Western proves to be good fit for Graham
March 15, 2009
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Michelle Gardner, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
When it came time to pick a college, Ira Graham decided he wanted to get out of California. The Fontana High School graduate chose Division II Western Washington. It couldn't have turned out any better.
Graham, 22, is wrapping up his senior year with the Vikings (22-5) who are hosting the West Sub-Region that also includes Cal State San Bernardino and Cal Poly Pomona. Earlier this week he was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He was also named to the Daktronics first-team All-West Region team.
Graham also considered a handful of other Division II schools, most notably Seattle Pacific, the fourth team in this week's sub regional, as well as Alaska-Fairbanks and Division I UC Riverside.
"I really was ready for something different," he said. "I knew I wanted to leave California. This just seemed like a good fit for me. I thought it would be a great college experience and it really has been. I couldn't have asked for anything more."
Graham, a 6-foot guard, averaged a team-high 18.7 points and 3.5 assists and was his team's leading scorer in 16 of 27 games with a season-high of 29 against Central Washington. He has reached double figures in the last 12 games and has been held to single digits just twice.
Graham said the season has been a rewarding one because the team stuck together after a 15-12 showing in 2007-08 in which the team did not make the West Region Tournament. Most of the players stayed at school over the summer to work out together. It paid off as the Vikings secured the conference title with a win over Central Washington in the regular season finale.
"We didn't want to have any regrets," he said. "Most of us are seniors so this was our last chance to do something special." Veteran Vikings head coach Brad Jackson acknowledged that Graham has been a leader on and off the court.
"He had a phenomenal year," Jackson said. "But he has really grown and matured in our program. I think it was good for him and he was good for us."
Graham hopes his basketball career isn't done yet. He would like to play professional overseas and recently discussed the possibility with Brad Oleson, a former standout at Alaska-Fairbanks who recently returned from competing in Spain.
"I think that would be a great opportunity," Graham said. "Obviously with us still playing I haven't had a chance to looking into it but it is something I would like to do eventually."
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