James Graham III started his relationship with Iowa assistant Sherman Dillard during the winter. As the Milwaukee-area forward learned more about the Hawkeyes, he realized he really wanted a scholarship from them.
Dillard indicated that he and head coach Fran McCaffery were looking forward to visiting him and bringing him down to campus. The COVID-19 pandemic and recruiting dead period created by it canceled those plans.
Recruits and programs have adjusted. They’ve turned to video visits. Iowa and Graham III conducted one on Tuesday. He received his offer.
“I noticed what they’ve done with (Big Ten Player of the Year) Luka (Garza),” he told HN. “They take players, develop them and then they put them in spots to do well with the ball in their hands. They put you in spots where it’s easy for you to score the ball and they make you look really good.
“They put Luka in the spots where he needed the ball. They weren’t asking him to do anything he couldn’t do. They play really fast and this Big Ten country. It’s close to home. Things like that all come into play.”
Graham (6-8, 205) preps at Glendale (WI) Nicolet High outside of Milwaukee and was going to run with Wisconsin Playground in AAU until the pandemic shut that down. Colleges aren’t letting the layoff impede their pursuit of him.
Since the beginning of May, Wake Forest, Maryland, Florida State, Missouri, Cincinnati, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Xavier, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgetown and Iowa have offered him scholarships. DePaul, Rutgers and others already had extended opportunities.
Graham and his parents met with Iowa’s entire staff during Wednesday’s video visit. The coached showed him the campus, talked basketball and academics, and everyone got to know each other better.
“Coach McCaffrey walked me through the transition offense, the sets and the motion offense they run, and how fast they want to play. At the end, my parents asked questions and then we hung up. Overall, it was a really good call. It was really informative. It was about an hour and they really showed how they wanted me,” Graham said.
For the last 10 days, the country has witnessed unrest from social injustice. Graham has posted about racial inequality on social media. He welcomed McCaffery’s public statement on systemic racism.
“The schools that have offered me, I really want the head coach or the school, preferably the head coach, to come up with a statement protesting the racial injustice in the country right now. I feel like I want to play for a coach who understands. I want to play for coach who is relatable regardless of the color of skin,” Graham said.
“The fact that he did put one out is very important to me because I want to play for a coach who understands. That’s big to me.”
With culture being a fit, Graham also sees a program capable of growing his game. His skill set meshes with the style.
“They showed me clips of Devyn (Marble). They compared me to him a lot. They showed me how they shoot a lot of threes. I love having a quick trigger. I love to pull. (McCaffery) expressed to me how important it is to play for a coach that’s very confident in your abilities. He’s going to give me the green light. He’s going to make sure I feel comfortable taking the shots I want to take,” Graham said.
Graham doesn’t feel cheated by the quarantine keeping him from campuses and coaches from visiting him. The dead period runs through July.
“I think the pandemic is actually way better than being able to go see the schools. Here’s why. You commit, in my opinion, to a coach, not a facility. The coaches that I’m talking to, I’m building relationships with them, not their campuses. If the coaching is good, is producing pros and is developing players, that’s ultimately what you’re going to do. You’re not going for the best facilities. You’re going to get to the next level,” he said.
Graham doesn’t have a timeline for his decision but would like to commit before his senior season. His recruitment is open.
As a junior, Graham was named to the All-North Shore Conference first team after averaging 21 points and seven rebounds. His team finished 22-3.
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