Jalen Graham Re-Opens Recruitment
Jalen Graham exploded on to the elite-level Arizona High School basketball scene last season as a super-athletic shot-blocking and dunking machine for then-Mountain Pointe Head Coach Duane Eason, as he was a catalyst for a very talented Pride team that made a great run all the way to the state title before coming up just short in the final game against Nico Mannion and the Pinnacle Pioneers.
For his efforts during a great breakout season for Graham, he was selected to play in the Relentless Arizona All-American game at the Westgate Entertainment District.
After suiting up initially in the spring for the Alpha Males AAU program, he was provided the opportunity to go play for Russell Westbrook’s AAU program, Team Why Not, along with Shadow Mountain star point guard and GCU signee Jovan Blacksher Jr.
It was the first introduction to TRUE elite talent for Jalen. He took a couple thumps and bumps on the highly-coveted EYBL circuit but ultimately figured it out pretty fast. From afar, you could tell it had very little to do with his abilities or skills translating to that level of play, rather than his own confidence in his game. Once he saw he was able to play with the nation’s top prep talent, he began to flourish.
He picked up his first Division-I offer from Head Coach Dan Majerle and the Grand Canyon Lopes. That was the start of an Arizona recruiting phenomenon. After a performance at the Nike Peach Jam where he was apart of another crazy run, this time with his Team Why Not squad, making it to the championship game of what is considered the top-notch AAU event of the year. Graham would earn Defensive MVP after averaging 3.3 blocks and 5 rebounds per game. He displayed his ability to finish around the rim amongst the trees and his underrated ability to pass the ball.
When I say Graham is a different kind of athlete, it is for a reason. When he makes him mind to go up, he is almost unstoppable when he reaches his peak height, with the bounce of a super-hero rabbit and really long arms, he also just gets up quicker than anyone that can decide to try and jump with him. When you add in the fact that he is starting to develop a real ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket off the dribble and is also starting to hit a few shots from the perimeter, his ceiling is one you all of a sudden need a real tall latter for.
Graham committed to Santa Clara University back in the fall, which somewhat shocked some since he had picked up legitimate interest and offers from a number of high-major programs. Among the numerous schools that offered were the likes of Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Arizona State.
However, Jalen felt his game progressing more and more each day while taking part in events with his high school team, now coached by Duane Eason’s coaching protégé Kirk Fauske. The Pride haven't skipped a beat, and could be even more dangerous as he pairs with 6-foot-7 junior forward DeAndre Henry to form the most talented frontcourt in the state (AIA). The scary part for the rest of the state is that not only is Graham a whole different animal from last season, but Henry is as well. Oh, and they still have one of the top defensive point guards in the state as well in 5-foot-10 senior Khalid Price. Along with his personal development on the court, he feels this team is going to play at an extremely high level all season long and chose to re-open his recruitment.
Graham stated “I want to play basketball at the highest level in college and see where this game can take me. I feel myself getting better everyday and I want a chance to become the best player I can be.”
Jalen Graham is my dark horse pick to win 6A Player of the Year, right behind the obvious favorite in Mannion. It is going to be an interesting winter for Jalen with his high school season and his recruitment. Next Tuesday the Pride host Pinnacle in a showdown of two of the state’s top teams and a rematch of last years State Finals. It is going to be a show.