Graham's scoring gives WWU big lift
Jan. 19, 2008
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Graham's scoring gives WWU big lift
A record unmatched in Western Washington men's basketball history was set by Ira Graham when he either tied or led the team in scoring for 10 straight games.
The 6-foot-1 junior's streak began in Western's last game of 2006-07 and continued through the first nine this season before ending Jan. 3 in a win over Northwest Nazarene.
The best previous streak since school records were kept in the 1960s was nine by Monte Birkle in 1976-77.
"It's been my focus and the caliber of talent around me," said Graham, from from Fontana, Calif., of the record run. "It's not necessarily by design, but my teammates have really been looking for me and getting me the ball."
Graham leads the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in scoring average at 21.4, including a career-high 33 in an 84-80 win over Western Oregon last Saturday. He has scored double figures in his last 19 games.
Graham has switched from point guard to shooting guard, his natural position, this season.
"That's freed him up and allowed him to relax and play looser," Vikings coach Brad Jackson said.
Graham is no gunner, however. He is shooting 58.3 percent from the field, more than 15 percentage points higher than last season, when he averaged 15.3 points and started every game. He also leads the Vikings (10-4) in assists with a 3.0 average.
"Ira is a natural scorer," Jackson said, "but he's also very aware of his teammates and is a good team player ... and perhaps his biggest improvement has been on defense, especially defense off the ball."
This year Graham could become just the eighth player in school history to average 20 points. He already has been named to three all-tournament teams, being the MVP at the WWU/Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic as well as all-tourney at the Seattle Pacific Tip-Off Classic and the Great Western Shootout.
"Coach Jackson talked to me during the offseason about becoming a better player and I've just tried to do that night in and night out," Graham said. "He also wanted me to become more consistent, and I really listened to that and have been trying to do that as well."
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