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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Graham allowed to grow with young Mustangs team
by Randy Pascal

“I think that I am right where I want to be.”

In a nutshell, this quote summarizes, with uncanny precision, the first year and a half of the OUA basketball career of Lasalle Lancers' graduate Laura Graham.

Now in her second year with the University of Western Mustangs, Graham is a key cog on a young, rebuilding squad, almost the perfect situation for the ultra-athletic Sudbury native, kept busy balancing her post-secondary career with the copious demands of the Kinesiology program.

Things have played out rather nicely for Graham, who enjoyed a freshman season working alongside five year veteran Caroline Wolynski in 2015-2016. “I kind of got shadowed by her, and kind of got to learn everything about being a point guard, teaching me the ropes,” said Graham.

“I got a lot of experience, either first, second or third off the bench. I wasn’t really expecting it that fast, but it was a really big opportunity for me to show my coach what I could do. It gave him some confidence in me.”

Enjoying a prowess in track & field along with her natural talent on the court during her high school days back home, Graham would bring an interesting mix to the school that ultimately convinced her to sign on the dotted line. “He (Western coach Brian Cheng) didn’t necessarily recruit me for the position of point guard,” she acknowledged.

“He recruited me knowing I could play multiple positions. One of the things that my coach said to me when he recruited me was that my all-around athleticism really appealed to him. Being athletic allows you to make those “basketball” plays, blocking shots and stealing balls, but also to play multiple positions.”

“I was strong enough to handle a bigger girl, but quick enough to handle a guard,” Graham added. “It really makes you versatile being an all-around good athlete.” The end result, in her freshman year, was a stat line that included twenty games played, two starts, averaging four points a game while seeing the floor for 16.6 minutes, on average.

“Going in, I wasn’t expecting to play as much as I did,” she said. “I think I played the perfect amount, so that I could still learn. I was a rookie, so obviously, I was still making mistakes.” And learn she would, a process that continued long after the end of her inaugural season with the Mustangs.

“During the summer (of 2016), I decided to stay here and work with the team,” said Graham from her residence in London. “My focus was to learn specifically how to be a point guard, so that I could step into that starting role, to work as hard as I possibly could to improve and be prepared as I could be for the season.”

Mission accomplished.

Twelve games into her sophomore campaign, Graham boasts a dozen starting assignments, averaging 33 minutes on the floor, each and every night, while nearly doubling her offensive production.

The foundation has been set for what she hopes will be an OUA career to remember. “We’re definitely a really young team, two second year starters and only one fifth year player,” noted Graham. “We’re all going to be growing together, learning how to play with each other, which really excites me.”

As such, there is plenty of motivation for her to exhaust her full CIS eligibility. “I’ll probably do my five year – I really don’t want basketball to end.”

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