From completely lost to completely in control, freshman marketing communication major Geoffrey Gray has come a long way in his first season for the Emerson’s men’s basketball team.
More than 50 percent of the Lions’ roster is made up by seniors. The plan coming into this season was to rely on experience while weaving in young players, head coach Bill Curley told the Beacon in November.
As the season progressed, senior point guard Michael Thorpe, a Beacon correspondent, saw his playtime hinder due to a foot injury. Searching for answers to replace his captain, Curley decided that it was time to give Gray the nod.
“He was in the right place at the right time,” Curley said. “Geoff earned it by being ready to step right up.”
Gray has started 10 of the Lions’ 20 games. He said he didn’t necessarily expect to play such a large role in his first season.
“Being a freshman, you don’t know your place,” Gray said. “You have to set a good tone and make a good first impression on your teammates and coaches.”
Senior captain and guard Mike Corcoran said that the 6-foot-2 Gray, who averages 3.3 rebounds per game, gives the Lions a weapon out of their backcourt that opponents don’t have.
“He hasn’t been just a point guard but a rebounder, too,” Corcoran, a marketing communication major, said. “Out of the guard spot, that is a huge advantage for us. He is a matchup problem for other point guards because he’s big.”
Senior guard Tyson Hallowell said he has seen Gray come a long way since the beginning of the year.
“He has the ability to impact the game with his scoring and defense,” Hallowell, a communication studies major, said. “He’s realizing it’s not always about hitting the big shot, but it might be the quick pass that leads to an assist or an offensive rebound and put back.”
Curley said that Gray’s dedication to basketball is something you don’t usually find in athletes at the college level.
“He’s always working on his game and is someone who plays 12 months a year, not six,” Curley said. “[Basketball] is not something you can put on the shelf. He’s always working on his game or body which is something huge at this level.”
Although things may be going smoothly now, the transition into the college game was a steep climb, according to Gray. However, he said he’s made a similar jump before.
“The game is much faster, but similarly from when I went from middle school to high school, I just got faster,” Gray said. “I’m playing against kids who are three, four, and five years older than me as opposed to last year. I had to take into account that I won’t be able to get to the rim when I want to.”
Corcoran said he knew Gray was going to adjust well to the college game before he laid a foot on the court.
“He was always in the gym trying to get better,” Corcoran said. “He works really hard in the weight room trying to improve his size and speed. We could tell he was mentally prepared.”
Gray, a native of Newton, Massachusetts, said his love for the sport started when he was seven. He identifies as a “big-time” Boston Celtics fan and said one former Celtic great resonated with him.
“Growing up and watching Paul Pierce, I just loved seeing him and his heart for the game,” the point guard said. “To bounce back after being stabbed [eleven] times during his rookie year with such great heart and passion really inspired me.”
When Gray was approached by Curley during the recruiting process, he said the proximity to home and Emerson College’s connections in NBA front offices made it an easy choice. Sam Presti, ’00, and Rob Hennigan, ’04, are two Emerson graduates who are serving as the general managers of NBA teams. Presti is with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Hennigan is with the Orlando Magic.
For a group that is graduating 10 seniors, Curley said Gray will become a vital part of their success down the road.
“He’s going to play a big role in helping our team along,” Curley said. “Basketball is a team game. We expect him to get better picking up and running our offense and being its quarterback. Great point guards know the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates and where everyone should be on every play.”
The Lions (8-12, 3-6 NEWMAC) will host Clark University (6-14, 3-6) in NEWMAC action on Saturday.