Senior Aaron Graves plays the national anthem before the homecoming basketball game on Jan. 10. (Photo by Emma Boersma)

Senior starting center hits right notes on basketball court, bonds with teammates

Senior center Aaron Graves, a Country Day lifer and four-year varsity athlete in multiple sports, also has the courage to play the national anthem on his electric guitar, decked out in his basketball uniform minutes before tipoff.

Graves played the national anthem at the homecoming soccer and basketball games.

“I really enjoyed doing that,” Graves said. “It felt really natural to be doing that, and even though I may have messed up a few times, I just glossed over it. I was just caught up in the moment. Going into both games after playing the national anthem, I felt really good, and I had a lot more energy.”

Graves looks to “perfect his own craft” rather than idolize others in and out of sports.

Since he was introduced to organized sports in fifth grade, Graves has played basketball for the Cavaliers. He has been an all-around athlete at Country Day, playing goalkeeper in soccer for two years, third base and pitcher in baseball for three years, and center and power forward in basketball since fifth grade, starting the last two years.

“When the forms came out in fifth grade, all my friends started signing up,” Graves said. “I decided to do it as well, thinking, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I’m really happy I did.”

Graves said he’s made his closest friendships through basketball.

“Since I started playing in fifth grade, I’ve continued to make new friends up to today,” he said. 

One of these friends, Graves said, is senior forward Chris Wilson, the team captain.

“Chris and I have gone to school together since pre-K,” Graves said. “We weren’t super close during lower school, but once we started playing basketball together, we really developed a close bond. The chemistry in basketball transferred over to chemistry in our friendship. Due to basketball, I hope that we will remain friends even after we graduate.”

Boys basketball coach David Ancrum has worked with Graves for five years.

“It’s been great coaching Aaron all this time,” Ancrum said. “He’s a very skillful player and has always been a very valuable part of the team.”

Graves has missed two basketball games this year, one due to illness and the other because of a required drum rehearsal. Ancrum said that, without Graves, the team plays differently.

“Aaron is a great ballhandler, one of the best on the team,” Ancrum said. “Having that ability is a crucial part of the game. He’s confident and stays cool under pressure. He’s one of the best players on the team.”

Wilson said the 6-foot-3 Graves impresses him as a player.

“He has a great ability to see the court and openings for passes to his teammates,” Wilson said. “He’s a great player, and having him on the team has been really helpful to me.”

Graves’ sister, alumna Hayley Graves, ’12, said basketball has had a big impact on Aaron’s life.

“Between (Aaron) waking up early for Jazz Band, working on college apps, practicing the bass and studying for his AP exams, basketball is a great outlet for him,” Hayley said. “He loves his teammates and learning from his coach.”

Aaron brings his personality to the court, according to Hayley.

“Aaron always takes his humor to the games,” she said. “He jokes with his teammates and dances during warmups, but when the whistle blows, he’s always ready to play.”

Graves said basketball and baseball are his favorite sports.

“I really like playing basketball because it utilizes so many skills, and I have made so many friends through it,” he said. “On the other hand, baseball has been great. Mr. Millsback’s a great coach and person.”

Aaron said playing team sports has taught him valuable lessons.

“Throughout my time at Country Day, I’ve been on good and bad teams,” Aaron said. “We’ve had seasons where we hardly lost and seasons like this one, where we just got our first win. It has really taught me how to be humble and not take anything for granted.”

By Miles Morrow

Originally published in the Feb. 4 edition of the Octagon.