When James Graham III entered the transfer portal, he was looking for his best fit and a coaching staff that could eventually send him to the NBA.
After Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon quit as head coach of the Terrapins in December, Graham entered the portal and was quickly contacted by the Missouri State head coach. , Dana Ford, and assistant Sheldon Everett.
The trio remained in close contact for many months. The Bears coaching staff continued to sell him on how he would fit in and how they could make the most of his talents.
On Saturday, Graham announced he had been sold. The coveted high school freshman arrives in Springfield.
“I’m just ready to get on the court and give it my all for a cause bigger than myself,” Graham said in a recent interview with the News-Leader.
Graham, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward from Milwaukee, could finally be the Bears’ offseason prize because the program has revamped nearly its entire roster.
Related: Maryland trades James Graham III to join Missouri State basketball
Graham was a hot prospect coming out of high school as a four-star freshman and the No. 78 overall prospect, according to 247Sports. He committed to Maryland rather than Auburn, Memphis and Wisconsin.
His college career started early as he played half of his senior year of high school before moving on to college. He played for a limited time in that first season, then made a brief appearance the following year before entering the portal from Turgeon.
With a new coaching staff on the horizon, inbound transfers and fifth-year players returning to school, his best option was to find elsewhere while maintaining a four-year eligibility possibility.
Ford and Everett quickly got in touch to try and woo a player who was once touted as a future NBA draft pick by major recruiting sites. He was also being sued by Iowa State, DePaul, Georgetown, Boise State, Tulsa and others.
Missouri State staff quickly attempted to sell Graham on his form. Graham is a player who likes to go inside and post-up – something the staff have shown they appreciate in the standout striker.
“A lot of (NBA players) don’t come from top schools and it’s more about going somewhere where you can learn to play properly,” Graham said. “One thing about Coach Ford is that he understands how to take things to the next level and he took people to that next level.”
Ford’s most promising NBA prospect still appears to be Isiaih Mosley as he remains in the NBA draft pool while also sitting in the transfer gate. Mosley is attracting interest from some of the biggest college basketball programs in the nation.
After: These schools would be after Isiaih Mosley since entering the transfer portal
The MSU coaching staff has used Mosley as a selling point to Graham in more ways than one since the former Terrapin entered the portal.
Along with being someone who wants to publish, Graham has aspects of his game that resemble Mosley’s. Graham also has a 3-point shot back and is someone who can step back from anywhere on the court.
Missouri State sent Graham a film of Mosley while trying to sell Graham what he could do in a Bears uniform. Graham laughed and denied that Missouri State was considering a Mosley 2.0 — he knows there aren’t many players in the country who can have seasons like the one Mosley just had. His game will be a bit different as a bigger striker who wants to get into the position more often.
“They showed me a lot of movies and how they put him in a position to score and sometimes we play the same way,” Graham said. “It shows me that they had people like me who were successful.”
Graham will join a roster from Missouri State that looks completely different from the one that led the Bears to the NIT for the first time since 2011. He is one of seven incoming Division I transfers to go along with three freshmen, three ghosts and a transfer from juco. . A player will have to leave in the fall semester.
After: Colorado State guard Kendle Moore will transfer to Missouri State basketball
An almost entirely new roster will need to come together quickly if the Bears are to have any chance of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
“It’s a fresh start,” Graham said. “It’s going to be a state of flux for a while, but the storm always comes before dawn. It always finds a way to work itself out.”
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist for the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at [email protected] or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. He is also a co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.