Hip-hop music blared inside the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ cramped locker room Saturday night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Several players sang along with the lyrics, a couple trotted out dance moves, sidestepping numerous gym bags on the floor.
Senior guard Steven Gray was right in the middle of it all, and for good reason. He didn’t want to see Gonzaga’s run of consecutive West Coast Conference titles end on his watch.
“It’s been a grind,” Gray said following GU’s 68-31 rout of San Diego, which clinched a share of the WCC championship, the program’s 11th in a row. “We put ourselves in a big hole and to get out of it … it just feels great. Especially from my standpoint, being the lone senior and seeing what could have happened and seeing the streak end. It’s a big relief, a big weight has been lifted.”
Gray will be back in the spotlight tonight when Gonzaga closes the regular season against Cal State Bakersfield on Senior Night at the McCarthey Athletic Center. It’s not Seniors Night, even though Gray came in with the heralded class of Austin Daye, Robert Sacre and J.C. transfer Ira Brown. Daye left after his sophomore season for the NBA and the Detroit Pistons. Sacre redshirted in 2009 with a fractured foot. Brown finished up in 2009.
Gray will play in his 121st career game tonight. He’s missed 11 — the first 10 of his freshman season with a fractured wrist and the Xavier game this season with back spasms. Gonzaga is 101-30 in his Gray’s four seasons.
He became the 33rd member of Gonzaga’s 1,000-point club in November. If he had reached his career average of 11.4 points in the 11 games he missed due to injury, he would be in the neighborhood of 1,500 career points, just outside the program’s all-time top 10. He’s currently fifth in 3-pointers attempted (539), sixth in 3-pointers made (199), sixth in steals (150) and eighth in assists (318).
“He’s had a remarkable career,” head coach Mark Few said. “Every game he has brought it, every practice. As a coach, you never doubt if Steven is going to bring it. Much like Blake Stepp, he’s close to being the most complete guy we’ve had. He’s a really good defender, a really good rebounder, he can pass, obviously he can shoot the ball and he can play with a ball screen. That’s about all you need to do as a guard.
“He’s been banged up all year and he just keeps playing through it.”
Sacre rarely misses an opportunity to needle his close friend.
“I’m excited for him to leave. I want him out,” a poker-faced Sacre said before breaking into a grin. “He’s like my brother. I’m happy for him. I’m extremely happy for him.”
Gray’s parents and sister, Brittany, who left Gonzaga’s women’s team as a freshman and now plays for Skagit Valley Community College, will attend tonight’s game. True to his easy-going demeanor, Gray plans on taking the pregame ceremony in stride.
“I’ll just go with it,” said Gray, who has acted in campus theater productions and traveled with fellow students to Zambia to participate in one of the school’s numerous multicultural programs.
“It’ll be fun. I’ve got a good group of guys to celebrate with.
“Gonzaga has been the best place I could have gone. It’s crazy to think a 16-year-old made that choice, a very different 16-year-old made that choice. It’s been a place that I could grow up, be around a great group of guys and a great community. It’s been a great experience.”