Gray was a leader in many ways
Nicolet's versatile forward/guard earns All-Suburban honors
It could be argued that the rebuilding Nicolet girls basketball team this year wouldn't have won many games at all this year without the athletic, versatile and talented 5-11 senior NOW All-Suburban forward/guard Briana Gray.
But Gray herself, a WBCA Division 2 first-team all-state selection, would like to offer a different take on that argument.
"It could be said without a lot of other people stepping up, that we wouldn't have won all those (13) games," she said. "We were about team. We picked each other up."
But first-year coach Rick DeKeyser could not place a value on her skill and the impact it had on the team this season.
"Between her assists and scoring she accounted for about half our offense," Dekeyser said. "She posted up, could play point, do just about everything."
For her efforts, Gray earned North Shore Conference co-player of the year honors and her selection to the NOW All-Suburban team marks the fifth straight year that the Knights have had at least one person claim such a position.
As noted, Gray earned all this with a versatile, jack-of-all-trades approach that saw her start out the season on the wing, head down to the block and occasionally find herself playing the point for a team that lacked depth at guard.
"It was an interesting year," Gray said. "I enjoyed it and I learned a lot, especially on how to be a leader on the floor and about how much effort it takes to get everyone on the same page.
"You have to be able to get everyone organized for the dinners before games and then you have to get everyone to pay for the (warm-up) T-shirts that they ordered."
But Gray managed to get it done and it was legitimized going into the season, when she was named a co-captain. She was obviously the best returning player on the team, but that honor wasn't a given, con sidering that she just transferred in from Mississippi before her junior year.
"I felt I should have been one, but I would have understood if I wasn't because I wasn't here all four years," she said. "The position is a lot of responsibility. You have to be a good teammate and a good leader as well as a good person, too. You have to watch yourself and make sure you do the right thing."
Just as when she was asked to handle the point position at times.
"It wasn't my first time doing that," she said, "so I just took it as part of my job. I had to learn on the court, learn the team and my role. Don't push it. You have to be a leader (at the point) and get everyone involved in the game. I could take a layup in a given situation, but I also needed to know when I should dump the ball off.
"If it was something I needed to do so we could win a game, I'd do whatever it takes."
Including staying calm, something DeKeyser said Gray was very good at doing.
"She was one of the most coachable people I've ever been around," DeKeyser said. "A ref came up to me during one game one time and said 'That's the most polite player I've ever called a foul on.' "
NCAA Division I St. Louis University, where Gray will head next year, envisions her as a shooting guard or small forward.
"What I would like to work on is my ball-handling," Gray said. "Make it more smooth and crisp. There are other things I'd like to do, like improve my range (she did hit 23 3-pointers this season). I can hit a 3-pointer but I'd like to be more consistent with it."
Gray went out for track last spring at Nicolet but this spring, she will focus on refining her hoops skills with the WBA Prestige AAU team, where she will be playing with some high-level players from South Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls and other suburban communities.
She's valued and appreciated her time at Nicolet and she's honored at the trust that was bestowed upon her by the team this season. She was also pleased at having a role of carrying on the strong tradition that the Knights have built up in recent years.
"I liked having that responsibility," Gray said.
The Gray File
BY THE NUMBERS: The first-team WBCA D2 All-State selection, Gray averaged 16.3 ppg, on 38 percent shooting from the field. She also downed 23 three-pointers and was 68 percent from the line (75-110). She led the team in virtually all offensive and defensive categories including rebounding (211 for 8.8 per game average), 40 assists, an impressive 74 steals (3.1 per game) and 50 blocks (2.1 per game).
RECENT ALL-SUBURBAN HISTORY: Gray is following a good trend for the Knights, as recent selections for Nicolet included guard Brittney Fair in 2012, Player of the Year Ashley Green and teammates Alex Cohen and Gaby Bronson as well as Coach of the Year (COY) Corey Wolf in the state championship year of 2011, Green as POY in 2010 and Wolf as COY in 2009.
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