Prep Basketball: South’s Graham signs with Montreat
By Mike London
LANDIS — In just two varsity seasons, 6-foot-2 guard Bailey Graham made his mark at South Rowan as one of the school’s top 30 all-time scorers.
Graham’s career numbers are right up there with some studs, famous Raiders such as Adrian Parker, Andrew Morgan and Graham Corriher.
Graham scored 613 points for coach Andre McCain’s Raiders while playing in just 49 games. South participated in only one postseason tournament game and zero playoff games during his career. South was 1-23 his junior season, but Graham and fellow seniors Tyrese Shaver, Dillon Kluttz, Connor Childers and Zach Powers elevated the Raiders to respectability last winter. South was 7-18, with all seven victories coming in the 2A Central Carolina Conference.
Graham can shoot and he’s quite athletic. He represented South on the All-Central Carolina Conference squad. That was a meaningful honor. Only 15 players were named All-CCC in a 10-team league.
Eighth on the Rowan County scoring list with 13,5 points per game, Graham was second team all-county.
Still, recruiting interest was limited. There are a lot of athletic, 6-2 guys out there hoping to play college hoops and most of them played for larger schools with more successful teams.
But Graham will get his chance to play college ball at Montreat, a small NAIA school in the mountains, about 18 miles from Asheville. He signed with Montreat’s Cavaliers last week. Montreat has a solid program and was 21-10 overall last season while going 11-9 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
“Getting a chance to play in college is all due to my dad (Matt),” Graham said. “He videoed our games and he kept sending out those videos to colleges. One of those colleges was Montreat. They invited me for a workout up there, and they liked me. And I liked them. That’s a nice school. I liked the campus I like the mountains.”
Graham played on the Carson javyees early in his high school career. His claim to fame as a jayvee was hitting a halftime halfcourt shot at a Robinson-Concord game that earned him a year’s worth of free pizza from Cici’s.
He transferred to South prior to his junior year, mostly for South’s communications academy, and he plans a communications major at Montreat. South also was coming off an 0-24 2015-16 season while trying unsuccessfully to compete in the 3A South Piedmont Conference with powerhouses such as Cox Mill, Robinson and Concord and obviously offered ample opportunity for playing time.
“The first game my junior year I didn’t start,” Graham said. “I remember being really nervous because it was my first game for my new school.”
He came off the bench in that game and scored 19 points against North Rowan. He started the next 48 games.
He would score in double figures 33 times in his career. He scored 20 or more points five times, including a career-best 26 on the road against a talented North Davidson team last Jan. 20.
“North Davidson was good, very tall,” Graham said. “That was just one of those games where we were trying hard to come back, and all I could think about was trying to win the game. I was really mad when we lost, but I remember leaving the gym and they announced I had 26 points. I was surprised. I had no idea I’d scored that many.”
Graham shoots the 3-pointer well, but he’s more than a shooter. He has some bounce. He accumulated eight dunks this year. That’s a lot for a 2A guard.
“He has good size and he’s a sneaky-type athlete,” McCain said. “He jumps well and he’s got a good first step. He can create some shots on his own.”
Graham remembers dunking for the first time between his sophomore and junior seasons.
“But that was just playing around at home,” Graham said. “It’s a different feeling dunking in a gym with a crowd. I didn’t get my first dunk in a game until this season when I had a breakaway against Oak Grove. Then I got a few more.”
He had some soaring one-handers and he also dunked a few with both hands.
Graham also rebounded well enough to put up some double-doubles. He had a 20-point, 16-rebound effort against West Davidson.
Like most of the Raiders, he played some of his best ball against second-place Thomasville. South shocked the tough Bulldogs twice. Graham scored 37 points in those two games.
“They were fast, but we just seemed to match up well with them,” Graham said. “I played with a lot more confidence as a senior, and so did the team.”
There was a different level of competitiveness about the Raiders in 2017-18. Besides the seven wins, there were a lot of single-digit losses, six close ones in a row in one stretch in January.
“We were a lot more competitive, and Bailey was a big part of that,” McCain said. “He really wants to win badly, and it’s that drive he has that is giving him a chance to compete at the next level. We’re proud he’s getting an opportunity to play college basketball. This is big for our program.”