695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
Baltimore native Donchez Graham has accepted an assistant coaching position on the staff of the College of Charleston. He will be joining new head coach Natasha Adair, who is coming over from Wake Forest. Coach Graham led Owings Mills High school to a final four appearance at UMBC in the MPSSAA 2A playoffs. Coach Graham also had a very successful stint with the Maryland Lady Shooting Stars during his time between college jobs. When contacted Graham had the following comment: "I am very excited about my new journey here at the College Of Charleston! Under Head Coach Natasha Adair we will "Restore The Roar!' I tried hard to positively impact our Baltimore Metro area and hopefully I left the landscape better than I found it. I will be watching and recruiting this area hard. I hope many of you will join me at this amazing jewel by the beach the College Of Charleston." You can read our interview from earlier this year below.
695: Tell me about your background...where are you from? Where did you grow up?
Coach: I am originally from West Baltimore (Edmondson Village). I graduated from Mt. St. Joseph HS Morgan State University and Goucher College.
695: Did you play ball growing up?
Coach: We played all sports in my neighborhood!
695: Tell me about your coaching career...how did you get started and where have you coached?
Coach: My entire career was made possible by people who saw something in me that I hadn’t seen yet! I try to honor their belief in me by coaching my hardest every opportunity I get with young people with the pledge to live up to their belief in me.
I began my coaching career at Mary E. Rodman Elementary school coaching a coed house league. It was such a success that we began playing neighboring elementary schools. The students were so excited about basketball that their grades and self esteem soared. I was also blessed to be able to coach some wonderful kids that would go on to dramatically impact Baltimore high school basketball scene notably: Jajuan Ice Robinson who starred at Dunbar HS and Latonya Blue who starred at St. Francis and then University of Virginia. From the success I’d achieved at Mary Rodman a former high school classmate of mine Melvin Smith recommended me to another classmate of mine Clayton Rorie who was the Athletic Director at a new charter school Gwynn Lake Academy to come and be the head coach the boy’s team. I gleefully accepted the position immediately jumped in to the jungle that is the Baltimore high school boys basketball. It was no joke here in Baltimore during that time period the talent was any recruiters and coaches dream. And I worked hard build a team they were a great group of boys to work with and we made a splash quickly going 12-12 in our first year. In my third year at Gwynn Lake my life changed forever! I was asked to be an assistant coach on Gwynn Lakes new girls team under Roland Hall who was an incredible teacher and motivator of the game. This team was arguably the best girls high school team ever assembled in our area and the second best team I have ever coached. This experience was awesome and from that point on I was hooked on coaching girls basketball. That summer I also began coaching AAU girls basketball with the Baltimore Ravens and we had a awesome team we won the Maryland District AAU title and placed 8th in the AAU 13U Nationals. After I left Gwynn Lake
I was offered an opportunity to coach with a Baltimore basketball ICON Wardell Selby. And at Dunbar we did for the girls what Bob Wade had done for the boys Win! In five years we won 4 state titles! While working with Coach Selby he opened his doors to his AAU organization the Baltimore Cougars and it was a match made in heaven! During my time as a Head Coach we won countless Maryland district championships and we became a national power by winning the Boo Williams Spring Showcase 17 U finishing 3rd place AAU 16u Nationals which at the time was the highest any team in Maryland had ever finished and we were the first girls basketball organization to be awarded a major shoe sponsorship deal (Adidas).
My next stop was the Mecca of girls’ high school basketball in Baltimore Western High School. My years at Western were great ones and I took over a program that was a shadow of its former self and we worked hard and resurrected that program back to its rightful place.
The next step was made possible by an old AAU foe Donald Beasley of the dreaded Md. Hurricanes. He offered me the top assistants job at Morgan State University Bears my alma mater what could be better than that! I always wanted to coach at the college level to see if I measured up and I wanted to restore the roar at this proud institution. When we got their the bears had a 4 year record of 4 and 75 in five years there we won over 50 games played in MEAC conference championship game and qualified to play in the WNIT both were schools first.
All the success with the Bears created a opportunity at West Virginia University and the Big East conference. This was an awesome opportunity! It’s not often in life you get to test yourself against the very best in the world to find out how you measure up. And we passed test we won a school record 29 games, were the Big East Tournament runner up, played in the NCAA tournament and finished the season ranked 12 in the nation. Not bad for a humble guy from Edmondson Village.
Now I’m home and happy coaching harder than ever at Owings Mills High School last year we won 14 game, Team Maryland Lady Shooting Stars 16u State Champs last spring and my new endeavor Full Court Basketball Training Services.
695: Who is the biggest influence on your coaching style and philosophy?
