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Finding a hoops home at Westview

01/11/2014, 11:04am PST
By John Maffei

Marcus Graves has made smooth transition to basketball in San Diego.


Westview High boys basketball coach Kyle Smith instructs his players Wednesday during a timeout of their loss to Eastvale Roosevelt at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic at Santa Fe Christian School. Smith took over the program in 2009.

Marcus Graves was an angry young man.

Faced with the very realistic possibility he'd have to leave his state playoff Independence High team in North Carolina and start all over as a senior in San Diego, he pouted.

After all, he averaged 12.4 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 steaks on a team that was 24-6, went three rounds into the state playoffs, and was supposed to be better this season.

Then he discovered father really does know best.

"I wanted to finish high school in Carolina," said Marcus, a jet-quick, pass-first point guard.

"I was fighting hard to stay.

"But my dad sat me down and said I'd be going off to college in a year. This was our last chance to stay together.

"He said we were going to San Diego as a family ... end of discussion."

The cross-country move was necessary because Fred Graves changed jobs.

A veteran coach with 37 years of experience, 12 in the NFL, Graves was let go as receivers coach by the Carolina Panthers. But he landed the same job with the Chargers, joining former University of Utah coaching mate Mike McCoy, who had been hired as head coach of the Chargers.

"We talked about the move, about staying in Charlotte," said Fred Graves. "There were a lot of mad sessions. A lot of crying sessions.

"If I had landed a job in say Atlanta, that would have been different. But San Diego is a 4 1/2-hour flight.

"The biggest thing was I didn't want the family to live apart."

The nomadic life of a professional football coach has taken the Graves family - and Marcus - from Utah, to New York, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Carolina and now San Diego.

"This is our seventh move, so I've seen everything," Marcus said.

"We talked about me staying in Carolina with another family. Talked about my dad working in San Diego and my mom and myself staying in Charlotte.

"But what my dad said really made sense. So here I am."

Fred Graves was a receiver at Utah, leading the Utes with 45 catches as a senior in 1971.

Michele Graves, the mother, played softball at Long Beach Wilson and was an All-American pitcher at Utah. She won 64 games in a career that included a perfect game against BYU and a trip to the College World Series in '85.

"We had told Marcus he could finish high school in Charlotte," Michelle Graves said. "Fred had signed a contract extension with the Panthers, and everything looked good.

"But things changed."

Despite the extension, Fred Graves and several other coaches were let go by Panthers head coach Ron Rivera after the 2012 season.

"My mom and dad and four sisters live in Southern California, so I was going to San Diego with Fred," Michele said.

"I wasn't going to let another family raise my son, so Marcus was going with us.

"We should never have told Marcus he could finish high school in Charlotte even though Fred had that extension."

The Graves family arrived in San Diego in June. Prior to that, they looked for schools for Marcus.

Among other spots, they looked at Cathedral Catholic, Torrey Pines and in the Poway area.

"Foremost, we were looking for a good school," Michele Graves said. "Basketball was important, but secondary.

"The basketball coaches in San Diego do things by the book. They couldn't talk to Marcus until he was enrolled at their school.

"If he were a trumpet player and changed schools, he'd check out the music department and talk to the instructors.

"But we couldn't talk to the basketball coaches.

"We heard great things about Westview and the Poway district. We found a nice home near Westview, so we took a chance."

The gamble has paid off for both side.

The 6-foot Marcus is the starting point guard, averaging 17 points a game for a team that is 9-6.

"First, Marcus is a great kid," said Westview Coach Kyle Smith. "He has a great burst of speed and can beat defenders to the point.

"He can shoot, and he's a defensive leader. His best asset, though, is his passing."

Marcus had 26 points in a one-point loss to Mira Mesa on Monday. Wednesday, in a 61-56 win over Mission Hills, he had 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, sinking four free throws in the closing minutes to seal the win.

"Getting to San Diego in June helped a lot," Marcus said. "I played with the team all summer. I wasn't the new guy coming to school in September.

"My strengths fit the team. I like to get everyone involved. I like to get out in transition, get to the basket.

"Basketball here and North Carolina is about the same. Teams in Carolina play a little more up tempo, but we're an up-tempo team at Westview.

"The best thing is that things have worked out great.

"My dad loves his receivers. My mom and I are at every home game, and we're going to Denver for the playoff game Sunday.

"My transition has been smooth. A lot of the guys on my team have been playing together since the sixth grade. But they embraced me.

"And Coach Smith trusts me to run his team."

john.maffei@utsandiego.com

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