Graham Brown simply cannot surrender to senioritis.
Not with the teachers he”s got.
The Mio native will be donning the maize and blue next fall as a member of Michigan coach Tommy Amaker”s first recruiting class. But for right now, Brown has a few influences to keep him grounded at home.
Graham”s father, Richard, is his teacher for both English and French at Class D Mio-AuSable High School. Richard has had the peculiar yet enjoyable experience of teaching all three of his sons Graham (18), Griffin (23) and Gabe (29). Also in the same school district is Graham”s mother, Mary, who is a fifth-grade teacher.
“It”s weird to have them in the same school,” Graham said. “But you get used to it.”
Did the sons ever slip and call their teacher, “Dad?”
“Always,” Graham said with a grin. “He doesn”t care.”
Said Griffin: “I can”t ever imagine calling him “Mr. Brown.””
That doesn”t mean his classes were cakewalks.
“It”s the total opposite of that,” Griffin said. “He was even harder on us.”
While somewhat uncomfortable, having their father as a teacher certainly didn”t hurt the Brown boys academically. Both Gabe and Griffin are Michigan graduates and mechanical engineers in Holland.
Gabe was a manager on the Michigan basketball team when the “Fab Five” graced the Crisler floor something that helped peak Graham”s interest in becoming a Wolverine even more.
“We were always huge fans,” Griffin said. “It was almost a no-brainer for him. He kept his options open in the beginning, but there was never any doubt where he was going.”
As a very polished 6-foot-10 power forward, Graham had plenty of options to choose from. He said he received interest from several Big Ten schools, including Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State.
“Michigan State wanted me pretty bad too,” Brown said.
This past summer, Graham played on the same AAU team as fellow incoming recruit Lester Abrams from Pontiac Northern High School. That”s when Michigan assistant coach Billy Schmidt first approached him.
Right away, Graham said he connected with the Michigan coaches, saying that he liked Amaker”s “friendly” demeanor and how he “stood up for his players.” Graham also knew that he could make an impact immediately, as an already depth-stricken Michigan frontline will lose it”s only legitimate post player in 6-foot-9 in senior Chris Young.
“They said I can come in next year and play right away if things go well,” Graham said. “They need a big guy real bad like Chris Young, and I think I can be that.”
Not coincidentally, Young is the player to whom Graham compares himself, saying that he likes to “post up and bang bodies” down low. But Graham said he “can step out and shoot a little better than Young.”
What does Young have to say about this?
“Is he another Chris Young? I don”t know,” Young said. “He”ll probably be better. He”s only 18, but he”s just as big and strong as I am now. You could look at us and think we”re brothers.
“I”m cuter though.”
Attractiveness aside, one thing that Graham”s father thinks is different about his son is his fresh demeanor on and off the court.
“You”ll never see him get mad on the court,” Richard said. “The other night, he got the living daylights knocked out of him and he was still smiling.”
Graham has good reasons for being happy, as he averaged 24 points, 20 boards and eight assists per game as a junior last season. This year he is close to the same totals for the undefeated Thunderbolts who are ranked No. 3 in Class D by the Detroit Free Press.
“He can play right away,” said HoopScoop recruiting analyst Clark Francis. “Is he going to be great? I don”t know. But in a year or two he can be a heck of a player.”
Mio is a small town, but Griffin said that “everyone in Northern Michigan is afraid of Mio”s basketball team, because they”re the best.”
Griffin said that the 1,000-seat capacity gym that the Thunderbolts play in is always packed, and Graham is a big reason for that.
At Michigan, Graham will have some help in the post, as two other big men join him in the 2002 recruiting class, which has been ranked in the top 10 nationally by several publications. Chris Hunter (6-foot-11, 210 pounds) and Amadou Ba (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) will provide the Wolverines with some much needed depth in the paint.
Ba can supposedly speak five different languages, but how many can Graham use efficiently?
“One, maybe two,” Graham said with a grin. “My French is kind of shaky.”
Better not tell his dad.