Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012 // Buy this photo
You can take Bashaara Graves out of Clarksville.
Between the AAU summer-hoops circuit and USA Basketball itineraries, the Tennessee women's basketball freshman has traveled far and wide from her north Tennessee home. By her estimation, she's seen "most of the U.S." and visited such exotic ports of call as France, Spain, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
"I still have some people from France as my friends on Facebook," the 6-foot-2 forward said. "And they follow me on twitter. I think that's really cool."
All that said, you can't take Clarksville out of Graves.
After all of her journeys, she still has the heart of a homebody. She proudly pledges unwavering allegiance to her hometown.
"I'm a Clarksville representer," she said. "It's always going to be dear to my heart. I'm never going to not claim Clarksville (as home)."
Graves has a connection to one of Clarksville's finest: former Olympian Wilma Rudolph. Graves' grandmother is good friends with a daughter of the Olympic legend. Graves has read all of the books about Rudolph and heard all of the stories.
"She might have been like my idol growing up," Graves said, "even though she was in a whole different sport."
Rudolph overcame infantile paralysis to do some traveling herself as a Clarksville representer, becoming the first woman to win three gold medals in track and field while competing in the 1960 Summer Games in Rome.
"Just to know somebody went through that and came out strong with it,'' Graves said, "that's crazy."
Q: Did you do other sports?
A: I did ballet.
Q: How did that go?
A: I remember loving the girliness of it. ... I got into my tom-boy stage and it was over from there.
Q: Is there a story behind your first name?
A: My cousin and (my mom) are really good friends, best friends actually. Her best friend's name was Bashara. That's where (my mother) got it from. She just put an extra 'a' in there after the 'h.'
Q: How often is it mispronounced?
A: A lot. I just answer to anything. Mostly people just come up with nicknames. I have five thousand nicknames.
Q: Your teammate, Kamiko Williams, is from Clarksville. Did you know her before you came here?
A: Yes, she went to a rival school. The first time we played was my freshman year and it was a big game. Northeast was like the team to beat. Everybody was like 'Kamiko Williams, Kamiko Williams.' She was the 'it' girl in Clarksville at the time.
Q: Is it a different sort of feeling, being a Tennessee native and playing for this program?
A: Me personally, it is because it's like home. Being from Clarksville and just knowing we have so many fans, Tennessee fans. I'll go home and I'll have people, 'You go to Tennessee, you go to Tennessee.' They look up to me. I think it's crazy.
Q: Are you comfortable with your height?
A: I took a long time because when I was little I was the tallest person. So it was just awkward for me. I would always slump over and try to make myself about the same height as them. ... Around ninth grade, I started getting real comfortable with my body. My body started filling out, starting getting a little stronger. I was just like 'It's me.'