Coach: I have a lot of coaching influences on my coaching style. I’ve always liked aggressive styles it suit my own personality. Here are few of my favorites Defensive influences John Thompson, C. Vivian Stringer, Mike Carey, Roland Hall, Tom Thibodeau and Morgan Wooten aggressive man to man full and half court styles are truly remarkable to study. Offensively Motion offenses I love John Wooden, Tex Winter, Geno Auriemna, Doug Bruno. Transitions Donald Beasely, Paul Westhead, John Calipari. Situations and Quick Hitters Hubie Brown and the entire NBA. Player Development Tim Glover, Daryl Prue, Chris Lewis, Stretch Brandon, and Ganon Baker.
695: What do you do to stay sharp and improve your coaching?
Coach: I study game film, attend clinics, design and modify existing offenses and defenses and talk basketball with coaches at all levels to stay current and exchange info. I keep a pad and I take notes all of the time even while coaching a game if I like it I copy.
695: You had a lot of AAU success with the Cougars. What do you see in today's AAU game that's different from back then?
Coach: Locally, the pride in the area is absent and the players here don’t take basketball seriously enough and they don’t play hard anymore like they did ten years ago! During my run with the Cougars those kids forced other programs to step up and they did! The Cougars had strong teams throughout all of the age groups but they weren’t alone you also had Free Play Magic, Hurricanes, Waves, and Tornadoes and these teams were not just good locally but nationally. This dynamic made this area magical. We routinely had 40 Division I players alone and countless D2 and D3. In that era players wanted to get better so they worked at basketball often with high school, recreation coaches as well pick-up, Parents cheered, encouraged, trusted did hinder the coach from coaching, and forked over money for travel and participated with kids on the corners to raise money and the coaching was rock solid in recreation leagues in Baltimore City and County and HOCO in high schools like St. Francis with Coach Shelton, Keough Coach Stromberg, Dunbar Coach Selby and Woodlawn Coach Burroughs along with aforementioned AAU teams. Another big difference was back in 2000 more high school coaches like myself coached year around. I see way to many high school coaches now coaching to supplement their incomes not to develop players.
Nationally the rest of the country has caught up with the east coast style of play and consequently you see more kids similar from all over the country. I coached in the inaugural Adidas Top Ten Camp held on the campus of Pitt. University in either 2000 or 1999 and there were about 150 girls present and least 70 were from the DMV. If they would have played a all-star game the US vs. DMV we would have won no question. Players today are still benefitting from that time period those kids made the DMV the hottest recruiting area in America.
695: What do you think about the overall state of girls basketball in the DMV area?
Coach: I think from an Select/AAU team organizational level observation we are under attack! So many of our more talented players are leaving the area to the Philly Belles, Fairfax Stars and Boo Williams because they want to play in a seriously competitive environment and they also want to play on the big stages against the major teams like NY Exodus, DFW Elite and Fla.Essence. Local organizations must step their game up from a coaching/player development, field better teams, go to the better events and organizer their programs better. I’m excited about a lot of the young talent in our area like Ke Ke Palmer, Danielle Edwards and Kayla Hedgepeth. We must work together to develop our area again and restore the pride in Baltimore and the surrounding areas.
695: You've been on the showcase recruiting circuit as a college coach and as a club coach. How does that help you?
Coach: I know what colleges want in a player. I know how to develop a high school player and get them college ready. My high school and AAU team get the college experience all the time. Our practice pace, accountability and attention to detail are at the college level. In my programs we do everything like colleges do Study table, weights sessions, individual workouts, community services projects and fast paced detail oriented practices. In addition have a wealth of college coaches that are my friends so contacts are abundant and I can help navigate a high school prospect through the recruiting process.
695: What's your biggest pet peeve?
Coach: Players that don’t play hard all of the time! Coaches can’t coach effort!
Hey folks you don’t have to leave the area to get good coaching and play on strong financial select/aau programs to get optimal exposure. Coaches we must step our game up to develop our area and let’s do it together!
695: What are your plans for the future? Are you looking to return to college or are you content coaching high school and AAU for now?
Coach: Right now I’m very happy coaching at Owings Mills High School the kids work hard and we will shock folks this year. The Shooting Stars are a top flight organization Coach Mack has done nothing but a true gentleman to work under. He really puts his all into this organization along with Walt Hagin they run a first class organization more people should really give this organization a look. I would return to the college level if the right situation were to come my way but it would have to make sense to me and my family. I want everyone to know I want to share the information that I have been blessed to acquire so consider me your assistant coach. If anyone needs me to talk you, your team, organize your practices, train your players or anything related to basketball don’t hesitate to ask. Maybe you can make a section on your site ask Coach Graham.
695: That's something to think about. Thanks for your time and good luck this season.
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