Jonathan Graham arrived at Maryland from Penn State in late summer amid uncertainty about his playing status with regard to the NCAA and his potential playing time among a crowded frontcourt.
After getting an unspecified hardship waiver that cleared him to play shortly before the season opened, Graham spent most of the first eight games waiting for a chance.
It came Sunday in a 77-75 loss to George Washington, when a combination of early foul trouble for a few of Maryland’s big men and a lack of effort by many wearing white uniforms at the Verizon Center left Terps coach Mark Turgeon no other option.
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Graham, a 6-8, 220-pound junior who had played a total of 19 minutes in five previous games and didn’t get off the bench in three others, finished with five points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in 15 productive minutes.
“I thought Jonathan Graham gave us great minutes, played hard and we raised our intensity level up because of him,” Turgeon said of Graham, who helped the Terps come back from a 14-point deficit.
The son of former Terp star Ernie Graham might have played his way into Turgeon’s rotation because of his performance and the edge he seems to play with that others don’t.
The younger Graham, who played sparingly his sophomore year at Penn State, said that he has played that way as long as he can remember.
“I was taught that effort is very important in anything you do, not just in basketball, in life, ” Graham said. “In school and everything you have a test coming up and you’ve got to put effort in to study. I just applied that to life. Effort and working hard and achievement are the keys to success.”
Graham has a totally different game than his father, whose jersey number (25) his son wears. The older Graham’s jersey was honored a few years ago and hangs from the ceiling at Comcast Center in recognition of a career that includes being the school’s all-time single-game scorer with 44 points.
The older Graham was not exactly known as a grinder, something his son clearly is.
“That’s the small difference between me and him, he had the offensive arsenal and could make any shot in the book and was almost unguardable,” Jonathan Graham said. “We play different positions. I’m consistent with one area and I stick with it and I do the best I can with one position.”
Asked why the Terps seem to lack energy coming out for games, Graham said: “I feel like we come out a little too tight at times. We’re a good team, we can be a great team, once we loosen up a little and play the way we know how to play, and we play hard, we will be fine.”
If he can get more time on the court during games, Graham could wind up being a leader for a team that often seems to be looking for someone other than junior guard Dez Wells.
"My thing is that I just want to do whatever's best for this team," Graham said. "If I'm in the game, I'm going to give it my best effort and play hard and any kind of leadership role I can play - whether it's by action or vocal - I'm willing to do that."