Chimacum’s loss is Spartan hoops’ gain

Siblings Steven Gray and Brittany Gray are strong additions to the Bainbridge High School basketball teams. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Siblings Steven Gray and Brittany Gray are strong additions to the Bainbridge High School basketball teams.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Is it too soon to think about basketball season? Not for Steven and Brittany Gray.

The Spartan boys basketball team got a big lift this summer.

With key players already returning to form a deep, talented squad, Bainbridge got another quality player in Steven Gray.

The former Chimacum star and his sister Brittany, also a basketball player, moved to the island with their family in May – hoping to compete at a higher level, both athletically and academically.

“(We’ll be) playing in the toughest league in the state,” Steven Gray said of the Metro League. “I figure if I want to go (collegiate Division I), which is one of my goals, that playing against this type of competition with these types of players will be a good experience for me to get ready for the next level.”

It didn’t take long for him to reach for the next level, as he verbally committed to Gonzaga University, in Spokane, while at that school’s basketball camp in July. He won’t be able to officially sign until November 2006 per NCAA by-laws.

“They would have offered it to me any time, but I wanted to make (the commitment then),” Gray said. “It was a good school, and that’s why I went with them.”

Spartan head coach Scott Orness said he’s never had a player move on to a Division I school, and thinks the Gonzaga Bulldogs will benefit from having Gray on their team.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for him and their type of program,” he said. “It’s close to home so he can still see his family, but he’ll be able to grow on his own.”

In the meantime, Gray has two years of high school basketball to complete, and the junior comes to the Spartans with an impressive resume.

In his freshman year with Chimacum, he averaged 21.2 points per game and was selected to the Associated Press All-State first team, an unheard of accomplishment at that time. Last year was his breakout season. As a sophomore, he averaged 27.3 points per game in leading the Cowboys to a sixth-place finish at the state tournament, their highest finish since 1969.

Gray was named the Nisqually League MVP, selected to the all-state first team again and named the AP’s 2A state player of the year.

“I’m excited to have him,” Orness said. “He’s known for scoring, but he can pass (as well).”

Gray joins a packed back court – which includes junior T.J. Benz and sophomores Caleb Davis and Nick Fling – that will try to fill the shoes of point guard Grant Leslie, who graduated.

“It was a question mark,” Orness said. “But all of these guys, including Steven, aren’t typical guards. They can play the 1, 2 or 3 spot” of point guard, off guard or small forward.

Orness has also been impressed with the work ethic and attitude Gray has displayed during the Spartans’ summer workouts.

“He plays unselfishly,” the coach said. “He’s committed and he hasn’t missed a practice. (Plus) he’s really nice.

“You always kind of wonder when someone new comes in and if they’re gonna jell, especially when we have a real strong team coming back and a lot of good players, but he has made everybody

better, I think. He’s taken a lot of pressure off a lot of our other players.”

Gray’s commitment hasn’t wavered, even with his constant travels to basketball camps and tournaments around the nation with his travel team, Total Package. Even with all the travel, Gray has been able to befriend his new Spartan teammates.

“These guys are a good group of guys,” he said. “It’s been a blast (playing with them).”

Coby Gibler, a junior forward, has been impressed with Gray and his talents.

“He’s been great. He’s fit right in with our personality and he’s funny,” Gibler said. “He’s got the ability to score anywhere. He does something great every game.”

While Orness is clearly pleased with Gray’s appearance in the Spartan program, he won’t be clearing a spot in their trophy case just yet.

“You don’t want to (get) sucked into the hype,” he said. “We’re just going to keep working hard every day and hopefully get into where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Frosh phenom

Also joining the Spartan hoops program is freshman Brittany Gray, who has been playing with high school kids since the fifth grade through the Total Package program.

Girls basketball coach Penny Gienger said the younger Gray has the talent to “leave her mark on Bainbridge girls’ basketball.”

“She’s very good,” Gienger said. “She’s a great rebounder and she’s got great hands. She’s very skilled, and she doesn’t try to do too much. She lets the game come to her, which a lot of kids don’t know how to do.”

Gienger said there’s no reason to put pressure on Brittany because of her brother’s pedigree or what the team needs.

The Spartan girls lost only two players to graduation and all five starters will return, so Gray may come off the bench.

“She’s coming into a very seasoned team,” Gienger said. “That’s going to allow her to mature at the level she can mature at. She doesn’t have to step in and make us a great team.”

Brittany said she gets compared to her brother, but she also knows she’ll have time to grow and learn the game without having to live up to expectations – save for her dad.

“I’m just going to try and do my best,” she said. “My dad keeps telling me to work hard or else I won’t go to college. That’s my goal, but I still have time.”

* * * * *

Hoops hopes

Name: Steven Gray

Year: junior

Height: 6’ 3”

Experience: two year’s varsity.

Favorite subjects in school: English and math.

Hobbies/interests: Hanging out with friends, going to the beach.

Which basketball player do you look up to? “Richard Hamilton (Detroit Pistons). The way he moves off screens and the way he hustles is great. He’s one of my favorite players.”

Name: Brittany Gray

Year: freshman

Height: 5’ 8”

Experience: first-year varsity.

Favorite subjects in school:

science and math.

Hobbies/interests: Listening to music, hanging out with friends.

Which basketball player do you look up to? “Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets). The first time I saw her I wanted to play like her.”

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