Justin Gray: Whistles, Waffles and Wake Forest

PGE Turow Zgorzelek's sharpshooting point guard, Mr. Justin Gray.

From the moment Justin Gray stepped on campus at Wake Forest, folks have recognized that the man can flat out ball. After pairing with Chris Paul in what’s hailed as one of the ACC’s all-time backcourts, it was J-Gray who earned All-Conference honors. The last few years he’s been putting in work in Belgium with Verviers, the Czech Republic with Nymburk and now PGE Turow Zgorzelek of Poland and the Eurocup.  The one constant everywhere he’s been: a ball off of his fingertips usually finds the bottom of the net. This season, “The Gray Area” will touch on his life in Europe, the daily grind, and of course, hoops. Without any further ado, I give you Mr. Justin Gray…

Freaknick: Anyone who knows college hoops knows you tore it up in your freshman year at Wake Forest (12.7 points per game, selected to the ACC All-Freshman team). You averaged 14 per game with Verviers-Pepinster in your first year in the Belgian league and dropped 18 points in 24 minutes in your debut with PGE Turow Zgorzelek. You’re no stranger to hot starts.  I bet you probably liked being “the new kid” in school too, am I right?

After leaving the high school basketball factory Oak Hill, J-Gray made an instant impact at Wake Forest.

Justin Gray: I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder. I was always told when I was younger that I wasn’t fast enough or didn’t jump high enough, but when it came to playing I could put the ball in the basket and my teams always did well. I was taught always to be the aggressor when I was playing so whether it’s my first game or last game in the league, I’m in attack mode. But it’s different in Europe because here, I’m the guy or the American is the guy, so we have to perform night in and out. There’s just that target on your back but I embrace that. I think it just makes me play that much better, but that’s just ME!! As far as being the new guy on the block, it just means they don’t know what to expect from me, but I have big expectations for myself.

FN: Fourth year in Europe.  Third country. Would you rather munch on Belgian waffles, knock back a bottle of Czech Becherovka, or dive into a plateful of Polish pierogis?

Gray, last year playing for Nymburk in the Czech Republic.

JG: I’m going to have to go with the Belgian waffles. I stayed in the center of Verviers and there was this guy who sold waffles all the time at a little shop. All my teammates and I would stop by to see him on the regular, and my favorite one was with warm apples in the middle…they didn’t even need sryup, they were just right! As far as Czech goes, there were a ton of good resturants in Prague, which is probably the best city I’ve been too in all of Europe. Good food, nice people, tons of things to see, not to mention the nightlife!

FN: Last year without you, PGE Turow lost to Daniel Ewing and Asseco Prokom in the Polish finals.  If it comes down to Wake Forest Demon Deacon vs. Duke Blue Devil again this year, who comes out on top in the battle of ACC guards?

JG: First of all, the goal from the beginning is to again be in that situation playing in the finals against anyone. And if it comes down to us playing them then of course D-Ewing and I would be matched up against each other. We have both played in big games and it’ll just be fun to compete because that’s what I want to do: play against someone who is competing all the time….But for the recored I did split with Ewing in college, I think we won on each other’s home courts every year we played. So we’ll see how it goes when we see them this year, I know their team is stacked but I’ll have my troops ready!

FN: In your time in Europe, have you had a teammate that could stick with Eric Williams in an eating competition?

Drink up, Big E.

JG: Haha, I’m going to tell him you said that too! But to be honest, he really didn’t eat that much.  I do remember one road trip in college-I believe we were playing at FSU-we were at breakfast and Big E asked the lady for some apple juice. So she brings out a pitcher for the table. Then he asks for a straw, tell me why he sticks his straw in the pitcher and kills it! I was like, dang bruh! So I haven’t found anyone who could kill a drink like him (non-alcoholic drinks, that is).

FN: Don’t want to jinx it, but you were perfect from the charity stripe last year in Nymburk and you’re off to a 6 for 6 start in Poland. Why didn’t anyone tell me they moved the free throw line closer over there?

JG: So now you put the pressure on me? But nah, I’ve always been a pretty good free throw shooter and for me it’s all about rhythm. In college we shot so many free throws it’s crazy, and even to this day I shoot before and after practice. Every time I’m at the line, I try to block everyone out like I’m just practice shooting. But there are some things I had to get used to here shooting free throws, like the crowds. Normally in America, your home fans get quiet for you. That’s not the case here; they are singing songs, chanting, blowing horns, whistling…I mean everything except being quiet. But to be honest, I’ve gotten so used to it now that if they did get quiet, it might be weird!

But I’m glad that I’m going to be keeping this blog just so I can give people my view of things here in Europe. Also, it will be nice to give people a chance to keep up with my professional career because I always get the “Man, I looked you up but I can’t read the website!!” LOL. Well, this is going to be me telling you about things first hand with the help of my man Nick.  I’ll be trying to send some pics and videos of things on and off the court, so until next time be BLESSED!

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Posted in Uncategorized 1 week, 3 days ago at 1:13 pm.

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  1. dope! great site! got it bookmarked!

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