Zach Graham ready to help Rebs win

Andy Kennedy and staff have been loading up on quality recruits the past year or more. True freshman Zach Graham was one of the first to commit to the new program.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Suwanee, Ga., is making his way through fall preseason strength and conditioning drills along with six other players new to the program. So far so good, says Graham.

"Everything's been cool," said Graham, who was listed as the 89th-best recruit in the country in the class of 2007 by Hoop Scoop, as well as the No. 96 overall recruit and the No. 15 small forward by, Inc. "We've been working hard. In the individual workouts we've been doing well and everybody's getting better."

Graham says he felt he was ready for college basketball, although there have been some eye-openers, but in a good way.

"Everything you do is 110 percent. There's no room to slack off," said the two-time All-State honoree at Peachtree Ridge High School, who averaged 20.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists as a senior. "Everybody has their minds right. You have to be mentally focused. Everything has to be 110 percent. You can't take any time off."

Not that he would ever want to. That's not his nature. Graham has always been an all-out, get-after-it-on-every-play kind of guy.

"My mindset has been the same when I first got here and since I first got here," he said. "That's to go all out in everything I do. Work as hard as I can. Do what I can for the team. Do well in school and contribute as much as I can to the team."

As a junior in high school, Graham scored 21 points a game with six rebounds per outing. He led all scorers in the 2007 Georgia North-South All Star game with 23 points while leading the North to victory. He was a two-time all-star selection at the ABCD All-American Camp.

The son of former NFL defensive lineman David Graham, Zach was a record-setting quarterback for the Peachtree Ridge High football team. He led his team to its first-ever winning season as a junior and deep into the playoffs as a senior.

But basketball is his game, and Ole Miss is now his school. He liked it during his recruitment and he likes it now, especially the coaching staff.

"The biggest reason I came to Ole Miss, I just really felt comfortable with the coaches," Graham said. "And it's not just one coach. It's the whole staff. I felt comfortable with the whole coaching staff, especially the style of play Coach Kennedy wants to run. I really like the school. It's not too big to where you can get distracted. It's not too little where it can get boring. It's my type of atmosphere. I'm a laidback person."

Watching the Rebels win last year has made Graham more excited about being a part of Kennedy era season No. 2.

"It was great (watching Ole Miss win last season)," he said. "It was kinda like when I committed, everybody in Gwinnett County (where he is from) started focusing on Ole Miss and followed them all the way on that long run they had. It was just great."

Graham knows there is a lot of talent in the program, some valuable veterans along with a large group of new players. But he feels he can step in and contribute.

"I'm definitely going to bring a competitive edge, because I love to win and work hard," he said. "I want to come in and help with the transition game, getting out and handling the ball, using my size as an advantage against defenders. Getting out there and making plays. I'm a perimeter player and I also like to slash and get to the basket. I can tell my game has developed since I've been here with the coaches working with us. My shot's improved and my driving to the basket, things like that."

Graham believes there are a lot of guys like him on the team, players who love to work hard and compete and, most importantly, win.

"The good thing is it's a good group of guys," Graham said. "We all get along with each other, and we have a great chemistry. I'm just really excited about the season and putting all this talent together. We have good chemistry and all work well together, so we expect to do a lot of good things."

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