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.
Xavier’s Amber Gray will become first Lakota basketball player to have her number retired
The best basketball player ever to don a Lakota West basketball jersey, Amber Gray, will become the school district’s first athlete of the sport to have her jersey retired.
Gray, who owns school career records in points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and games played, will have her No. 10 jersey hung permanently in her high school’s gym before the Lakota East at Lakota West girls’ basketball game next Wednesday, Feb. 6. The ceremony will take place at approximately 7:15 p.m.
In 2008, Gray was considered one of the top Division I college recruits in the country. She finished her high school career with the following accolades – McDonald’s All-American, USA Today All-USA Third Team, Parade Magazine All-America, All-Southwest Ohio Player of the Year (twice), First-Team all-state, Cincinnati Enquirer Player of The Year (twice) and Greater Miami Conference Player of the Year (three times).
Many of the top collegiate programs wanted her and after careful consideration, Gray decided to commit to the University of Tennessee.
As a freshman at UT, Gray appeared in 27 games and averaged 2.7 points per game. After the season, however, Gray’s basketball career would be put on hold.
She had suffered a shoulder injury, which she tried to rehab through conditioning. Her shoulder, however, didn’t get better. Gray elected to have surgery in July of 2009.
The surgery performed at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Knoxville, Tenn., was called a success as Gray’s parents and grandparents sat in the waiting room looking forward to seeing her.
A few hours later, no knew why but fluid filled Amber’s lungs. She could not breathe on her own. She was rushed to the intensive care unit and put on life support where she stayed for four days.
“We went from celebrating the success of a shoulder surgery to not knowing if she would ever wake up again,” Amber’s mother Tonya Carter said. (more…)
Nobody guards Amber Gray on the basketball court as closely as “Henry” does. “Henry” is what the Xavier University forward calls the transparent face mask she wears “just to make sure I’m safe out there.” Doctors’ orders.
“If somebody walked into the gym right now and watched her play, all they would do is see the mask, and most people probably assume she’s recovering from a broken nose or something,” said her father, Carlton Gray. “Because of how she carries herself, and because of where she’s at, most people just don’t realize how serious it was and how far she’s come.”
Gray suffered a stroke early that July and days later underwent brain surgery. The 12 1/2-hour procedure involved clipping the bleeding aneurysm that caused the stroke and taking an artery from her left forearm and using it to bypass the damaged blood vessel in her brain.
“She has made not only a remarkable but close to incredible recovery,” said Dr. Mario Zuccarello, the Mayfield Clinic neurosurgeon and chair of the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Neurosurgery who performed the delicate operation at University Hospital.
“She has been able to overcome physical difficulties that many times other patients cannot overcome. She’s taking full advantage of her physical fitness and is back pretty much to normal.”
Gray bears three scars from the procedure – one on her forearm, another in a natural crease on her neck and a third concealed behind her hairline – but pays them little mind. Her concern is helping the Musketeers win basketball games.
“That’s with any injury,” Gray said. “The second you go out there and play tentative, that’s when something happens. That’s when you end up getting hurt.
“It’s hard to explain because I’m out there like, I’m fine. What was there is gone. The problem that was there isn’t there anymore. So I’m like, ‘Well, let’s just play.’ ” (more…)
After shooting a four-over-par 75 Thursday, Lakota West 2011 graduate Korey Ward turned in an even par 71 Friday in the fourth and final round of the Ohio Amateur Championship at NCR Country Club in Kettering. His four-day total of 283 was good enough to win the state’s biggest amateur event.
Ward won the tournament by one stroke and actually asked the scorer for the “low in” on the fairway at No. 17. The scorer told Ward that Danny Lewis (Morrow) was one under.
“I was even in the tournament at that time, so I told myself – ‘you have to make birdie,’” Ward said. “I was 100 yards in and I hit a 9 o’clock pitching wedge to about 12 feet … I knew this was a huge chance for me and then I dropped it in dead center.”
Fellow West Chester resident Andrew Dorn has a three-day total of 220.
Other players from the Greater Cincinnati area also competing in the Ohio Amateur Championship include Robert Gerwin II – 221 (Cincinnati), Bill Williamson – 221 (Cincinnati), Christopher Burger – 223 (Cincinnati), Michael Oberschmidt – 223 (Cincinnati) and Joe Kastelic – 226 (Cincinnati).
Ward shot a 2-under-par 69 Tuesday at the Ohio Amateur Championship, which was good enough for fourth place on day one. Kevin Miller of Dover, who led the tournament after the first 18 holes with a score of 65, shot a three-over-par 74 on Wednesday and is two strokes behind Ward. Jay Overy of Grafton is also two strokes behind the leader with a 36-hole total of 139.
Ward is scheduled to tee off Thursday at 11:10 a.m.
The Lakota West graduate, who will play golf at Xavier University, finished third at the high school state tournament this past fall after winning back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009. He has been named the Greater Miami Conference’s Golf Athlete of the Year the past three seasons.
Fellow West Chester resident Andrew Dorn has a two-day total of 147, which is ten strokes behind Ward. Dorn was named the Greater Catholic League’s Golf Athlete of the Year in the fall of 2009 and 2010. He will continue his golfing career at Coastal Carolina University. Dorn will tee off at 9:40 a.m. Thursday.
Other players from the Greater Cincinnati area also competing in the Ohio Amateur Championship include Robert Gerwin II – 146 (Cincinnati), Bill Williamson – 147 (Cincinnati), Jonathan Feldkamp – 148 (Cincinnati), Jason Greiner – 148 (Cincinnati), Joe Kastelic – 148 (Cincinnati), Michael Oberschmidt – 149 (Cincinnati), Jake Daly – 150 (Cincinnati), John Beringer – 151 (Loveland) and Christopher Burger – 151 (Cincinnati),
According to the Greater Miami Conference website, Rait had a .381 batting average and a .461 on-base percentage this season. He also led the state championship winning Thunderhawks in hits and runs batted in.
Rait was also considering Wright State University and Miami University, according to Matthews.
Meanwhile, Mueck, who will be a senior next school year, has committed to Xavier after being named as the Greater Miami Conference boys’ tennis Athlete of the Year for the second straight season. Mueck also finished as the Division I state runner-up the past two seasons.
Lakota East senior Alex Espinoza and Lakota West sophomore Maggie Hare have committed this week to play their respected sports in college. Espinoza has signed a letter of intent to swim at Urbana University, while Hare has verbally committed to play soccer at Xavier University.
Espinoza was a member of the 2010-2011 Lakota East swimming team, which finished second in Greater Miami Conference meet this winter sports season.
During that meet, Espinoza competed on the 200-yard medley relay team that finished fourth; in the 50-yard freestyle, where he finished seventh; in the 100-yard freestyle, where he finished fourth; and on the 200-yard freestyle relay team that finished third. Espinoza was honored by the GMC by being named as Honorable Mention for the 100-yard freestyle and for being on the 200-yard medley relay team.
Hare was a member on the 2010 Lakota West soccer team that finished in second place in the Greater Miami Conference with a 13-6 overall record and an 8-1 conference record.
Hare was also named to the All-GMC Second Team. According to gmcsports.com, Hare played in 19 games last season and scored eight goals. Her eight goals gave her the second-highest total on the team, behind senior Alex Azeez who has signed with Purdue University.
Hare will be the first Lakota West girls’ soccer player to play at Xavier since Katy Rudokas, who graduated from the high school in 2006.
Espinoza may join other recent Lakota East student athletes who have signed with colleges during a spring signing event at the high school May 18.