Texas Tech Basketball Senior Salute: Justin Gray

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Justin Gray
LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Justin Gray /

In advance of Saturday’s senior day for Texas Tech basketball, we take a look at the career of forward Justin Gray.

Every good basketball team needs a player willing to do the dirty work without receiving the accolades or headlines.  For the past four years, Justin Gray has been such a player for the Texas Tech basketball program.

Gray has career averages of 7.35 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.6 blocks and 0.8 steals per game.   In other words, the Tampa, Florida native has become the Swiss Army knife of the Red Raider program.

And perhaps even more importantly to the program has been Gray’s leadership, both on the court and in the locker room.

"“You can have special younger players, which we obviously do.” Head Coach Chris Beard said to the media on Thursday.  “But…those seniors, those are the guys that lead it…the reason that Culver and [Zhaire Smith] are having these special seasons is because of guys like Justin Gray, and Zach [Smith] and Norense [Odiase] and Keenan [Evans] and Niem [Stevenson] and Tommy [Hamilton] are the leaders.”"

Coming out of Florida, Gray was a three-star recruit when he committed to Texas Tech and then head coach Tubby Smith in 2014.  To fully understand the type of person Justin Gray is, one must remember that he chose Texas Tech over Harvard where he was interested in pursuing a pre-med major.  Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships meaning the interest Harvard had in Justin Gray was for his academics.  That’s high praise.

He also had basketball offers from Stanford, UCF, Virginia Commonwealth and Butler.

Gray has been steady since his freshman season.  He averaged 6.5 points per game and started 13 games before a knee injury cost him the second half of the season.

He returned for his sophomore year missing only one game.  In the process he upped his scoring average to 8.7 points per game while shooting 51.1% from the field.  He was a key piece that led the Red Raiders to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 for the first time since 2007.

As a junior, Gray had an impressive stat line of 8.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals per game.  He made 27 starts and played in all of the team’s 32 games.

This season has been perhaps his best despite what the box score suggests.  His scoring is down to a career-low 5.1 points per game.  However, he has become an integral part of the team because of his defense.

When fellow senior forward Zach Smith was lost for seven weeks due to injury, the 6-foot-5 Gray was asked to help take up the slack defensively.  Often spending his time guarding much larger power forwards, Gray has taken quite the physical pounding as he has battled inside.  Still, he has been effective as the Red Raiders have had the top team defense in the Big 12.

Next: Senior Salute: Niem Stevenson

Gritty, tough and wiling to do whatever it takes, Justin Gray is the epitome of what it means to be a Texas Tech Red Raider.  And as such, he has been a key part of the rebirth of the Texas Tech basketball program.