In the wake of yesterday's news that the Tigers are parting ways with three returning players, including three-year point guard Anthony Hickey, I caught up with incoming LSU guard Josh Gray.
The JuCo scoring machine and native of Lake Charles dished on a number of important topics, including why he wanted to come back to Louisiana and how his role changes sans Hickey.
Gray, who reported to be 6-1 and 180 pounds, also discussed playing next to Keith Hornsby, his relationship with assistant David Patrick and more.
On what motivates him coming into his time at LSU ...
"The team coming back, we have great players coming back. I think with all the pieces we have on the roster we can make it far in the tournament, so that's what motivates me."
What can he/the team accomplish in open court this summer?
"I can affect the game in different aspects. I mean open court is going to be crazy. There ain't a defender in the country that can bother me. I can make plays for my teammates, not just finish at the rim. I can bring so many things to the game, that's what makes a time like that special. I can get better as a player and we can get better as a team."
His outlook of playing without Hickey ...
"You know I was kinda looking at it as we could come in together and be like a UConn, with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright in the backcourt. We could help each other on the defensive side, and on the offensive side we can attack. But obviously, since he's gone, my role will change.
"I'm going to come in, be the starting point guard, and I'm going to have to distribute the ball more. If he was in, I could slide over to the two and get a little bucket here or there, but it's all good. I'll leave it to coach's decision. He'll make my role."
On getting to know Hornsby and playing next to him ...
"I went down there (to Baton Rouge) a couple of weeks back. I was on spring break, drove down there, and I played with him at a rec center. He can shoot it off the ball, he's athletic and we can make plays for each other. I think me and him in the backcourt, that will be something exciting to see. I can't wait to play with him."
Why did he ultimately decide to ink with LSU in the early signing period?
"I knew at the end of the day that LSU was my dream school, and I knew at the end of the day I wanted to be close to my family and friends. My mother passed away when I was 16, and my father's not doing well. My grandma's getting old. Then my little brothers are coming up under me, they're playing ball.
"It's important for me to be closer to my family right now. I could've went to any school in the country and did fine, but I chose to go to LSU because it's not really about the name of the school, it's about what you do at the school. So that's why I chose to go back home."
On coming back in-state and if that brings any pressure ...
"I don't feel any pressure at all. I'm not nervous or scared because I train my body six times a day. I'm ready for that next level, and I'm ready to get back on that big stage. So I don't have any worries at all. I'm just going to come in every day working as hard as I can and trying to be the best leader that I can. All I can control is what I can control. I can't come in and say ‘I'm going to do this, and I'm going to do that.' It doesn't work like that. But I can promise you I'm going to work hard every day, though."
Finish the sentence: LSU is the best team it can be if Josh Gray ...
"... is the best leader he can be. Because on different kinds of nights, my role is going to be different. One night, I might not have to score. The next night, I might have to, but I can always be a great leader. The point guard leads the team, so my biggest thing I have to do is become the best leader I can be on the floor and off the floor."
On his relationship with assistant David Patrick ...
"Coach Patrick, that's my man. Ever since he started to recruit me, me and him could relate because of some of the same stuff we've both been through. He's coached at that level, and he knows what it takes for me to get to that level. So I've just been reaching out to him for every question I need to be answered. He gave me straight feedback on everything. I look at him kinda like a big brother-type. I don't necessarily look at him as a coach. I respect him as a coach, but I look at him more like a big brother because I can come to him and ask him about anything and he always gives me the best feedback."
How does he think he'll feel when he takes the floor in PMAC for first time?
"It'll kinda feel weird. At Texas Tech I was nervous before every game. I wasn't nervous because I was scared, I was nervous because I guess that's just natural. I don't really know how I'll feel yet. I do know this: I'm very excited to get out there and I can't wait.
**Additional notes: Summer classes start on June 9, but Gray said he plans to report on June 6. He believes he'll be rooming with Brian Bridgewater.