Gray-ja-vu: For Chelsea Gray and Alexis Gray-Lawson, great basketball runs in the family

Chelsea Gray puts up two – photo by Jon Gardiner, Duke Photography
Alexis Gray-Lawson on Cal senior day in 2010. Her father Orlando Gray, in the purple sweater on the right, walked her on court – photo by
Chelsea Gray’s rise to the top of Duke’s scoring ranks this season has been a big help to the Blue Devils, who have lost only one game.

But for Gray’s family, it’s been a bit of a deja vu. Because it wasn’t too long ago that Gray’s cousin, Alexis Gray-Lawson, was similarly lighting up the record books and statistic columns at Cal.

Call it basketball lineage, but the parallels are there.

Both players shone in their freshman years, earning conference honors. But it was their sophomore years where they broke out statistically. Gray-Lawson was second team all-Pac-10 and the third leading-scorer for Cal; Gray was all-ACC second team and was one of the leading Blue Devils in scoring.

Gray-Lawson made the conference first team her last two years, and as a senior nailed down numerous records, including becoming her school’s third-leading all-time scorer. She was selected in the 2010 WNBA draft upon graduation.

Gray, a junior this season, appears to be on a similar path. She is the second-leading scorer for Duke, averaging 13.1 points per game. Last month she set the school single-game assists record, and last week she put up a career-high 28 points playing against Maryland.

Gray-Lawson, currently playing overseas for Ramat Hasharon in the Israel League, has been tracking her cousin’s season with excitement. She said the younger Gray is on her way.

“She’s already a big guard, so I think people underestimate her ability to be a really good point guard,” Gray-Lawson said. “She can really do everything, and each year I see her, she gets better.”

“Chelsea reminds me so much of myself – she has a lot to prove. She’s a competitor. A lot of the great things she does for her team don’t show up in the stat sheets. I’m not surprised at all in how well she is doing.”

Gray-Lawson grew up in Oakland, Calif. and Gray was raised in nearby Stockton. Gray-Lawson’s father, Orlando Gray, and Gray’s father James are brothers. Gray-Lawson is five years older than her cousin.

At eight years old, Gray-Lawson began playing basketball at the Catholic Youth Organization. A year later, at age four, Gray began shooting. She took up the game when she was six.

Gray said her mother Vickey was a volleyball player and her dad and brother played baseball. She was inspired to pick up basketball by her cousin. Vickey Gray then became her strongest supporter, not missing one of her daughter’s games.

“I remember her trying to play with us when she was really young, but she was too small,” Gray-Lawson said.

The cousins often didn’t get to see each other as much as they would have liked, but when they did, it was special. Gray said that Gray-Lawson was a good example to her.

“I would go to some of her games when she was in high school, and I would see her getting recruited,” Gray said. “I began to wonder if I could do that. I got a lot of inspiration from her.”

These days, both women have a bit less time on their hands.

Duke has been ranked in the top five almost this entire year, and along with Gray, they seem to be picking up momentum as the regular season winds down.

Gray-Lawson is averaging 18 points and seven rebounds a game in Israel, and her team is currently in the playoffs. One of the other members of Ramat Hasharon is Karima Christmas, a former teammate of Gray’s.

“We try and talk as often as we can, but we both get really busy,” Gray-Lawson said. “Her with school and sports and also the time difference.”

Personality-wise the two are opposites.

Gray-Lawson describes Gray as a people person, “fun, full of life and outspoken.” In contrast, she is more reserved and quiet.

Gray characterizes her cousin as funny and “a little honery.”

“She likes to argue,” Gray said.

What they have in common is that they are both always trying to improve their game. Gray said it also carries into life.

“We are both determined to do well and to succeed,” Gray said. “We both have that determination to do well on both the court and in life.”

Gray is hoping that this year, that includes a trip to New Orleans.

“I am constantly trying to get better and improve each game,” she said. “I’d like to win the ACC tournament and go to the Final Four.”

Alexis Gray-Lawson breaks ankles on the way to the rack – photo by
Chelsea Gray has a determined look as she goes toward the basket – photo by Jon Gardiner, Duke Photography