Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
'This is a big deal for me': Vegas visit is special for Graham
Arkansas forward Jalen Graham (11) is shown during practice Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS — Jalen Graham is thrilled to be playing closer to home.
Arkansas’ first- and second-round West Region victories over ninth-seeded Illinois and top-seeded Kansas last week in Des Moines, Iowa, has the Arizona State forward transfer in his first Sweet 16 and less than a five-hour drive away from his hometown of Phoenix. The proximity to his roots is special for Graham.
His mother, brother, twin sister and some former roommates at Arizona State will be in attendance for the Razorbacks’ game against Connecticut on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena. It will be the first time this season his family will watch him in person.
“Having them able to come to this game and be a part of this is amazing,” Graham said Wednesday. “This is a big deal for me and I’m happy that they’re able to come out. They’re just some really close people around me that have been in my life for years, and they’re coming out to support me.”
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Graham added that his fan section will be full of people who have impacted every aspect of his life.
Basketball is fairly important in his family. His twin sister, who he said stands 6-3, is not a fan of the sport, but his mother is.
Graham said his mother named him after Jalen Rose, the former Michigan basketball standout who had a 13-year career in the NBA.
“My mom, she’s the only thing I really had growing up,” Graham said. “She’s really my rock. My brother, too, and my twin sister — all of my family are really close.
“The friends that I do have, like my friend group, I’ve been friends with them since middle school. We’re all close.”
Graham is also no stranger to T-Mobile Arena, where the Pac-12 Conference Tournament has been played since 2017. He played three games in the arena with the Sun Devils.
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Graham has averaged 6.3 points and 5 rebounds in T-Mobile Arena. He finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block during Arizona State’s 64-59 victory over Washington State in March 2021.
“I’ve played in this arena a lot. I’m used to this,” Graham said. “It’s fun. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Graham played seven minutes total during Arkansas’ first two NCAA Tournament games, but there is thought he could have an impact of some sort against UConn.
“If I get the opportunity (to play) or if Coach wants me to go, then that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “This is what I’ve always wanted for my career. It’s the reason why I transferred and it’s the reason why I left Arizona State is to be making a deep run in March.
“Hopefully we can continue to keep going.”
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