"Fifty Shades of Grey" may be a hit at the box office, but the only Gray Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall is screening these days is junior college standout Rob Gray. He has everything the Vol coach seeks in a point guard.
Scott Raines, Gray’s head coach at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, can pinpoint six attributes the player has that Tyndall prizes:
Athleticism. At 6-feet-1 and 180 pounds, Gray can guard multiple positions and contribute in multiple ways.
“He’s not a freakish athlete but he’s athletic enough,” Raines told InsideTennessee. “He’ll go up in traffic and dunk on somebody.”
“Rob brought a sense of toughness, and a lot of guys fed off him,” Raines said. “He’s an off-the-charts competitor, he has a great body and he’s an off-the-charts worker. Those three things give him the edge on a lot of people.”
Scoring ability. Gray averaged 18.2 points per game this season — shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from 3 and 80.0 percent from the foul line.
“He’s a tough, physical kid that can score in a lot of ways,” Raines said. “You would not say Rob’s a great shooter but he’s going to shoot it 36 percent from 3.”
Ballhandling skills. Gray averaged a pedestrian 2.3 assists per game but he played off guard the first two months of the season. He recorded 6 assists against Arizona Western, 5 each against Clarendon and New Mexico Military Institute. He committed more than three turnovers in a game just one time all season.
“We made a decision to move him to the point in late January,” Raines said. “That’s when our team kind of took off and started playing its best basketball.”
Patience. Gray played in a halfcourt system, requiring time to break down opposing defenses.
“We’re not a typical wild up-and-down-the-floor team,” Raines said. “We run a ton of half-court sets, and Rob is better than the average kid at running stuff in the half-court.”
“He’s a gym rat who really loves the game,” Raines said. “We preached that the measure of a guard is whether his team wins or not, and Rob has bought into that. He feels his job is to figure out whatever holes need to be plugged in a particular game for his team to win: Maybe he really needs to shut this guy down or maybe get the ball to (second-leading scorer) Sam (Finley) or maybe knock down some shots. He has a knack for finding a way to win.”
Saving his best last, Gray finished the 2014-15 season with a flourish. He posted consecutive point totals of 24, 25, 26, 17, 21, 21, 21, 26, 26, 24 and 27 in leading Howard College to last Saturday’s NJCAA Region V title game. Plagued by foul trouble, he played just 12 minutes and did not score as South Plains prevailed 72-63.
Because he is a redshirt freshman with three seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining, Gray’s recruitment has picked up in recent weeks. He has offers from Tennessee’s Tyndall and Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith but Memphis and Georgia Tech coaches also showed up to watch him in last week’s regional action. No wonder. A point guard who can score and distribute is worth his weight in gold.
“It’s extremely valuable,” Raines said. “We figured out a long time ago that a big part of our recruiting is to have about five point guards on our roster. I’m comfortable starting three and playing four at times if they have the size and toughness to guard different positions.”
Obviously, Gray’s assist total may have been more impressive if Howard College’s lineup hadn’t included two other natural point guards.
“We look for guards who can shoot, pass and dribble,” Raines said. “We played him off the ball early but the three kids we started (in the backcourt) are all point guards in their own right. We decided in late January to put the ball in Rob’s hands.”
It appears that Donnie Tyndall is ready to make that same move.