Fifteen minutes before teams normally take the court for pregame warm-ups at Madison Square Garden, there was but one lone player on the court before the Liberty’s game against the Atlanta Dream. Usually it’s the veterans that have a reputation for being the first onto the court for warm-ups.
But on this particular Friday it was Dream rookie Reshanda Gray, all by her lonesome, getting up shots. After all, why wouldn’t she be? Gray spent much of the season with the Minnesota Lynx playing sparsely throughout the first half of the season.
Shortly after the All-Star break, she was part of the three-team blockbuster trade that sent Sylvia Fowles to Minnesota and Erika de Souza to Chicago. Since then, Gray has played well and has shown flashes of promise on a Dream team that has plugged her into the rotation and let her learn and grow on the fly.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” Gray said. “I had a great time in Minnesota. I enjoyed being there and I learned a lot from a lot of great players on that team, and I was happy to be given another opportunity just to play basketball and feel wanted. That’s always great.”
Gray played in 10 games for the Lynx and only played double-digit minutes once. During that span, Gray never scored more than two points in a single game. But during her debut with the Dream on July 29, Gray was given what she’d been hoping for all along: an opportunity to just play.
The result? Thirteen points on 5-of-7 shooting in the a loss to the Stars. Since then, she’s continued to play well, notching a career-best 18 points in the Dream’s 90-77 win against the Sun on August 16.
“She’s a young player that I think is going to be a special player in this league,” Dream head coach Michael Cooper said. “She’s still learning our system, so sometimes she’s out of place out there and really doesn’t know what she’s doing, but that’s part of this game – learning and growing.”
That need to learn and grow is not something that’s lost on Gray.
“I have to be smarter basketball-wise,” she said, “and then more just physically.”
In the game against the Liberty, Gray had the opportunity to play against one of her best friends and a former college teammate, Brittany Boyd. Gray once called the duo the “Corn Flakes and milk” when the two played together in college. But since their time in the pros began in early June, the close friends had not played against each other, made evident by their time spent catching up at halfcourt prior to the game.
But when the ball was tipped, the friendship took a backseat to what mattered most: winning. In one sequence, Boyd drilled a three-pointer as the shot clock expired.
“I told her that buzzer beater was really ugly,” Gray said. “I’m really happy. I’m not playing with her, which is sad, but I had her for four years so other people can have her now. It’s always great playing against one of your old teammates and one of your close friends that you’re really cool with. Just for both of you guys to have a love for the game. When I got my shot blocked, she was like, ‘Alright, come on. Here we go.’ Just little stuff like that. Even though we’re on different teams, I still feel the love there.”
As for Gray’s continued development, Cooper sees a bright future for the 6-foot-2 forward. Cooper noted that she’s already shown growth in terms of adjusting to the physicality of life as a frontcourt player in the WNBA. In her first three games with the Dream, Gray fouled out of two. Now, though, she’s figuring out how to play within the Dream’s system, cut down on the fouls and continue to take advantage of the opportunities thrown her way.
“What I’m surprised about with her game is that I didn’t know she could hit that face up jumper consistently,” Cooper said. “She’s been knocking that shot down, so we’re definitely going to work on that. I think her low post play is going to need some work more, but again, that’s one of the great things about having her. She’s a great future player.”