers being a shooting guard or small forward. Ask him where he'll play on the college level and he emphatically responds, "The perimeter."

    He alludes to the fact that he's not in the best shape, but ask him if he plans to slim down and he says, "I feel comfortable [at this weight] and as long as I can play with it, it doesn't matter to me."

    Though there is some versatility to his game – better yet, there's the potential for a lot of versatility to his game. Graves does have the ability to score down low, whether it's driving to the hoop or backing down a defender on the block, and his size makes him a tough matchup.

    "If a shorter guy is guarding me, I'll try to post him up," Graves said. "If there's a big guy on me I'll take him out to the perimeter and go around him."

    But it's clear the best weapon in his offensive arsenal is his jumpshot.

    "I think if you really broke his game down, you'd see the strongest part of his game is the mid-range jumptshot and I think it'll probably wind up being his calling card," Telep added.

    For now, he doesn't tend to mix it up too much underneath and battle for rebounds, partially because he's playing a perimeter position, and clearly doesn't stand out as a true post player. He is simply more comfortable being a big wing player who can go inside when needed.

    "William is a great player, he can play all five positions – inside and outside," Price said. "He's very important to our team, very intelligent and can flat out play."

    High praise from Price, and a little over the top, but as can be expected from a coach touting one of his own players – especially a player who provided 29 points and kept the team in the game, as Graves did late Monday night.


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