By Kaylon Jackson
Justin Gray, sophomore forward, is making his mark on the Texas Tech Red Raiders men’s basketball team.
Having played basketball since the age of 3, Gray has worked many years, practicing his craft. Given the opportunity to play on the varsity team in seventh grade, Gray feels he has been challenged from the beginning of his career, striving to keep up with older players.
Growing 7 inches between eighth grade and his freshman year of high school, Gray began to stand out as a valuable player on the team. Upon graduation, signing with Texas Tech felt like the right move for him.
“I never thought four years ago in high school that I would be playing for Tubby Smith,” Gray said. “He’s taught me a lot of things and has definitely helped me elevate my game to a new level.”
Gray admitted it was a bit challenging to integrate into the team at first. Adjusting to everyone’s personalities and playing styles took some getting used to. being a young team is one of the greatest attributes.
Being a young team is one of the crew’s greatest attributes, Gray says. One of only three freshmen to start the season-opener, he had a promising season ahead. However, the momentum came to an abrupt stop when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“Going to the sideline and not being able to play with my team was eye-opening,” Gray said. “Definitely a dark point in my life.
The fans were certainly disappointed to see Gray go.
Lexi Wesley, a sophomore journalism major, is a faithful Red Raider fan who frequently attends home games.
“Justin is one of my favorite players, and to have him struggle with an injury, I could see the team struggling as well,” Wesley said.
But Gray refused to let his injury get the best of him. After he took rehab a day at a time, his health slowly returned.
Coming into his sophomore year, the Red Raiders had a promising start to the season. Winning five games in a row in the Big 12 showed they were a team ready to dominate.
“I think I’m finally starting to come out of my shell this year,” Gray said.
Looking forward, he plans to continue to put in hard work, working on his weaknesses, gaining consistency and continuing to develop himself as a leader on the team.
Blake King, a senior fan, said this has been the most exciting year of Tech basketball he has witnessed.
“The energy we give from the stands I think drives the guys to push harder…they have without a doubt proved themselves this season.”
Gray has high hopes for his team. He is proud of the work they’ve put in and the progress the crew has made so far.
“Being a part of a rebuilding process is special,” Gray said. “It’s more meaningful to be a part of something you created. This season is the first stepping stone for us to create something special.”