BASKETBALL: It's all about the team for new GNTC signee Stone Graham

On hand to watch LaFayette senior Stone Graham (seated, center) sign on to play basketball for Georgia Northwestern was Denise Johnson and Steve Johnson, along with LaFayette assistant coach Chris Logan, Georgia Northwestern head coach David Stephenson, LaFayette head coach Hank Peppers and LaFayette assistant coach Jesse Peppers. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

Just one day after signing Ridgeland's Eric Byrd, Georgia Northwestern head coach David Stephenson dipped back into Walker County to pick up another recruit in LaFayette senior Stone Graham.

Graham was one of just two seniors on the Ramblers' Region 6-AAAA championship squad that made a run all the way to the Class 4A Elite Eight this past season.

He said he was grateful for the opportunity to continue his playing career at the next level.

"I got the opportunity so I took it," he said. "It means a lot to me. This is another great opportunity that I've had in my life. (LaFayette head coach) Hank (Peppers) helped me out a whole lot through all of this and I've had great teammates. I'm really thankful and blessed to be in this spot."

"From a playing perspective, Stone is a really good player," Peppers said. "He can slash to the basket, he finished a lot of games for us and helped us in big moments. He's only been playing organized basketball for about a year-and-a-half, so his best basketball is still ahead of him. I think he's going to be a steal. He has tremendous upside and he's a gym-rat, so he puts in the work."

"I bring what I put on the table," Graham added. "I just bring as much as I can and I want to work hard to put even more on the table."

Peppers said that one of the things that sets Graham apart is his unselfish nature.

"I've never coached anyone with a better attitude than Stone," Peppers continued. "He's a true team-first player and he's willing to fill whatever role is necessary to help the team win. Plus, he's happy to do that and he embraces it.

"He's been a blessing to our program and I'm excited to see what he does at GNTC. I have a lot of respect for (Bobcats head) Coach (David) Stephenson and I'm excited for Stone's future."

Stone said personal glory comes second to team glory as far as he was concerned.

"I like to put the team first," he explained. "It doesn't matter if I score or if (my teammates) score. It's about getting the "W" more than anything."

Stephenson said finding players with attitudes like Graham's and Byrd's is becoming increasingly rare.

"You don't see a lot of team stuff in the game today," he said. "So for us to get two (team-first) guys in two days is a very good start for next year. Both of these kids just play hard, no matter what the score is, and they make teammates better.

"One of the things we talked about with our guys this past season is having a goal of making your teammates better. When people getting finished playing with you, you want them to say it was a privilege to play with you."

Stephenson said having a player of Graham's skill set will allow his Bobcats to do some different things on the court next season.

"One of the things I want to do with him, Eric and a few more guys that we have coming back is play more man defense and press a lot more," he continued. "Stone has some size on him and he's not afraid to get after it. If we can get four or five guys with that kind of attitude, we can play more man and try and push the ball a lot more.

"We're excited. We've always been able to get good kids from LaFayette and they had a great year this past season."

Graham said he is considering welding as his course of study.