On the court, Jonathan Graham loves to be around the rim, patrolling the paint as a gritty interior defender and rebounder. But once the Terrapins men’s basketball forward steps off the hardwood, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound sociology major enjoys delving into his field of study.
“When I took the first couple of classes in sociology, it kind of drew me to an interest,” Graham said at last week’s media day. “Getting to know how people behave, just like the reactions of the human body and the brain and things like that. It all seemed kind of interesting to me.”
As Graham learns about interactions and culture, he’s getting a chance of his own to experiment with assimilation outside of the classroom. He transferred to the Terps from Penn State in the offseason, and now he’s tasked with adjusting to life in College Park.
Graham’s status for the season is uncertain, as he filed a wavier to request immediate eligibility and is waiting for the NCAA to hear his case. The 22-year-old has not disclosed the specifics behind his decision to transfer or apply for a wavier, though he is now closer to his Baltimore home than he was in State College, Pa.
If Graham’s waiver is denied, he will have to sit out a year before playing in games for the Terps, but for now, he’s practicing and he said he’s settling in with his new team.
He’s trying to learn the Terps’ culture, to understand their behaviors and reactions as if the team were a subject of an assignment in his favorite class.
“It’s different,” Graham said. “Obviously, the players are very different; maybe the defensive concepts are a little different, but I’m catching on as I go.”
Though Graham only recently arrived at this university, he has a strong connection to the program. His father, Ernest Graham, played guard for the Terps from 1978 to 1981 and scored 1,607 points in his career.
The elder Graham holds the Terps’ single-game scoring record, a 44-point outburst against N.C. State in 1978.
Jonathan Graham never matched that type of production for the Nittany Lions, but he has accumulated experience at the college level. Graham started a combined 25 games over the past two seasons for Penn State and had career highs of 3.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a redshirt freshman in the 2011-12 campaign.
He put up gaudy double-doubles playing locally at Calvert Hall College High School but never really clicked with the Terps on the recruiting trail.
“That was a long time ago,” Graham said. “Things were different.”
Now, he’ll get the chance to build on those in his career as a Terp this season if his waiver is accepted.
“Naturally, I’m a competitor,” Graham said. “I want to play. I’m not going to sit and be 100 percent cool with not playing, but at the same time, it’s out of my hands.”
Even if the NCAA clears Graham to play, it’s not obvious how prominently he’ll figure into the Terps rotation. Coach Mark Turgeon mentioned he thought he had eight clear-cut rotational players during his media day press conference, and Graham isn’t one of those eight.
Still, with his experience and size, Graham could provide depth to a frontcourt that lost center Alex Len to the NBA and forward James Padgett to graduation. As a result, Graham is likely to see floor time in some capacity if he’s available to play.
“Jonathan, obviously, he’s practicing with us,” Turgeon said. “We’re in the appeal process. Hopefully we’re going to know on him in the next couple weeks.”
But Graham and Turgeon don’t appear stressed over the situation. Whatever the NCAA decides is out of their control.
So until Graham knows his fate, he’ll focus on his studies and his game. And while he adapts to the actions of new teammates in a new place, the classroom and the court are sure to overlap.
“The funniest thing is when you learn something in school and you see it real life,” Graham said. “It’s always mind-boggling. You never thought you’d see it so soon. It’s not often, but when you do see it, it’s like, ‘Wow, I just learned that in class.’”