Photo courtesy of Stay Shootin Media.
By David Cordova
In the New York City high school scene, the leagues are mainly dominated by guards, as big men are very scarce. Because of the evolution of prep school, as soon as a player that is 6-foot-8 or is in the process of entering high school, they are usually shipped off to schools in different states.
If a kid with size does stay in the city, it’s a treat for the coaches who land them. In the case of Xaverian High School in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, head coach Clyde Chapman was very fortunate to have the services of Michael Graham.
The 6-foot-9 senior forward is one of the city’s hidden gems, as he is a big man that throws down powerful dunks, but can also put the ball on the floor, as well. This season, he was a force for the Clippers on the low block and was one of the premier players in the CHSAA.
Also, there was a big man with the same name that played for Georgetown University back in the 1980’s and was one of the key centerpieces of the Hoyas’ 1984 national championship team. However, despite sharing the same name, these two are not related. In fact, it’s just a coincidence. But like the elder Graham, the younger one is just as physical in the low post and is very strong.
“What motivates me is just working hard every day, because I’m a late bloomer,” said Graham when asked what motivates him to be successful on the court. “So every time I’ve gotta go to the gym, I work like 100 times harder.”
At Xaverian, which is also the school that produced talents like former St. John’s coach and NBA player Chris Mullin and Levance Fields, who played at Pittsburgh in the mid-to-late 2000’s, Graham was a force this season, as he was the Clippers’ leading scorer, averaging 15.2 points per game, and led them to a 20-8 record and a berth in the CHSAA quarterfinals.
When asked about his time at Xaverian, Graham replied, “It was a bumpy ride, I would say. I started my freshman year on the freshman team, my sophomore year on the JV team, and my first three years was just a losing experience, and then my senior year, we just bounced back and went 20-6 in the regular season, and we made a run to Fordham.”
On this season, which was his breakout year as a whole, he replied, “The season as a whole, I couldn’t have done it without this group of great guys. The guards, they’ve been looking for me, giving me the ball, and we just talked and communicated, and every day in practice, we just went hard and played, like it was our last.”
Despite his great play on the court, Graham has been lightly-recruited. “I have an offer from St. Francis [Brooklyn], they’ve been in contact with my coach. But I’ve been in contact with Niagara, Bryant, St. Peter’s and there’s a few others.”
On what he’s looking for in a school, he replied, “Like, the name doesn’t matter, like a big name, I just want a school that will develop me as a player and as a person, and that’s going to help me on my path to grow.”
On his strengths and weaknesses, he replied, “My strength is that I’m really athletic, my vertical is really high and I can run the floor, and my mid-range shot is a little streaky, like I just started to get the hang of it this year, but my weakness is my upper-body strength, it’s like, knowing where to be, and somewhat, attention to detail.”
So far this spring, he’s done well with the New Heights AAU program on the Under Armour Association circuit, leading them to a 4-4 record and is the second-leading rebounder with 3.13 per game.
What will happen with Graham moving forward remains to be seen. Maybe he may go the prep school route for a postgraduate year, or maybe a school that is still looking for players will land him. Time will tell. But whatever he decides to do, he’ll be ready to give coaches maximum effort and will be ready to dominate on the floor.