Thursday, June 26, 2008

TKR Breakdowns: Steven Gray

The 2007 recruiting class will go down in GU history as one of the most talented and highly ranked that the school has ever signed. Although the start to his season was delayed, Steven Gray emerged as one of the best freshman shooters in the entire nation. The Bainbridge high school product had his career delayed by a wrist injury, but once he came back healthy, his ability was put on full display. This was highlighted in the NCAA tournament, when against Davidson, Gray hit seven 3's and went head to head with Stephen Curry. Gray should make a huge jump in his sophomore season, and hopefully will continue to emerge as another great weapon for the Zags.

Strengths: The NCAA tournament this past season was a prime example of just how vital a pure shooter can be to a team. Watching Stephen Curry lead Davidson all the way to the elite 8 made GU fans dream of having the type of shooter who could lead his team to victory. Luckily, with Steven Gray, the Zags have one of the best pure shooters in the nation. Despite not making his debut until midway through December, Gray quickly emerged as one of the best 3 point shooters on the team. Gray scorched the nets, by shooting over 46% from behind the line. This was highlighted by his six 3's made against Santa Clara, and the 7 against Davidson. Gray also made his mark as one of the better defenders on the team last season. Although only a freshman, Gray typically guarded the best player on the opposing team each game. Any fan of GU will remember how he limited USD's Brandon Johnson to only 6 points when the Zags made the trip to San Diego. It is rare for any player to emerge as a lock down defender in his 1st season, but Gray is not your typical player. It was impressive watching him continually frustrate smaller guards with his strength and quickness. With Pargo, Meech, and Gray in the back court, GU will have a great team of defensive guards.

Room for improvement: While Gray clearly demonstrated his ability to shoot the ball from distance, he never really displayed a mid-range game. This could have been because he assumed the role of a 3 point shooter, and didn't want to stray from that position, but we have still have not seen Steven demonstrate much offensively besides being a set shooter. In high school, Gray often displayed the ability to drive to the hoop, or to stop and pull-up for a jumper. However, Gray struggled offensively when opposing teams took away the 3 point shot. Gray tended to settle for long distance shots because he is not a great ball-handler. Although he is primarily a SG, Gray must continue to develop his ball-handling skills should he be forced into PG duty. If Gray continues to develop his ball-handling, it will also allow him to attack the rim with more quickness and allow him to demonstrate a more complete offensive game.

Projected Role: After his tremendous conclusion to last season, it would be safe to assume that he will continue to be the starter at SG. With his unlimited shooting range, and solid defensive abilities, Steven will continue to earn lots of minutes. I also think that his offensive game will expand this year. He should be more comfortable not only with the offense, but also with his teammates. If this is the case, we should see a lot more of Steven attacking the hoop and creating his own offense. With the addition of Meech and Gibbs, along with the return of Gray, Bouldin, and Pargo, the guard position is deep and talented. Look for Gray to share the floor with all of the above players throughout the season, and play both PG and SG.

Summer Assignment: The main focus for Steven this summer should be improving his quickness and dribbling skills. I have mentioned his shotting ability numerous times, but to emerge as a complete offensive player, Steven must demonstrate the ability to get to the rim or shoot the mid-range jumper. I would also like to see Steven have a higher confidence in his game and his role on the team, as he can be one of the best offensive players on this team. Hopefully he will push his offensive game to the limits, and not continue to be strictly a 3 point shooter.

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