Freshmen Daye, Gray Adjusting To Collegiate Life Nicely

Feb. 8, 2008

The rigors of being a college freshman are enough to weigh on any 18-year-old.

There's the adjustment to a new environment, new friends, increased academic pressures and, in many cases, just being away from home for the first time that collegiate rookies must endure.

Add to the mix you're a part of one of the elite men's basketball programs in NCAA Division I and the adjustment curve goes off the scale.

But that's what Gonzaga University freshmen Austin Daye and Steven Gray have had to endure, and so far it seems they've done it quite nicely, thank you. Among Gonzaga's newcomers, they are seeing the most action.

As the West Coast Conference season enters the second half and the stretch run toward the WCC and, hopefully, NCAA tournaments gets in full gear, Daye and Gary are seeing plenty of playing time.

Daye, who came to Gonzaga out of Woodbridge High in Irvine, Calif., as the 32nd best player in the 2007 recruiting class by one scouring service, didn't waste any time making an impact. All he did was score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds in his first collegiate outing against the University of Montana in the season opener. He since recorded another double-double with his 19 points and 13 rebounds against the University of Portland. Both double-doubles came off the bench. He's averaging nearly 19 minutes/game. Plus, the older generation fans remember his father, Darren, as a member of the legendary UCLA teams from 1980-83 who went on to play five seasons in the NBA, so the comparisons started immediately when Daye announced his intentions to attend Gonzaga.

Daye has also gained notoriety for his marksmanship from the free throw line, where he's hitting nearly 91.0 percent of his throws to follow in the footsteps of Derek Raivio, the best single-season and career free throw shooting in Bulldog history. Daye has been ranked in the Top 10 nationally for free throw percentage all season.

 

 

Gray, tabbed the 2A Washington State Player of the Year while at Chimacum High and the Associated Press and Seattle Times State Player of the Year and the 3A Player of the Year while finishing his prep career at Bainbridge, took a little longer to make an impact.

In Gonzaga's exhibition game against Emporia State University, Gray landed on his wrist, suffering a fracture. While the break wasn't a compound fracture, the decision was made to insert screws to help the healing process. That sidelined him for the first 11 games of the regular season. He made his first appearance against Northern Colorado University, playing 28 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. He's played double-digit minutes in every appearance through Jan. 31 and was inserted into the starting lineup at the University of Georgia. He scored 16 points against the University of San Francisco. He's averaging nearly 24 minutes/game.

Both players are humble when talking about their early contributions - and successes.

"I'm always confident in myself," Daye said. "But the coaches gave their confidence in me."

"No," Gray stated flatly when asked if he expected to play such a major role early in his career. "I figured I'd kind of ease into it after the injury and be fortunate to get minutes. I just wanted to play hard and contribute."

Both said they are adjusting to what college life and basketball has thrown at them.

"The mental aspect is the biggest adjustment," Daye said. "You have to adjust to each team and you're constantly making personal adjustments."

Gray said "more commitment" is the thing he has noticed most.

"In high school you have your pre-season and then you have time off after the season. In college it's year round. You have to learn to manage basketball with your time."

Daye said his father being on hand for his first collegiate game is one of the major highlights in his brief career, while Gray said taking - and hitting - his first collegiate shot (a 3-pointer) against UNC after coming off the injury was the most memorable moment thus far for him.

The biggest moment of their careers so far might have been their play down the stretch at Santa Clara University Feb. 2 though. Gray sank two free throws with 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime, while Daye scored 13 of his career-high 22 points in the two overtime periods to help the Bulldogs escape with a victory.

But both agree these memories will fade with every game. There would appear to be many more memories to be made by these two outstanding freshmen.

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