Thursday, March 06, 2008

Summitt lauds Amber Gray

When Lakota West standout and University of Tennessee signee Amber Gray won the Ohio Ms. Basketball award Wednesday night, it made a significant impression on her future college coach – the legendary Pat Summitt.

Summitt, who has the most wins (974) in NCAA basketball history (men or women), said she regards Ohio as one of the nation’s hotbeds of high school basketball the prep game – and that Gray’s award is a tribute to what she has accomplished.

“I think it’s a great honor to be player of the year,” Summitt said. “You know how competitive it is (in Ohio). She is going up against a lot of great players. Receiving that award is a real compliment to Amber and what she invested in her game.”

Summitt, who is 974-182 in her 34th season at UT, said Gray understands the competition she will encounter in daily practices and during games at UT. But, Summitt said Gray seems to be equipped with enough skills and knowledge of the game to adapt.

“…You never know how long it takes a player to adjust,” Summitt said. “It might take a player a year or more to really start to continue (to play) the way we would expect. I think Amber with her basketball knowledge and her ability to play number of positions – it will obviously work in her favor and hopefully work in our favor.”

Gray, a 6-foot-1 forward, leads Lakota West (25-1) into today’s Division I state semifinal game against Youngstown Boardman (19-7) at 6 p.m. at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena.

Gray, who was considered among the nation’s top recruits from the 2008 class, has averaged 18.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals for the Firebirds.

“She is very skilled can play a number of positions,” Summitt said. “One thing that impressed me so much was her communication skills and leadership. She is obviously very bright, and she is so articulate.”

Gray has had several honors this season, including being named a McDonald’s All-American. She is scheduled to play in the seventh annual all-star game March 26 at 7 p.m. at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.

While the Volunteers are preparing for the Southeastern Conference tournament, Summitt said Gray will be part of a deep freshman class next season.

Gray is one of five incoming UT recruits to be named to the McDonald’s All-America team. The others are forward Alyssia Brewer (Sapulpa, Okla.), forward Glory Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.), guard Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton, Ark.) and forward Alicia Manning (Woodstock, Ga.).

“(Amber) certainly has great range,” Summitt said. “With her physique, she can go inside and post up and play off the dribble. She’s got a strong set of offensive skills that give her even more versatility.”

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