Graham named to coach’s and sports writer’s post season teams

Ellie Graham goes to the line at the Murphy Center during the Raiderettes’ state championship run. She played every game despite battling both strep throat and a sinus infection. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Reed)


Lynchburg may be a small town known around the world for its number one export, its charm, and its hospitality, but we’re producing another sort of product here in the rolling hills of Moore County: talented high school athletes. Among them is Moore County High School junior Ellie Graham. The Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee (BCAT) as well as the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA) recently named the three-year girls basketball starter to the Division I 1A All-State Team for her individual success this past season. Graham is joined on the all state team by other names you may recognize from the Raiderettes’ state championship run like Wayne County’s Blair Baugus, Eagleville’s Eilza McClaran, and Clay County’s Halle Buford. {To see the complete Class A All State Team, click here.}

A player who single-handedly affects the game

In her three seasons with the Raiderettes, the team’s star forward has shown an impressive ability to dominate both inside the paint and on the perimeter – making her an indispensable player on both ends of the court. Her skill in maneuvering through defenses and scoring from outside has turned her into a formidable force in the Raiderettes’ arsenal. Her versatility also allows her to defend the one through the five.

Graham’s dynamic presence on the court also creates better opportunities for her teammates. By attracting defensive focus, she often creates advantageous situations for other players that lead to mismatches and open shots. Her ability to impact the game extends beyond her personal statistics and deeply influences the team’s strategy and execution.

An impact player since her freshman year

Dating back to her freshman year, Graham’s played an impact role for the Moore County squad. She managed to start consistently throughout the season on a team loaded with senior talent. Graham averaged 10.7 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game over her first high school season. As a role player on that squad, she was able to learn from the older girls and use that to prepare herself for when her time came to be a leader on the team.

“They got me out of a middle school mindset because in middle school I was a lot bigger than everybody, so they made me realize I was going to be playing against bigger, better, faster people,” said Graham.

As a sophomore, Graham put together another solid season. She improved her scoring average to 13.6 PPG and put together 6.1 RPG. Her efforts in the 2022-2023 season were good enough to help the Raiderettes to a 20-12 season and she was named to the All-District regular season and tournaments teams.

However, the biggest improvement happened between her sophomore and junior season as she became a workhorse for the Raiderettes in 2023-24 as Moore County managed a spot in the Class 1A championship game for the first time since 2010 . She averaged 12.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG on the year while being the focal point of opposing defenses all season. Graham also scored her one thousandth career point in her junior season.

Grit and determination in the post season

During the postseason, area coaches and officials recognized Graham with spots on the All District 9 Tournament, All Region 5 Tournament, and All Class 1A Tournament teams. She helped lead the Raiderettes to a 25-10 record including a state final berth that found them in the Class 1A championship game against Pickett County. The Raiderettes may not have won, but her road through the postseason was not as easy as one may think.

Just days before the Raiderettes were set to host the substate game against McEwen, Graham came down with strep throat and a sinus infection. She would not let an illness keep her off the court in games that could have potentially been the end of the Raiderettes’ season – a true testament to her leadership role.

“I went and got two steroid shots and had to drink a lot of Liquid I.V. to get my energy up. When I was playing it wasn’t awful, but it still wasn’t very fun,” said Graham. “I had been dealing with it pretty much the whole week before the substate game, and then it just got worse two days before. Even after our first state game, I was still a little sick, but it got better after that.”

A player with high basketball IQ

As a junior on a team with no seniors, Graham was forced to step up as a team captain despite being one of the younger players on the team. Graham shows her leadership by both example and words. When she is not leading her team vocally, she is able to provide an expert example to her teammates through her knowledge of the game. Her high basketball IQ helps her excel on the court and has allowed her to have so much success in her high school career. Raiderettes’ Head Coach Chad Spencer said coaching Ellie is like having an extra assistant coach out on the court.

“She’s just a good role model for the girls in our community coming up,” said Spencer. “As for me as a coach, I’ve given her some of the reigns and she’s probably been one of the better captains that I’ve had in my career.”

Graham’s commitment to basketball goes beyond just participation. For Graham, it is a year-round endeavor that fills her life with the rhythms of dribbling and the sounds of sneakers on hardwood. Once the official high school basketball season concludes, she does not take a break. Instead, she transitions seamlessly into the AAU basketball season on Topgun Basketball. This team offers her a platform to compete against some of the best high school players in the south.

A mental and physical game

With the individual success that she has had in her time at MCHS, teams will be looking to find number 20 at all times on the court next season. This will only open the door for the rest of her talented teammates to take over a game on any given night.

“That’s what makes us so good in my opinion is that you can’t just guard one of us,” said Coach Spencer. “Any kid I put on the court is capable of putting the ball in the hole and getting on a run to have a big game.”

Graham’s dedication does not stop at team practices and scheduled games. She also engages in private training sessions, as well as a disciplined personal regimen that she adheres to regardless of weather or mood. These sessions often include hours of shooting drills, strength conditioning, and studying game footage of her own and of opposing teams. She understands that being successful on the court is about more than just physical training but also mental preparation.

Her passion for basketball also has a nurturing and communal aspect. This year, Graham has begun to channel her knowledge and love for the game into coaching. Recognizing the impact her mentors have had on her growth, she decided to give back to the community by training young kids. This new role involves teaching basic skills, instilling a love for the game, and providing the same encouragement that she received as a young player. It’s a rewarding addition to her life in basketball, allowing her to see the game from a different perspective and to influence the next generation of players.

“I’ve only gotten to work with two kids so far because I’m just starting it this year, but I’m just taking some of the stuff that I learned from whenever I trained,” said Graham.

Graham says basketball is not just a sport for her. It’s a calling. Whether she’s competing, training, or coaching, she shows a relentless pursuit of excellence and a deep desire to share her passion with others. •

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