Calvert Hall Alum Graham Has Big Future at Penn State
Former Cardinals star red-shirting as a freshman, but preparing for a big role next season.
As it would ultimately do to most of its opponents during the 2006-07 season, Towson Catholic wasted absolutely no time jumping on top of Calvert Hall and building a commanding lead during an early regular season matchup.
Led by future college stars Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) and Donte Greene (Syracuse), who now plays for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, the Owls seemingly controlled every facet of the game against the overmatched Cardinals. The Owls would finish that year 32-6 while capturing both the BCL and MIAA championships.
Desperately in need of a spark, Calvert Hall turned to lanky freshman forward Jonathan Graham, who at that point was backing up senior standout Braxton Dupree (now at Towson University). Immediately upon entering, Graham blocked a shot, took control of the ball and then proceeded to drive the length of the floor before finishing with a basket at the other end.
While Calvert Hall would still go on to lose the game, that play gave Cardinals coach John Bauersfeld, who was an assistant for that team, an early glimpse at Graham’s immense potential.
“I was like, ‘OK, this kid can play,’” recalled Bauersfeld, who took over as Calvert Hall’s head coach the next season. “For a 6-foot-6 freshman to be able to get a block and then go coast to coast against the number one team in the state and get a bucket, I thought that was pretty good.”
Now in his freshman season at Penn State, Graham continues to flash that impressive upside. Even while sitting out this year as a redshirt behind a veteran and experienced Nittany Lions front-line, the now 6-foot-8, 238-pound Graham has Penn State coaches extremely excited about what he can potentially contribute at the collegiate level.
Graham, the son of former University of Maryland standout Ernie Graham (1977-81), started his final three years at Calvert Hall and finished his high school career as the second-leading scorer in Cardinals history (1,670 points). He averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game as a senior in 2009-10 while leading Calvert Hall to a 21-7 record and the BCL championship. He was rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com.
“[Jonathan] has tremendous, tremendous upside,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “He loves the game and works extremely hard at it. He’s tough around the basket and more physical now that he’s added so much strength and additional pounds [20 since first arriving at Penn State]. He’s also a great rebounder and just has a great feel for the game. He’s a kid that we’ll be counting on next year to play a lot of minutes for this team.”
And with the improvement he has made during this season, even despite some early stuggles, Graham feels he has put himself in a position to do just that, having developed everything from his size, strength and ability to finish around the basket to even his perimeter game and capability to knock down outside shots.
“It wasn’t an easy transition at first,” Graham said. “When I first got to [Penn State], guys were bigger, faster and stronger than me and I had to figure out different ways to score. But I’ve adjusted and have just tried to put in the hard to work to get better. I just want to be the best player that I can be all the way around.”
And with the Nittany Lions graduating five seniors from this year’s team, including its top four scorers - Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, David Jackson and Andrew Jones – DeChellis will be depending on Graham to continue that improvement into next season. Brooks (13.6 points per game), Jackson (10.6) and Jones (6.3) are all forwards.
“He’s going to be a kid that plays a lot next year and has an effect on the game,” DeChellis said. “I think he’s got the whole package and that he certainly has all the intangibles to be an all-conference type player [down the road].”