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IN THREE-PLUS years at Gonzaga, Steven Gray has appeared in two theatrical productions, including playing the role of Tybalt in a staging of Romeo and Juliet that just ended in October. Last summer, while his Gonzaga teammates were grinding away in the gym, the senior guard spent a month in Zambia teaching sixth-graders literature. Zags coach Mark Few calls Gray "deep" and "an interesting guy," but he does so with more than a touch of frustration. This interesting guy is the key to Gonzaga's season.
"Last year Steven had the luxury of sitting back and absorbing the game," Few says. "He doesn't have that luxury this year. We need him to be dialed in for us, to make basketball his primary focus."
Gonzaga has many excellent players beyond Gray. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre are as good as any forward-center combo in college basketball. The lineup in the frontcourt can also include 7-foot sophomore Kelly Olynyk and 6'6" swingman Mangisto Arop—who could see plenty of minutes for a team that says it plans to go bigger.
But in the backcourt Demetri Goodson made only four of 29 three-point attempts last season, and Marquise Carter is a touted but unproven junior college transfer. Gray is the only established performer and the most talented of the three.
He deferred much of the time to Matt Bouldin, the conference player of the year. Gray has the height and the quickness to be a big guard who can both beat defenders off the dribble and create shots for others.
"Most Division I athletes come to college, and they are stuck in this hole. They don't pursue other interests," he says. "I've been able to grow as an individual and not just as a basketball player."
There will be more growth, more acting (he hopes), and other interesting pursuits, but for the next few months, he says with a chuckle, "I've cleared my schedule. It's all about basketball."
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Coach Mark Few (12th season)
2009--10 record 27--7