2017 Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray had an outstanding first season last year. Taking the biggest accolade after winning a national championship with South Carolina just months before, she looks to ride on those coat tails in 2018 and be just as successful.
The Sandersville, GA, native will walk into training camp this week with lots to prove, but she knows that the hard work and dedication she has completed during the offseason won’t go unnoticed.
Gray hasn’t always received the recognition she deserves. In fact, Allisha Gray has been an underdog all her life. But she doesn’t look at it in a negative way. She sees being an underdog as a win-win scenario for her.
“They don’t know who you are, so if you do bad they’ll forget you anyway,” said Gray. “But if you do good, they will be like ‘oh man, where did she come from?’”
Gray spent two seasons at the University of North Carolina before transferring to the University of South Carolina, just over an hour from where she was born. She finished second on her team in points per game (13.2) and assists per game (2.5).
Despite leading the Gamecocks to a championship, Gray was never the player that people were in the gym to see. But she made sure they knew who she was when they left.
“I always was the person that when I walked in the gym nobody knew who I was,” said Gray. “Once I left the gym, they knew who I was.”
Once she made her mark on college basketball, Gray decided to forego her senior season at South Carolina to turn pro. She was drafted fourth overall by the Wings, the second of five draft picks by the team in 2017.
Once again, Gray wasn’t predicted to win any awards her first season. But she led the rookie class of 2017 and started in all 34 games for the Wings last season, averaging 13 points per contest and assuring that no one would forget who she was. She has been working to improve her game in the offseason while finishing up her degree. A broadcast journalism major and WNBA player, Gray spent her offseason trying to balance the two.
“It is something that I have to do,” said Gray. “The WNBA is my job, and I have to do anything I can to keep my job. It was hard some mornings to wake up at 5am, but I just looked at it as it is my life. I signed up to do this. As time went by, it got easier. But some days it was really hard. Going to class from 9-5 and either working at before or after then. But I’ve accepted that this is my lifestyle.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Gray wants to continue her incredible year by being named a member of the All-WNBA Defensive Team. Making the defensive team is key in her making the All-Star team, which is another goal for the second-year phenom. An impressive feat for someone who has always been a sidekick.
With the addition of 6-foot-8-inch Center Liz Cambage and the return of All-WNBA first-teamer Skylar Diggins-Smith, the Wings are poised for big things in 2018. Gray is excited for the tough competition training camp will bring, and she has a message for those who doubt her skills on the court.
Gray and the Wings will put their skills on display as they begin training camp April 29, with the season tipping off in Phoenix on May 18.