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Graham weighing overseas, NBA future

Photo by Heather Meadows

Photo by Heather Meadows

More than a month into the NBA lockout, Peachtree Ridge graduate and former Ole Miss guard Zach Graham is weighing his professional basketball options, both at home and abroad.

After pre-draft workouts, waiting through the NBA draft and participating in a pre-lockout minicamp, the Atlanta Hawks expressed interest in inviting Graham to training camp, tentatively scheduled for October.

"Where I am right now is, with my agent, is between decisions whether I'm going to take the international route or stick it out and wait for the lockout to end and try out for the (Hawks) in training camp," Graham said.

The reality of the lockout has set in and Graham is considering going overseas, where he has offers on the table.

"It's reality now," Graham said. "I'm just weighing the best options that I have on the international route with my agent and my family. Hopefully, I'll know where I'm going to be in the next week or two."

Before the draft, the Suwanee native participated in workouts with the Hawks, the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz. Among the players he competed against were Washington State's Klay Thompson (Warriors), Colorado's Alec Burks (Jazz) and Kansas' Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns) -- all lottery picks in June's draft.

Going into the draft, Graham didn't have any expectations and just prepared himself for any opportunity that came his way.

"I really wasn't getting my hopes up that high," he said. "My agent and a lot of other people were telling me to not get caught up in the draft because a lot of things happen after the draft. Unfortunately, with the lockout, it makes things tougher, but people were just telling me there were other ways to be successful even if you don't get drafted."

Unfortunately for Graham, the draft didn't work out.

He did, however, make an impression on his hometown team. In addition to his perimeter shooting and lock-down defense, he also showed the ability to handle ball screens and create things with the ball in his hands.

"A couple of days after the draft, my agent got a call from the assistant (general manager) with the Atlanta Hawks," he said. "They expressed their interest. They told my agent they were familiar with me from workouts and wanted to get a third look at me, so they brought me into their free-agent minicamp."

At the minicamp for draft picks and free agents, the Hawks' second-round pick Keith Benson and 2008 lottery pick Joe Alexander headlined the participants. With no NBA summer league due to the lockout, the minicamp provided another opportunity to be scouted and evaluated for Graham.

"The camp went really well," Graham said. "I got a good feel for the coaches. I feel they got a good feel for me. I really just wanted to go into the camp, trying to get better every day, and I feel like I finished better than I started."

Shortly thereafter, but before the NBA's labor deal expired at midnight July 1 and the league locked out its players, Graham received another, more exciting, call from his hometown team.

"A couple of days before the lockout, I actually got a call from the (Hawks') assistant general manager, who reached out to my agent and expressed interest in bringing me into their training camp, which would be with the team in a couple of months."

A two-sport standout and state-champion quarterback at Peachtree Ridge, Graham has gotten back to his roots this offseason. Day-in, day-out, Graham works out and plays pick-up games with NBA players and other NBA hopefuls. South Gwinnett graduate Lou Williams, now with the Philadelphia 76ers, and Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith and Damien Wilkins are among them.

"It's really convenient being able to stay home and work out at home," Graham said. "Being back home in Gwinnett means everything. This is where I grew up. This is where everything started as far as sports."