The Lowdown on Graham

A prep writer for the Baltimore Sun, Matt Bracken gives FightOnState.com some exclusive analysis on Jonathan Graham. He describes the player as a "steal" for PSU.

Matt Bracken covers prep sports for the Baltimore Sun and knows a thing or three about area hoops. So we asked him four things about the latest addition to the Penn State hoops team, Calvert Hall's Jonathan Graham. He wasn't stumped and Bracken gives some great analysis. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound signed with the Lions Friday.

FightOnState.com: From what you have seen of him, what type of player is Graham and how does he project at the next level?

MB: Graham is a hard-working power forward who's unselfish and has demonstrated nice touch around the hoop. He can play with his back to the basket and step out to hit the 15-footer. He's a solid defender in the post and should be a reliable four-year player for Penn State.

FightOnState.com: His recruitment was a bit quieter than one might expect. Is he a bit of a sleeper? Why didn't it just take off like some other marquee Maryland prospects over the past few years?

MB: Graham played all four years for the Calvert Hall varsity, so he wasn't exactly a secret to local basketball followers. But he didn't have a slew of high-major schools that offered, so in that regard he's definitely a bit of a sleeper. I think some people, based on his freshman and sophomore years, might have expected him to become a dominant, top 50-type big man. That didn't quite materialize, but he did have a very successful high school career. One factor that probably slowed his recruitment a bit was a couple of nagging injuries. At the NBA Top 100 camp in Charlottesville last summer, Graham was bothered by some growing pains in his knees, so he probably wasn't at his best. Over this past winter, he had some back trouble which limited him a bit. But he's completely healthy now and could be a steal for Penn State.

FightOnState.com: How polished and ready is he to step right into the Penn State rotation this winter and begin contributing?

MB: Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld said it would be best if Penn State brought Graham along slowly, so I wouldn't expect him to step into the starting lineup from day one. I think he will get minutes right away and see an increase in playing time over his freshman season. Growing accustomed to the physical play of the Big Ten isn't easy for any freshman, especially a big man. But Graham has a lot of skill and should be able to carve out a little bit of a niche for himself next winter.

FightOnState.com: What one part of his game have you seen that has really impressed you?

MB: I think Graham has great intangibles. He's the son of a Maryland legend in Ernie Graham and he was a well-known quantity around Baltimore since his freshman year. That's a lot of pressure for any high school kid to handle, but Graham rarely let it get to him. Bauersfeld, the Calvert Hall coach, said Graham really embraced the team concept and didn't care about his numbers as long as the Cardinals won. Still, he averaged a double-double against Baltimore Catholic League competition, and he also had his moments on the AAU circuit with Nike Baltimore Elite last summer. He really became a great leader and answered his critics as a senior. I'd expect him to do more of the same in college.

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