James Graham III, a forward out of Milwaukee who committed to the Maryland men’s basketball program Aug. 19, says he picked the Terps because of his relationship with the coaching staff and how well he fits into Maryland’s system – one that he believes suits him better than his hometown school.
Graham’s final four schools also included Auburn, Memphis and Wisconsin. Maryland was the first major-conference program to offer Graham a scholarship. Terps assistant coach Bino Ranson connected with Graham earlier this year before the coronavirus began to wreak havoc on the country, and head coach Mark Turgeon offered Graham a scholarship in May.
The 6-foot-8 Graham believes he has similar range with his shot as Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter, who played for Turgeon at Maryland from 2016-2018.
“I feel like I shoot better off the dribble, but I’ve watched a lot of film that Turge has sent me,” Graham said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 20. “He clearly gives his players the green light. I don’t have to worry about looking over my shoulder when I take a shot, things like that. He gives his players the green light and he lets them rock out, and that’s honestly something that also helped make it easier for me to decide to go there.”
Auburn reportedly was the runner-up for Graham – not his hometown school of Wisconsin, which won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title in 2020 along with Maryland and Michigan State. The Badgers have gone 101-57 overall since Greg Gard took over as head coach during the 2015-16 season. Gard was preceded by Bo Ryan, who was one of the most successful coaches in Big Ten history (364-130).
However, Wisconsin tends to play a deliberate style. Last season, the Badgers ranked 342nd in tempo out of 353 Division I teams, according to kenpom.com, a college basketball analytics site. Graham respects the winning tradition of Wisconsin but thought Maryland was a better fit for him.
“Wisconsin high school basketball is different than Wisconsin college basketball,” Graham said. “High school players here, we play fast, shoot a lot of shots – and people do give Wisconsin a ton of backlash for not being able to land its hometown recruits, but people really don’t think about the fact that Wisconsin high school basketball is so much different than how Wisconsin plays. That’s why they go to other places.”
For Graham, that other place was Maryland, with Ranson being the point man on his recruitment. Ranson was also the lead recruiter on Ike Cornish and Julian Reese, the Terps’ two other Class of 2021 commits. Ranson has been in College Park, Md., since 2010 and has developed a reputation as one of the top assistants in the Big Ten.
And it’s no secret why given that he helps reel in recruits like Graham, the No. 56 player nationally according to 247Sports.
“He just kind of connected [with] me more than other coaches,” Graham said of Ranson. “Before then, I was still talking to schools but I never talked to them at the level at talked to Bino at. He called me every day, every night, just checking in, … talking about personal things, talking about things other than basketball. And that’s really what stood out to me about Bino — he lets his recruits know that it’s more than a game. I think that’s something that stands out to me with Bino.”
Graham said he models his game after Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, who is in his 18th season in the NBA. Graham indicated he played some point guard and shooting guard in AAU ball recently in order to improve his ball-handling skills. He sees himself as a “point forward” in the future, though it remains to be seen how he’ll fit into the 2021-22 Terps.
“I handle the ball really well for my position and my size,” Graham said. “… I won’t say I’m Denver Nuggets Melo because I’m not as athletic, but I’d say I’m more like Knicks Melo just because I score the ball, but I try to be a little bit more efficient than he was — no offense, because that’s my favorite player.”
For more from Graham, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ritchie A. Davis