Photo courtesy of Jon Lopez/Nike
By David Cordova
This is Part 14 of our sixteen-part series, “This Is New York,” as we have chronicled Josh Gray, a promising 6-foot-11 senior forward at Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Connecticut who recently played at The Knox School in St. James, Long Island.
In this day and age, having a center in a New York school, or as many call them, big men, is a rarity. Those players that are 6-foot-8 and above, will nowadays spend time at a city school, Catholic or public, for a year or two and then are out and about to the greener pastures of the prep school scene.
But it is in those type of environments that the center, who may be already very talented, gets to endure competition the likes of which he has never seen before. At that very moment, a challenge is presented to him and shows him an opportunity to improve and gain twice as much exposure than he’s ever had before.
Such is the case of Josh Gray, who is a dominant force in the low post, and was on a roll this summer in the low post wherever he went. He is a center that stands 6-foot-11 and is very strong and is a physical specimen that can take control of the paint area with authority.
This summer, he was able to compete at the NBPA Top 100 Camp on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia and showed off his abilities in front of college coaches and NBA scouts.
When asked how he felt being selected for such a prestigious event, he replied, “Feels great, you know, ‘cause I’ve really been putting in a lot of work and I think, the season I had on the AAU circuit this season was really great and it got a lot of scouts looking at me and overall, I got selected for the camp, so I’m very grateful.”
A native of the Crown Heighs section of Brooklyn, Gray was a force at The Knox School the last couple of seasons and helped the St. James, Long Island school get on the map as far as notoriety throughout the New York metropolitan area. Last season, Gray helped lead the school to a 20-6 record and a PSAA championship.
When asked about his time at the Knox School, he replied, “So I came to the Knox School, like, two years ago, and it was basically like a small school, really wasn’t known for basketball, and then I came in and helped other guys. We really turned the basketball program around and won two championships back-to-back and going to states twice, and I was named MVP twice, so you know, I really feel accomplished for what I did there, and I feel like I’ve done as much as I could at the school.”
Ironically, he had some tutelage from a good coach in Majestic Mapp, a 1999 graduate of St. Raymond High School in The Bronx who was also a McDonald’s All-American and played four years at the University of Virginia.
When asked about what he learned from Mapp, Gray replied, “Well, he’s a McDonald’s All-American, so basically, he’s been telling me all the tools to become a McDonald’s All-American, he says I’ve got to work every day on stuff that I’m not good at because if I’m on the court and they see my weaknesses they will try to expose me. So right now, I’m just trying to be a very well-balanced big man.”
When asked about skills that he is working on, he replied, “What I’m working on? I’m trying to impact the basketball game in multiple ways, defensively, I could block shots, get rebounds, stuff like that. I know I have other skills and stuff like that, so I’m trying to, maybe pop out for a 15-footer, or a three, or a pick-and-roll, and stuff like that.”
At the present moment, he holds offers from schools such as UConn, Rhode Island, St. John’s, LSU, Florida State, Rutgers, West Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.
This spring and summer on the Nike EYBL circuit with the PSA Cardinals, he averaged 3.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and was one of the key pieces to help the Bronx-based program reach the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina.
On September 2nd, Gray announced that he would be transferring to Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Connecticut, and will be playing a big-time national schedule alongside his PSA Cardinals teammate Hassan Diarra, who is also a Queens native, and former Cardinal Hayes guard Jaylen Murray, a Bronx native.
This season, now that he’s a senior, Gray has just a couple of things to do. Be a force in the paint for the Mustangs and also, help them get to and win the National Prep Championship in March, and lastly, commit to the right school of his choice, wherever that may be.
Wherever he lands, he will be an asset to a school, because his great low-post play and skills that he displayed at camp and in various other venues this summer. If you haven’t seen this talent yet, stay tuned.
Check Part 15 on Saturday, September 14th, as we will be chronicling the Nike Pro City pro-am summer league, which went through a renaissance and had a long, but productive summer.