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Date Posted: 07:41:26 07/21/03 Mon
Author: Starter
Subject: WIU Signs T.J. Gray

T.J. Gray signs with Western Illinois
May 9, 2003
by Jason Kaufman

MACOMB, Ill.— Chicago Public League standout T.J. Gray has become the first recruit under Western Illinois University head men’s basketball coach Derek Thomas, after Thomas was hired just over two weeks ago.

Gray, a 5-9 point guard from Julian High School, averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game as a senior. He was named to the all-tournament team in both the Centralia Holiday Tournament and the Chicago Public League School Tournament, in which he averaged 20 points per game.

Julian, one of the Chicago Public League’s powerhouses, won 23 games last season, captured a regional title and finished as runner-up in the City Championship. Gray competed this spring with Verdell Jones’ Ft. Sooy No Limit (AAU) team.

“When you start a program,” Thomas remarked, “you have to start at point guard. As far as T.J.’s talent, the fact that he succeeded in one of the most competitive leagues in the nation and led Julian in scoring speaks for itself. He has learned from one of the best coaches in Chicago. He’s going to add a lot to our quickness, and help with the uptempo style of play you’ll see next year.”

“We’re looking for a lot more from Chicago in the future,” Thomas added. “I hope this is the start of a long, successful relationship with the city. We want the best players Illinois has to offer.”

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[> Strong Spring Helps Gray -- Starter, 16:30:59 08/04/03 Mon

TJ Gray benefitted from a great spring AAU run.
By Dave Telep

T.J. Gray is a perfect example of what AAU and traveling team basketball can do for a kid. Just four weeks ago he was an under recruited senior looking for a prep school. Now, he's Derek Thomas' first recruit.

Spring AAU basketball is the reason why A.J. Gray will play Division I college basketball next season. Prior to running with Verdell Jones’ Ft. Sooy No Limit team four weeks ago, Gray was receiving Division II and III recruiting interest. In fact, he had resided to attend prep school next year.
We’ve seen him at two separate events this spring alone and evaluated him as a mid-major point guard. Apparently, Western Illinois agreed. The Leathernecks had him on campus this week and signed him on Wednesday.

“Western Illinois came and that was the opportunity,” Gray said. In signing with Western Illinois Gray becomes the first recruit of the Derek Thomas Era. “It means a lot. [Coach Thomas] really made me feel something. I think we’re going to have a great relationship.”

Gray averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds as a senior at Chicago Julian last year.

There’s all kinds of talk about doing away with AAU basketball and traveling teams. Well, post-high school ball was just the opportunity Gray needed to advance his career and that’s no small item. Thomas heard about Gray from the player’s high school coach and was able to see him up close and personal at the Kingwood Classic.

The new head coach moved quickly, brought Gray on for a visit and signed the 5-9 point guard with a terrific 3-point stroke to a Division I college scholarship. It’s a situation that will work out well for both parties. Gray is a mid-major prospect and a terrific spring addition for a new coaching staff at the mid-major level.

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