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Wearing a familiar No. 25, Maryland's Jonathan Graham still playing a waiting game

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COLLEGE PARK — For years, Ernest Graham had a wish. The former Maryland basketball star hoped to live long enough to see his number retired by the school.

The bad news for Graham — whose single-game mark of 44 points remains a team record — is that Maryland has a policy of not retiring basketball numbers. It chose to give his former No. 25 to another incoming player this season.

The good news is that the incoming player is Graham's son, Jonathan.

"I'm more than pleased," said the elder Graham, 54. "As a child, he wore that number. He's such a good young man."

Jonathan Graham, a 6-foot-8 forward, transferred during the offseason from Penn State, where he also wore No. 25. He is awaiting word from the NCAA on a waiver request that would allow him to forgo the usual transfer rules requiring players to sit out a year.

The Calvert Hall alum is not a starter, and it's not clear how much playing time he would get off the bench if he is eligible to play this season. But his tie to the Terps can be seen every time he gazes above the court at Comcast Center.

While Maryland doesn't retire jerseys, it does honor players by placing their names and numbers on banners hanging in the rafters. The red banner with his father's "GRAHAM 25" hangs between the banners honoring Len Bias and Buck Williams.

"It's pretty nice. It was huge for him," Jonathan Graham said. "I felt it was well-deserved and long overdue."

The banner was raised during a pregame ceremony in February 2012. "It still feels good to be home — finally," Ernest Graham, a former Dunbar star, told reporters that night.

The honoring of some former players over others almost always generates debate among fans, and Graham's selection was no exception. Some advocated instead for former Olympian Steve Sheppard, guard Brad Davis or swingman Adrian Branch.

Graham, who played for coach Lefty Driesell from 1978 to 1981, ranks 13th in program history in career points with 1,607. In recent years, Graham — who says he was once a chronic drug user — has waged a campaign to keep kids clean.

On the night he was honored in 2012, his son was playing for Penn State in a 69-64 victory over Iowa and could not attend.

"I made two free throws to seal the win while this [honor] was going on and they put the jersey up," Jonathan Graham said.

Graham played two seasons at Penn State, plus a redshirt year. He started the first eight games for the Nittany Lions last season, but his playing time declined and he ended up averaging 1.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

"He had some injuries that prevented him from performing at his best some of [last] year," Ernest Graham said. "He had some tenderness in his knees. It eventually subsided."

The younger Graham has been permitted to practice with the Terps this fall while the NCAA reviews his hardship waiver, but he wasn't allowed to play in Sunday's exhibition against Catholic.

"He has an inside and outside game," Maryland guard Nick Faust said. "He's the type of guy that can catch it outside the post and square you up and shoot it. Or he can drive you."

Neither the Graham family nor Maryland would discuss in detail the waiver request or what grounds the request is based upon.

"It's a long story," Jonathan said. "It was time to leave [Penn State], in my opinion. Maryland's always been the hometown school. When I was younger, I grew up watching the games and all that. Coming here now was a business decision, but it was also a personal decision. I'll leave it at that."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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BasketballCollege BasketballMaryland TerrapinsPenn State Nittany LionsCollege SportsNCAA
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