Jerai Grant has matured a lot in the past month. He had no choice.
When DeMatha's basketball team learned rising senior forward Jeff Allen transferred to Oak Hill Academy, Grant became the Stags' de facto established inside presence. This is the same Grant who played about 10 minutes per game last season as a baby-faced sophomore.
"He knows his role is going to be a lot bigger this year," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said.
Grant is already showing he is up to the task. Serving as the perfect inside complement to the standout back court of Nigel Munson and Austin Freeman, Grant helped DeMatha to a 45-40 victory over O'Connell last night in the championship game of The Rock summer league at High Point.
"Nigel and Austin are great players, great guards," said the 6-foot-8, 207-pound Grant, "but without an inside presence, you don't really have a team."
Grant scored only six points, but his presence was crucial, especially on defense against O'Connell's senior 7-footer Rockwell Moody.
Six minutes into the game, Grant went baseline for beautiful reverse layup over Moody. The next trip down court, Grant made a nice block.
DeMatha trailed 34-33 early in the second half when Grant's steal brought his father, former Washington Wizard Harvey Grant, to his feet with applause.
"What Mike [Jones] has done is brought him along slowly and got his feet wet last year," Harvey Grant said, "and now he's ready."
Freeman continued DeMatha's run with a foul-line jumper and three-pointer from the corner to give the Stags the lead for good at 38-35.
After O'Connell pulled to one, DeMatha senior Adrian Miles, standing at the top of the key, found Grant all alone for an emphatic two-handed jam.
"That was a key dunk," said Munson, who has unofficially committed to Virginia Tech. "Knowing he can score, it can spread the defense."
Munson and Freeman led the Stags with 14 and 13 points respectively. Moody led O'Connell with 11.
-- Alan Goldenbach