Forward James Graham III passed the ball off to Chol Marial, who immediately drew the double team with a little under 13 minutes left against Wingate. The early enrollee freshman then cut diagonally into the paint, received the ball from the big man and dropped in a floater with ease for his first bucket as a Terrapin.
On the next possession, he scored a triple. He sunk another deep ball right after that. Graham, not even a legal adult yet, scored the first eight points of his college career in just over a minute — but he wasn’t done just yet.
With a little over eight minutes left, Graham saw an opening down low and streaked into the paint. After collecting a lob pass from guard Reese Mona at the left block, the forward rose up for a two-handed jam.
Graham finished the afternoon with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor, along with four rebounds. He was one of four Terps to score their first points for Maryland men’s basketball in the 100-58 victory against Wingate, a Division II program, Friday.
“It’s very impressive,” big man Galin Smith said. “[Graham] hasn’t been here very long at all, so just the fact that he’s able to come in and he’s already able to contribute is gonna be big for us.”
Every available player on Maryland’s roster saw minutes on the hardwood against the Division II opponent Friday, with freshman Arnuad Revaz and walk-ons Aidan McCool and Jade Brahmbhatt scoring their first buckets as well.
Prior to the matchup, Graham had played 14 minutes across two games, often looking like a deer caught in headlights as he adjusted to the college game. Though he’d managed five rebounds, Graham missed all three of his attempts from the floor, all of which were triples, and he struggled on defense at times.
But this was expected. After all, the forward only arrived on campus on Dec. 27 after finishing his last semester of high school. After going through testing protocol, he participated in his first practice as a Terp on Dec. 30 — a mere 17 days before his breakout performance in Friday’s game.
“What we’re doing to him is almost impossible, for him to to come in after Christmas as a 17 year old kid,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the victory. “I think offensively we all got a little bit more confident with him. I think defensively is where he’s got to go a long ways for us to really trust him in these Big Ten games.”
Though Graham is expected to see some more minutes in the future as he continues to progress, the trio of Revaz, McCool and Brahmbhatt got a rare opportunity with Maryland holding a huge lead late.
Revaz was the first one to get to work. The Terps drew an offensive foul from the Bulldogs with 6:35 left, which sent the 6-foot-10 Swiss freshman to the line for the bonus. His first shot circled around the rim, but didn’t fall. The second looked like it might do the same, but it bounced in, giving Revaz his first point.
McCool made two shots of his own at the charity stripe with 2:23 left, but it was Jade Brahmbhatt, who subbed in with just under two minutes left, who stole the show.
Off a fast break following a Bulldogs miss, Revaz kicked the ball out to freshman guard Marcus Dockery on the corner. Dockery found Brahmbhatt to his right and the walk-on put up the three-point attempt. Even before the ball went through the net, his teammates were up out of their seats on the bench going crazy.
Brahmbhatt, who played two seasons at the University of the Pacific after attending Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, hadn’t played a single minute for the Terps prior.
“It’s just always fun seeing those guys who make us better in practice every single day, because we take advantage of having them for us and we try to use them to the best of our abilities in terms of they’re making us better in practice,” guard Aaron Wiggins said. “Seeing those guys go out there and be able to do what they’ve done in practice and contribute to the game, it’s always awesome to see.”
With an extremely difficult Big Ten schedule filled with ranked opponents ahead, including three consecutive games against ranked opponents starting with No. 7 Michigan on Tuesday night, it’s unlikely such players (outside of Graham) will see significant action for the rest of the season. But on Friday, they got their chance in the spotlight.
“Guys that haven’t scored at all in their career are now in the history books forever,” Turgeon said after the win. “You can’t ever draw things up the way you want to work out, but today, I don’t know if it could have gone any better for our team.”