James Graham, a four-star recruit who signed for Maryland basketball earlier this month, will graduate high school early and join the program early. He’s expected to join the team after Christmas and will be immediately eligible.
Departing high school early is fairly commonplace with high-level football recruits, joining their college programs during the offseason to acclimate. The move is more unique for basketball.
But Graham is taking advantage of the NCAA’s decision to offer an additional season of eligibility to Division I athletes who compete during the 2020-21 winter season. Joining Maryland early for a partial season won’t impact his usual four years of eligibility.
“We’re looking forward to James joining our program early and getting a head start acclimating within our system and the weight room,” coach Mark Turgeon said in a release. “James is fully committed to finishing his high school education this semester and will join us at a later date to be announced. We can’t wait to have him in College Park.”
Graham averaged 20.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season for Nicolet High School near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s one of three four-star prospects who signed in Maryland’s 2021 class, alongside Julian Reese and Ike Cornish.
Graham said during an Instagram Live interview Monday that he and Turgeon began seriously talking about Graham’s ability to enroll early about two weeks ago. Since then, the 6-foot-8 forward has worked to complete all the requirements necessary to graduate early.
Once he arrives, Graham must pass testing protocols before he’s eligible to compete.
“Because of corona, because of that, this year doesn’t count at all [toward a year of eligibility],” Graham said. “So I won’t use it as a redshirt year or anything. I’ll go there, I’ll try to produce. I feel like I’ll be getting some minutes early on, which is good for me. Nothing major yet, but I feel like with a little bit more work in the weight room and things like that, I’ll be there, where I can produce at a very high level.”
Graham believes this partial season in College Park will help prepare him for the following campaign.
“By the time next season comes, I’m one of those guys, I try to be real but at the same time set very high expectations for myself,” Graham said. “By the time next seasons comes, I feel like there’s no way that I’m not helping our team contend for a national championship, you know what I’m saying?
“I feel like with my ability, especially once I hone it in and become more fundamentally sound, I feel like there’s no way I don’t play at an extremely high level and try to be a first round pick.”
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