Sophomore Graham thrives in increased role

Kingston native key cog to program resurgence

Kingston native Tanner Graham (right) has become a key player for the Gaels.
Kingston native Tanner Graham (right) has become a key player for the Gaels.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

When Greg Faulkner left the Queen’s basketball program last year, it looked like there would be a gaping hole where he’d once been. Faulkner was the Gaels’ leading scorer and played well despite the team’s poor performance. 

In his absence, others on the team have stepped up to take his place, Tanner Graham among them.

Upping his contributions from last year, when he averaged 7.9 points per game to now 12.8, Graham has established himself as crucial to the team’s 7-3 record. 

At 6’7”, Graham might seem like he was born to play basketball. But ask him what sports he played as a child and the list ranges from soccer, to hockey to baseball. Ultimately, a combination of natural talent and family swayed him to basketball. 

“My mom played when she was growing up and was really good at basketball, so that influenced me.”

Perhaps that family history also impacted Graham’s twin brother, Jesse. He also plays for the Queen’s team, coming off the bench most nights in a forward role.

Having a family member on the roster has helped ease the transition to university athletics.

“We’ve played together since we were little,” Graham said. “All throughout high school we played together, so it’s someone you’re used to playing with. It’s nice to have him on the court with you.”

For team leader Sukhpreet Singh, Graham’s transition as a player hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Tanner has been great for us,” Singh said. 
“He is really emerging as quite the player in this league and he is only in his second year. [In] first year he was only a three-point shooter and now he has really added a lot to his game.”

“He can get to the rack … he is great defensively, he can guard a whole bunch of different positions. He is really putting the ball in the hole for us and we really need that. We need a bunch of scorers. For him to step up like that for us, it’s huge for the team.”

When it comes to his personal development, Graham claims to dislike setting goals for himself, but a look at his performance confirms that he has no trouble addressing his weaknesses.

“One of my goals was to improve my rebounding because we talked about it over the break and I was averaging less than five rebounds. So, definitely five is a bare minimum of what I want to be averaging.”

At an average of 7.5 per game, Graham now stands at ninth in the OUA for rebounds. He is also second overall for blocks, with 16.

Despite the team’s best start in recent history, Graham insists they can do better.

“We are winning games, but I think we could win by more,” he said. “All our games are so close. I just want to break out of that.”

To make that possible, the team has  focused on foundational skills in practice. 

“Our game against York, that was a three-point game,” Graham said of Queen’s win this past weekend by a 62-59 score. “We feel it should have been a lot less close. We just turned the ball over too much.”

With only three losses this year — two to nationally-ranked teams — the team has plenty to celebrate.

“We think we can go really far this year,” Graham said. “Our goal is to make Final Four in the OUA ... If you make the top four you have a very good chance of going to nationals, so that’s our goal.”

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