Josh Gray’s Long Journey Home
Growing up in Lake Charles, La., Josh Gray always dreamed of playing basketball for LSU. In the fall, he will get to fulfill his dream. However, he never envisioned his journey unfolding the way it has.
“It means a lot coming back home,” Gray said. “Playing at the D1 level in front of friends and family means everything to me.” As a sophomore, Gray led Lake Charles High School to the state semifinals, scoring 26 points in the game while on house arrest. He wore an ankle monitoring bracelet during the game.
Police put Gray on house arrest after finding three loaded AK-47 assault rifles in the trunk of his friend’s car. Gray was getting a ride home that night and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone in the car was arrested, but Gray’s charges were dropped after a police investigation found he had no knowledge of the weapons.
This was not the only hardship Gray endured while in high school. His mother also passed away when he was 16.
Many kids in a similar position would turn to a life on the streets, but Gray refused to succumb to the temptations his environment presented.
Jared Fobbs, Gray’s older brother, has witnessed his passion for basketball from an early age. “He’s always been hungry,” Fobbs said.
“You can see his passion for the game and for being a better man. There are a lot of distractions in Louisiana that a young man could easily get sidetracked by. Seeing other people struggle motivated him to not make the same mistakes.”
Gray made it a point to stay clear of trouble and use his basketball talents to make it out of his surroundings. “The stuff I went through back then molded me into who I am today,” Gray said. “It made me cut off a lot of friends. God put me through that for a reason. If I hadn’t went through that, I wouldn’t have the same dedication to the game.”
Though Louisiana is home to many outstanding players at the high school level, many college coaches often overlook the area when recruiting. “We have a lot of talent in Louisiana, but no one knows because there aren’t a lot of scouting services,” Gray said. “The competition is way better than average.”
Even with the lack of scouting services, Josh’s talent was undeniable and he was still offered numerous scholarships coming out of high school. His list of offers included Uconn, UCLA, Kansas, Mississippi State, Georgetown, Texas and Tennessee among others. He initially committed to Mississippi State but then transferred to Texas Tech after the Bulldogs coach, Rick Stansbury, retired.
Gray started his college career at Texas Tech during the 2012-2013 season as a true freshman. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.2 assists and earned Big 12 All-Freshman honors, while starting all 31 games at point guard for the Red Raiders.
He later transferred to Odessa College of the National Junior College Athletic Association, after the coach he intended to play for, Billy Gillespie, resigned at Texas Tech.
This past season, Gray was one of the best JUCO players in the nation, averaging 33.8 points and 5.9 assists a game. He is ranked #16 on 247sports.com’s list of top junior college recruits.
Gray used this season as an opportunity to prove why he belonged back at the D1 level. “JUCO was humbling,” he said. “I didn’t really learn anything from it but to play harder. Everyone out there was trying to get back to D1.”
Carlos Wilson, an assistant coach at Odessa and Gray’s former high school coach, noted his incredible work ethic.
“He is relentless in his pursuit to be one of the top point guards in the country,” Wilson said. “I’ve coached some really good players such as DeAndre Jordan and Ben McLemore, who have great work ethics, but I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone who works as hard as Josh.”
Wilson said he would get calls from Gray at 11 p.m. sometimes, asking him to open the gym so he could practice his shot. “It got to the point where I had to give him keys to the gym,” Wilson said.
Gray has been preparing for the opportunity to play in front of friends and family at LSU for a long time. Now that he has that chance, he plans on doing whatever he can to make the most of it.
“I think our team has a great future,” he said. “We have a great chance of making some noise and getting into the tournament. We’re gonna shock a lot of people.”
Gray is poised for a great season, playing for a home crowd in Baton Rouge, La., next year. With his troubled past serving as a reminder of how far he’s come as a basketball player and a man, Gray’s future looks bright.