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Collected wisdom: Joey Graham, former OSU and NBA player

Former Oklahoma State standout talks about his time in the NBA
by John Helsley Published: March 29, 2014
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Former OSU and NBA player

Age: 31

Hometown: Tampa, Fla.

Joey Graham was a key cog on Oklahoma State’s last Final Four squad, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this week. Joey and twin brother Stephen transferred to OSU from Central Florida, continuing Eddie Sutton’s successful trend of taking on transfers, helping fuel those Cowboys to a 31-4 record, Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles and within seconds of a national title game berth, before they lost on a late shot to Georgia Tech.

The No. 16 pick of the Toronto Raptors in the 2005 NBA Draft, Joey played for three teams over six seasons in the NBA. Most recently, he’s played in Puerto Rico, battling injuries that have hindered his hopeful return to the NBA.

He’s now back home in Tampa, with a 21/2-year old son, recovered from a leg injury and hoping for another shot in the NBA.

I was always a bigger brother to Steve. I always weighed more and was taller. So a lot of people didn’t know we were twins. A lot of people just thought he was my younger sibling.

We never really acted like twins. We never really did a lot of things that twins might do. We never dressed alike. We never did all that stuff. I don’t know why, we just didn’t.

We’re still brothers at the end of the day. We’re blood. As we get older, we find out that we do have a lot of the same interests, like food and hobbies and things like that. So we’re very close. We talk every day.

I don’t know if it’s a myth or what (about the sixth sense), but there have been a couple things that have happened. Growing up, I’d be inside or outside, and vice versa, and we would cross paths and we’d be singing the same song. That’s one little incident I know of where we kind of think alike.

It was a little rough when we were smaller (being the son of Navy pilot), because we moved around a lot. But it was also fun, because my dad used to take us flying all the time. And I think that’s where we got the itch to become pilots. That’s where I know I got the bug. The first time my father took me up, I threw up, and after that I was hooked.

He coached us in elementary school and middle school. That’s where we got that passion and the desire to compete. It started with us playing with each other. And then we started playing competitively and that’s when he started coaching us. We never played with our same age group, we always played up. So when we were 12 or 13, we were playing with the 17- and 18-year olds.

When I was coming out of high school, I was recruited by everybody in the nation. But one of my requests from my mother was that she said she wanted us to go to college together. At the time, a lot of big universities didn’t have two scholarships, especially for two brothers at the same time. Central Florida was one team that was close, right up the street about an hour and a half from Tampa, and they had two scholarships. So that gave us a great opportunity to stay together and to be close to home.

So Central Florida became the No. 1 choice out of high school.

We were freshmen and we had some fifth-year seniors at the time. The last home game, the coach went out to center court and gave the fifth-year seniors a handshake and plaque with a picture of themselves. I said to myself, “All the time and effort and sweat and tears I put in, all I’ll get is a handshake and a plaque?”

At that point in time, I wanted something more. So me and my brother both said we’ve got to do something else if we want to play at the highest level.

Eddie Sutton is one of those kind of guys, he doesn’t take any mess. That has always been his M.O. And he had a great track record of bringing in guys from awkward and tough situations and molding them into the players that he wanted them to be. And most of the time they became successful. So we knew about that track record. We knew about Eddie’s reputation. We knew all about him. And we were just excited and eager to play for him.

When we got there and we met him for the first time, it was a no-brainer.

Eddie is a handful. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He made sure everything was a tight ship. He kept everything in line. That’s the way Eddie has always been.

It was fun to be around. We used to have to sign in every morning. And Coach would bring me in his office and we’d sit down and have chats for hours before school. That was one opportunity Eddie had to talk and figure each other out and to see exactly what he expected of me and what I needed to do to get to the next level.

Eddie touched on a little bit of everything. We would talk about women. We would talk about the co-eds and school. We would talk about his past coaching career. We talked about everything.

We had a good group of talented guys there. To credit Eddie, he knew how to get guys motivated. He knew how to get guys from different walks of the Earth and different talents and different egos and different personalities and mesh us well and get us to go out and have one common goal: to play hard, play defense, and to win.

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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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