Isiah Graves bet on himself after graduating from Atlantic City High School in 2014.

His gamble paid off.

The 6-foot-1 guard verbally committed this week to attend Morgan State in Baltimore, Maryland, on an NCAA Division I basketball scholarship. Graves played the last two seasons at Southeastern Community College, a junior college in West Burlington, Iowa.

Graves did not have to attend a junior college for academic reasons. He didn’t have any Division I scholarship offers after high school.

“I thought I was being overlooked as a Division I basketball player,” Graves said. “I had a lot of offers from powerhouse Division II schools, but I didn’t want to settle. It was a huge gamble, but I felt like I deserved (to play Division I). It can only get better from here.”

Graves helped lead Atlantic City to the 2012 and 2013 state Group IV championships. He came off the bench in 2012. Graves averaged 10.3 points for the 2013 Vikings, who finished 30-2. He averaged nearly 18 points as a senior in 2013-14.

Graves sank some of the biggest shots in Atlantic City postseason history, including a pair of 3-pointers in overtime to propel the Vikings to a 60-54 win over Linden in the 2013 state Group IV title game at Rutgers.

Once he graduated from Atlantic City, Graves headed to the Midwest to chase his basketball dreams. West Burlington is a small town with a population of 2,968, according to the 2010 census.

“It was a huge change,” Graves said, “coming from a town full of casinos to a town where there was flat land and a bunch of crops. There was a bunch of nothing basically. There was nothing to do but focus on school and basketball.”

Graves thrived in that environment. He averaged 11 points as a freshman. He tore the meniscus in his right knee before his sophomore year but still played in every game and averaged 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and three assists. Graves underwent surgery this winter to repair the meniscus and is now completely healthy.

“Those two years (at Southeastern) made me figure out who I was as a player as well as a student,” Graves said.

Graves chose Morgan State over Niagara and Old Dominion. He visited all three schools this spring.

“I’m ecstatic for (Graves),” Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said. “He’s a lot more mature now and what I’ve seen on tape he has a lot better basketball IQ now than he had before. I think (Morgan State) has big expectations for him, and I think he’s a good fit for them.”

Morgan State finished 9-22 last season. The Bears play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Graves said Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman is similar in style to Allen.

“I looked at Coach Bozeman as a father figure as soon as I got there on my visit,” Graves said. “I think he’ll be the same as coach Allen. He’ll stay on me and push me to be the best I can be.”

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