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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants rookie guard Rob Gray averaged 19.3 points last season at the University of Houston.

Friday, November 09, 2018 1:00 am

Mad Ants rookie often overlooked

Undrafted guard touts shooting touch, competitive spirit

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Mad Ants vs. Erie

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Memorial Coliseum

Tickets: $31.25,$25, $15, $10

Rob Gray, a Mad Ants rookie, talks a lot about his competitive spirit, his aggressiveness on the court and, of course, that shooting touch.

But more than anything, he said, “I'm looking forward to proving people wrong.”

That tenaciousness has been there for years, through his three seasons at the University of Houston, where he averaged 18.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3 assists over 92 games. After no NBA teams drafted him this year, he attended training camp with the Houston Rockets and landed with the Mad Ants via the second round of the G League draft.

“That (hunger) has always has been there. I'm a junior college guy. It's just natural in my makeup, and I'm just looking forward to competing here,” said Gray, 24, a 6-foot-4 point guard.

Gray didn't play in the Mad Ants' season-opening 112-101 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Nov. 2, and playing time may be sparse at today's 7 p.m. home opener at Memorial Coliseum against the Erie BayHawks because the Indiana Pacers have sent down guard Edmond Sumner and forward Alize Johnson, but Gray is a player the Mad Ants like.

“One of the things that Rob can do is really score the basketball,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “College basketball fans really saw that in the (NCAA) Tournament. I need to let Rob kind of go and play his game. Being a scoring point guard, obviously, we've had those in the past here in a Mad Ants uniform (with Ron Howard and Walt Lemon Jr.), and I've just got to let him go. At the end, especially in the NBA game, you need somebody who can break down a guy for you and get a bucket, and that's exactly what Rob can do.”

In the NCAA Tournament last season, Gray had 39 points against San Diego State in the first round and 23 points with 10 rebounds in a loss to Michigan, which lost in the title game to Villanova.

The Mad Ants need to replace much scoring – Lemon, DeQuan Jones, Trey McKinney Jones – so Gray should come in handy.

“I'm super excited,” Gray said. “I'm a competitor at heart, and I want to do anything I can to help the team win games, but I know one of my strengths is scoring. I want to come and bring a winning pedigree by any means necessary.”

Last season, he averaged 19.3 points and made 35.9 percent of his shots from 3-point range, averaging five shots from there per game, while also averaging 4.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds for Houston.

“I just want to be myself, first and foremost, attack and be aggressive, and also help my teammates get shots in their comfort zones,” said Gray, who is from Forest City, North Carolina, and who played junior college basketball at Howard College (Texas).

“I'm a competitor, relentless, with a high willpower to win.”

Note: Former Indiana University star Calbert Cheaney is an assistant coach on Erie coach Noel Gillespie's staff. Cheaney was a three-time All-American and remains the Big Ten's all-time leading scorer.

jcohn@jg.net