Last Year's Synopsis
Jonathan Graham hasn't had the best luck as a Nittany Lion thus far. After redshirting his freshman year due to growing pains in his knees, his first year on the floor was derailed by a case of mononucleosis that saw him miss six games in December. It seemed to take a full month for him just to come back to full health and regain his fitness. While he struggled to restart his season in the middle of Big Ten play, he improved throughout the year and averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds over the last 10 games. We can now at least understand what Ed DeChellis was hinting at when he boldly labelled the Baltimore native as a potential all-conference player down the road.
His most memorable performance so far in the Blue and White came in a 69-64 win against Iowa in the BJC, where his two free-throws with 24 seconds remaining iced the game, capping a then career-best night: 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks. He outdid himself three days later, posting a career high 10 boards to go along with nine points and two blocks in a 65-55 loss at Wisconsin. Performances like these earned Graham the Most Improved Player award at the team's end of the season banquet.
Graham showed more confidence around the basket as the season wore on by improving his shooting percentage and increasing his free throw rate. He displayed the ability to finish with his back to the basket using either hand. His raw rebounding numbers could be considered subpar for a starting post player, but one would think this will increase if he does a better job of staying out of foul trouble. He should easily play more than 35.9% of the minutes available this season, since he's the best returning low post defender and one of the hardest workers on the team.
They say the most growth for college basketball players happens between the freshman and sophomore years, and if reports out of State College are correct, Graham has been working hard to make the above statement a fact. Graham shed 15 pounds to go to 225 lbs from 240 lbs and added four inches to his vertical leap in the offseason, and Chambers has praised the big man repeatedly for his hard work this summer.
That's not to say Graham won't see his share of struggles in 2012-13. The Big Ten is loaded with some of the best centers in the country, and he will have the task of guarding all of them, especially if Chambers goes with the four guard lineup he's been talking up since he arrived at Penn State. Expecting Graham to compete on the same level as the Cody Zellers and Trevor Mbakwes of the conference may be too much to ask, but getting a solid seven and seven from the big man might be all the Nittany Lions need to have a successful campaign.
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