Pats' Graham: All The Moves, None Of The Ego

Posted: March 24, 2000

The constant pats on the back, the endless attention, the pile of awards - Cherrise Graham could live a happy life without them.

Really.

Which makes Archbishop Carroll's Graham, The Inquirer's Main Line and Delaware County girls' basketball player of the year, somewhat of an athletic rarity.

She is the star athlete without the attitude; the athlete with the type of personality that makes friends, coaches and acquaintances gush over her.

"That's the last thing [a big ego] I want people to think I have," Graham said. "I know a few players at AAU last summer thought I was just the cockiest person because of the way I was warming up. I guess I was really focused. But afterward they said I was different."

So do others.

"She's not impressed with herself at all," Patriots coach Barry Kirsch said. "Around school she'll talk to anybody and everybody. It's not like she only talks to certain people. She's great that way. She has no ego for somebody who is as good as she is. There's more to her than just basketball."

She also is a fine artist and student, but everybody in the area knows her for her basketball skills, which are incredible.

She averaged 15.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4.3 steals per game this season, leading the Patriots (24-3) to the Catholic League championship for the first time since 1979 as the team won its last 20 games. She shot 57 percent (144 for 253) from the floor and 72 percent (69 for 94) from the free-throw line.

But it was her passes and drives into the lane that made her stand out and drew the attention of the fans. No-look passes, behind-the-back passes, reverse layups - they were all part of Graham's repertoire.

She will bring those talents to West Lafayette, Ind., next season, where she will play for Purdue, which won the NCAA championship last season.

"I love playing with her," said Abington Heights senior Amber Jacobs, who was Graham's AAU teammate last summer and a Boston College signee. "She's the best player I have ever seen. She's very heady. I think she's grown a lot. She has everything that a girl needs for basketball, except height, but she can jump out of the sky, so that doesn't really matter."

Had Graham, who is 5-foot-8, been more into her statistics than getting her teammates involved, she could have scored much more this season.

Much more.

"She could have scored 25 easily if she wanted to," Kirsch said. "But she's not that type of player. And I'm not that type of coach, either. She loved passing the ball. I think she'd rather make a pass than take a shot.

"A lot of times, big first-team all-Americans don't want to do that. They want to put the points up on the board. She's very content with getting other people good shots."

When asked what she remembers most about this season, Graham, the Pennsylvania High School player of the year, talks about the team's chemistry and how close she was to her teammates. Teammates like Kelly Springman, Mary Beth Culbertson and Kelly Berk, who often benefited from Graham's passes and relentless defense.

She remembers the Patriots' 52-42 victory over Cardinal O'Hara in the Catholic League championship game and their 77-57 victory Jan. 16 over perennial power Christ the King (N.Y.).

King coach Bob Mackey, who has seen his share of talented players, was impressed with Graham. She scored 24 points against King, 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter.

"I'm looking forward to seeing her make that next step at the college level," he said. "She's got to be one of the top three or four players on the East Coast. No doubt about that. She's definitely one of the better guards in the country."

Not that you would know that by talking to her.

"When people say those things to me I just listen. I don't say anything back," she said. "I don't want to come off cocky. I know what I have to work on. I know what I need to do to become a better player. I just want to play."

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