Amber Gray becomes first to have number retired at Lakota West
On National Signing Day, a day when high school student athletes throughout the country are celebrated for what they will do in the future, a former high school athlete returned to her alma mater to be recognized for what she has done.
Amber Gray’s story is as inspirational as they come and, deservingly so, Lakota West bestowed an honor that it has never done before – by retiring her No. 10 jersey just prior to the Lakota East at Lakota West varsity basketball game Wednesday night.
“It is a huge honor. I don’t think I would be where I am without my teammates and coaches,” Gray said.
“To be able to always walk into Lakota West and see that number up there will always bring back the memories of the great times and the stories that I have throughout my high school career.”
On the basketball floor, Gray’s story began Nov. 23, 2004.
Lakota sports historian Bob Ashby remembers it clearly.
At the time, West Chester Township was abounded with buzz about a freshman phenom, who was going to the start season opener at Vandalia-Butler. Ashby had to see it.
The debut started with Gray winning the opening tip, getting the ball back and scoring the game’s first basket. Behind its new star, West jumped out to a big lead and by the third quarter, Gray was done of for the day – on the bench with 24 points, 10 rebounds in only 18 minutes of play.
From there, Gray didn’t slow down becoming the school’s all-time leader in points scored (1,931), rebounds (925), assists (197), blocks (130) and games played (99).
Her spectacular play earned her the distinction of being named a McDonald’s All-American and a full ride to play for NCAA’s all-time winningest coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee.
After seeing some action as a freshman – averaging 2.7 points per game in 27 appearances – Gray underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason.
The surgery was declared a success until Gray’s lungs inexplicably filled up with fluid. She couldn’t breathe on her own and was put on life support for four days.
She would eventually recover, from what was later determined a stroke caused by a brain aneurysm, but it was a fight.
Gray brought the fight back home and transferred to Xavier, where she is now senior and leads her team in scoring with 10.8 points per game.
“She is very inspiring. That goes without question,” her father Carlton Gray said. “This isn’t just about basketball, it also about how she has recovered and attacked everything with a positive attitude. As a parent you can learn from that.”
Once Amber graduates from Xavier in May, she plans to take her infectious positive attitude into coaching. Gray said that she would like to do it on the collegiate level.
“I may also want to work with younger players as well,” she said. “I have younger siblings and that has always been a huge priority of mine – making sure they are able to accomplish their dreams.”
Whenever Amber gets a break from school and college basketball, she will attend practices and help coach her younger sisters – Chance Gray, 8, Alanna Carter, 10, Sierra Herrera, 16, and Skylar Herrera, 12.
“She is the best ever, she teaches us basketball,” Alanna said. “She also teaches us how to be a good person.”
In honor of Gray, Lakota West donned its away red jerseys to match Gray’s replica jersey in Lakota West’s gym and defeated school-district rival Lakota East 49-39. Lakota West’s next potential star, sophomore Lauren Cannatelli, led all scorers with 21 points.
Lakota East (7-14, 6-8) – Satterwhite 2 0 4, Catron 1 0 3, Rodgers 1 4 6, Wills 1 2 4, Pearl 2 0 4, Goodwin 1 1 3, Franklin 4 0 9, White 3 0 6. Totals 15 7 39.
Lakota West (17-3, 11-3 in GMC) – Wells 1 0 2, Niehaus 1 0 3, Staples 3 2 8, Cannatelli 5 10 21, Whitaker 0 1 1, Carter 4 1 9, Tomasic 1 0 2, Aull 0 1 1, Wasan 1 0 2. Totals 16 15 49.
Halftime: Lakota West 24-14. 3-pointers: LW 2 (Niehaus, Cannatelli); LE 2 (Catron, Franklin).