Basketball Brings Hope: Luke Graham

Written by David Grossman

I was having lots of fun, meeting people and to be honest, I wasn’t super confident as a basketball player – but I was trying hard and am so happy now.” –  Luke Graham

Luke Graham has some engaging, and rather compelling stories, to share about his young life.

Let’s start with education. Free from the hustle and attractions of a major city, crowded school hallways and mega events, his early years of grade school have been at Sophiasburgh Central.

It’s a small school of just about 160 students located on county road 15 on the outskirts of the village of Demorestville. That’s in a quiet, scenic, rural community about 15 minutes north of Picton and not far from the popularity of Ontario’s tourist getaway at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

In a few months, things will change for Graham.

He will be graduating and shuffling off to the big times. Make that the only high school in the area. For him, it’s a larger student population, and has a variety of extracurricular activities at Prince Edward Collegiate. His hopes remain the same: focus on enhancing his strong academic grades and pursuing a dream of becoming a criminal lawyer.

And then, there’s the story about playing basketball at a summer camp. More on that as you keep reading.

For Graham, there is a great deal to be said about his overall dedication, achievement, and commitment.

Born in Peterborough, and then moving to Picton, Graham and his family would shuffle off to Abbotsford, B.C., when his father’s work took him to Canada’s west coast. It was a temporary move, but that’s where another chapter in his life kicked in.

Picture a summer day in 2020, It’s one Graham will never forget. What had occurred that day, would be described as a traumatic injury – one that would have him in hospital for two months and where he would also undergo a series of operations to repair a shattered skull and facial injuries.

Graham, who was 10 years old at the time, had been bicycling with his brother on a road near his residence in the beauty of British Columbia. While riding their bikes down a hill, he glanced behind to make sure his younger brother was okay. In doing so, he lost control of his bike and would end up on the ground after having slammed into a tree.

“When I had landed on the ground, I was conscious but apparently had some form of a brain injury,” recalled Graham, the oldest of three siblings in the family. “My brother went back to get help and tell my father. I can remember an ambulance, but not much else.”

In fact, Graham had to be airlifted to hospital. While the healing process took its time, Graham would also learn that the accident led to problems with his right eye.

Doctors would inform him, and his family, that a severely damaged optic nerve affected his vision in that eye, and he would have no sense of sight. His left eye was not affected. Many things would filter through the mind of this active individual in the days, months, and years to come.

“I was scared, thought about my family and, at times, was in a lot of pain,” he said. “I was unsure of things, just started to wonder about everything.”

When the Graham Family returned to Picton, his parents (Chris and Victoria) thought about ways to get him focused on moving forward. One of their friends, Rob Garden, happened to be the president of the local basketball club. Conversations occurred and the youngster, now 13 years of age, would attend a camp playing basketball in July of 2022.

That’s when another story in Graham’s life started to unfold. This one was one of glee. Taking in some action, and making notes of potential basketball recruits, was Jamie McCourt. A 20-year veteran of coaching and quite knowledgeable, McCourt – along with Tyler Thrasher – co-coach the area’s County Clippers under-14 team.

“What I noticed right away was (Graham) working hard, there was lots of hustle, he was very athletic and determined to be better at what he was doing,” said McCourt, whose fulltime job is a teacher at the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. “He kept pushing himself, which is something coaches like to see, and we invited him to try out with our club team.”

Things moved fast and Graham, impressing the coaching staff, would make the team, which plays in the Ontario Basketball Association. While Garden and McCourt were building a program dedicated to growing the sport at the grassroots level, confidence was growing even quicker with Graham. He would also benefit from the assistance of a private trainer.

Rehabilitation for Graham was happening in many ways – including playing basketball.

“I was having lots of fun, meeting people and to be honest, I wasn’t super confident as a basketball player – but I was trying hard and am so happy now,” said Graham, who had previously played a bit of the sport at the house league level.

For Graham, basketball was something of pure enjoyment. He was not the top scorer, nor one to brag about someday playing at the professional level. His strength was at the defensive game, but much praise went to his work ethic and huge positive attitude.


Above: Luke with his U14 County Clippers team. 

While there may have been opposing players and spectators, wondering why he played wearing a pair of goggles, it is also quite common in the sport to see a variety of facial masks worn to protect areas of concern. Very few knew that Graham, at 5-foot-8, had sight in one eye.

From club president to coach to players and fans, the County Clippers organization is aware that basketball continues to play a big part in Graham’s recovery and recuperation.

“There are kids all over who don’t get involved in sport for fear of failure at many levels,” said Garden. “(Luke) is an inspiration for other individuals. He is one of the most dedicated and hardest working players on the club.”

In a world filled with challenges, there are some who say it’s all about opportunities and making the best of them. For Graham, there has been some anger, and struggling along the way. His feelings may have pinballed from fear to sadness, but now it’s about a promising future.

There’s something else that’s very important. Graham has what is often referred to as an athlete’s fortitude – one of “I’m not just going to sit around”. Intelligence was being infused in a way a youngster, who had sustained a tragic accident, was going to live his life. For him, it’s staying vibrant, enthusiastic, and committed. With the help of basketball, he has clearly defined perseverance with patience and enthusiasm.



David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 50+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.