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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Summer circuit isn't all bad, as Graham's story proves


Dillon Graham just wanted an offer from UCF.

That was the goal.

Unknown just weeks ago, Dillon Graham now has offers from Kansas and Louisville. (Provided to CBSSports.com)  
Unknown just weeks ago, Dillon Graham now has offers from Kansas and Louisville. (Provided to CBSSports.com)  
Sure, he already had scholarships on the table from Liberty, Jacksonville and Wyoming, and those were nice. But UCF is just a long 3-pointer away from Graham's Orlando-area home and the place where most of his friends enroll. So the little-known prospect from the little private school wanted to make a big impression when he attended a camp on the Conference USA campus last month. For what it's worth, he thought he did.

"I thought I was playing the best ball I've ever played in my life during that camp," Graham told CBSSports.com. "I wasn't scared. I was just taking over, scoring at will. Not to be cocky or arrogant, but I thought I was doing what I've always wanted to do. I thought for sure I was going to get an offer. But I didn't."

And then came the July evaluation period.

Graham began the first of two 10-day stretches during which college coaches are allowed to evaluate prospects at NCAA-sanctioned events by helping his summer team, the Florida Rams, win the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis. The 6-foot-4 shooter consistently competed at a high level against high-major competition and proved he's more than just a skilled player preying on small-school opponents at First Academy. Consequently, Donnie Jones and his UCF staff were convinced he was good enough. So they finally offered Graham that scholarship he always wanted, as did ...

"Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Kansas State, Florida State and USF," Graham said Sunday night less than 24 hours after taking a phone call from Louisville coach Rick Pitino. "I kind of had a small idea that I could play at this level, but I never thought it would happen because I never thought I'd have the opportunity to showcase my skills."

More on Summer Recruiting

Summer basketball has a bad reputation that's warranted on a lot of levels. But Dillon Graham's story is among the reasons it's foolish to paint July with a broad brush, because without the circuit that creates so many problems, a tale like this couldn't happen. Graham is, according to Scout.com, a zero-star prospect whose profile page is completely empty; Rivals.com has a similar scouting report. Which means Graham started the month with no national profile, and I can't imagine any of the out-of-state coaches who've now offered him so much as knew his name two weeks ago.

"There's no question -- none of this would be possible without summer basketball," said Graham's mother, Renee Graham. "We've had mixed emotions with AAU in the past. But this whole circuit thing that he's doing right now is really terrific. These coaches would've never seen him without it. With him being at such a small school, he just wouldn't have had these opportunities at all. We're just grateful."

So Graham now heads to Las Vegas with his Florida Rams teammates to play in the Adidas Super 64 event that starts Thursday, and he'll do so with more attention than he has ever enjoyed. He was a reserve guard on Austin Rivers' summer team last July, so he's played in front of high-major coaches. But Graham barely got on the court back then, and the high-major coaches weren't there to see him anyway.

This will obviously be different.

It'll likely go well.

Perhaps just OK.

But, either way, Graham will finish the summer with offers he didn't have when the summer began thanks to a 10-day period that has literally changed his life. And if it does goes well, maybe, just maybe, he'll eventually find himself listed by some recruiting service when everybody's rankings are updated in August.

"I've never even looked at that stuff," Graham said. "I've never been a big-name kid until now."

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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