Four months ago, Jonathan Graham switched schools with few expectations, arriving in College Park after three underwhelming seasons with Penn State, hoping to get a chance with his hometown team. He was placed on scholarship, but under the assumption that he may be removed next season after the hyped class of 2014 arrives. Perhaps he would work into the rotation. Maybe he would finish his college career on the scout team, a veteran locker room presence but nothing more.
Now, 10 games into his Maryland basketball career and five games since he started receiving regular minutes, Graham will make his first start with the Terrapins on Tuesday against North Carolina Central alongside Roddy Peters, Dez Wells, Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz, Coach Mark Turgeon said during a teleconference. This month, Graham has been Maryland’s most consistent post player and his 10 blocked shots rank third on the team.
In an 85-74 win over Tulsa on Sunday, freshman center Damonte Dodd earned his first career start and played 15 minutes, but Graham wound up outplaying him, Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell. In 20 minutes, he blocked three shots and grabbed seven rebounds.
“I think Jon Graham earned the start from the way he played last night,” Turgeon said. “He plays hard and it rubs off on everyone else … He’s a fourth-year guy. I don’t see why he can’t handle it. He’s just got to go out and do what he does, play hard. There’s not a lot of pressure on our post guys right now. There’s four guys, they all have a chance, they all think they can help us. So there’s really not pressure on any of them to get his 20 points. I think that’s a good feeling for all of them.”
>> The lifelong friendship between Wells and North Carolina Central point guard Emanuel Chapman, both Raleigh natives, began with Barney and a bite. Their mothers were close friends too and often held play dates, so one day as toddlers Wells and Chapman were fiddling around with some toys. Chapman had a particularly favorite toy, a Barney figure, that Wells also liked.
“He brings all the toys that he doesn’t want to play to me,” Wells said. “I want to play with the Barney toy. So I bit him on his back, really, really hard until he started crying. Then I had the Barney toy at that point.”
The mothers rushed in, prompted by the screams. Wells got punished. Chapman got comforted. Somehow, in spite of this, their bond endured, even as they made their mark on separate programs. With the Eagles, Chapman ranks fourth nationally in assists per game (7.4) and first on the team with 37.1 minutes per game. He also boasts a 2.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“To this day, we share everything together,” Wells said. “Stories, everything I have is basically his. He probably has more Maryland gear than I do.”
>> Point guard Seth Allen, who starred in his much-ballyhooed season debut with 15 points against Tulsa, did not practice Monday afternoon after getting kicked in his broken bone. He woke up with pain but is still expected to play against the Eagles.
“”If that didn’t happen he probably wouldn’t be in a lot of pain,” Turgeon said. “I think the day off will help him get ready for tomorrow.”
Though Peters continues to start, Turgeon said he expects that, once Allen regains his conditioning, “will work his way back into the starting lineup.”
>>Maryland has another high-volume shooter to worry about in senior guard Jeremy Ingram, who consumes nearly one-third of North Carolina Central’s possessions and takes nearly one third of its shots while on the floor. The Terps have struggled stopping players like him, allowing 25 points to Tulsa’s James Woodard, 25 to Boston University’s D.J. Irving and 31 to Roberto Nelson of Oregon State.
Turgeon said he stayed up late watching film of Ingram dropping 37 points in a 77-66 loss to Wichita State, Turgeon’s old program.
“We’ve talked about him a lot,” Turgeon said. “He’s good. He’s going to get his points. But he’s got to earn them.”