After playing for five different basketball teams in the past five years, Josh Gray may have found a home.
Actually, he found a home at home.
After a long, arduous journey that took him from Lake Charles to four cities in Texas — Humble, Houston, Lubbock and Odessa — the 6-foot-1 point guard finally landed in Baton Rouge in June with the LSU basketball team.
Mature beyond his 21 years, Gray will be the first to tell you he accepts some of the responsibility for a nomadic adventure that began 4½ years ago after leading Washington-Marion to the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament.
“All the stages I’ve been through, it made the man I am today,” Gray said during LSU media day recently. “It’s been a long journey.”
Everything seemed to go haywire after his mother, Charnella Robinson, died suddenly when he was 16. That was followed by some trouble he got into, which included accepting a ride in a car with friends who, unbeknownst to him, had loaded assault rifles in the trunk.
The charges against Gray were dropped when an investigation showed he had no knowledge of the weapons, but he left the state looking for a fresh start.
Scared straight by the incident, he said he settled down and started taking the game he loved more seriously.
“I don’t take it for granted anymore,” he admitted. “It’s a window with a small opportunity. I figured if I was going to play ball, I was going to put both my feet in and go after it.”
The only problem was, he couldn’t settle down.
After a year at Humble Christian Life Center Academy, where he averaged more than 20 points per game in leading his team to a 20-4 record, the school shut down.
That led him to transfer to Houston’s Wheatley High School, where he averaged 24 points, six assists and three steals per game in one season there — drawing the interest of schools from Illinois, to Louisville, to Arizona and Arizona State, to Texas A&M.
But not LSU. He wound up at Texas Tech, where he averaged 9.3 points and 3.2 assists per game as a freshman before leaving when coach Billy Gillispie departed because of health concerns and team-related issues.
The next stop for Gray was Odessa College, a junior college in West Texas. He led the nation in scoring last season with 34.7 points per game and earned first-team All-America honors in averaging 5.9 assists, 2.7 steals and shooting 45.9 percent from the field.
Again, Division I offers poured in from all over the country. But when LSU coach Johnny Jones and assistant head coach David Patrick called, Gray knew he was headed home.
“It’s home … it’s home for me,” he said. “For me to come back and play in front of my family and friends, that’s a privilege for me.
“When LSU offered, I told every other school that was recruiting me, hands-down, I was going home. I told them I appreciated the opportunity, but that was my dream school. I’m back home now, and I feel stable.”
He may not have had the opportunity to come back had Gillispie been able to continue at Texas Tech.
“I’m not going to say it wasn’t a good fit,” Gray said of his one season there. “I came in with a staff that I trusted and believed in. Once they left, there was nothing else there for me.”
Anyway, by now, packing up and moving on was old hat for Gray.
“I had to go to a bigger city on my own, and I had to grow up in a hurry,” he said. “It wasn’t an option for me; I had to grow up. So I know how to deal with things now that a regular kid my age couldn’t deal with.”
After settling in at his new home, Jones said Gray won’t have to score as much with talented players like forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, center Elbert Robinson III and guards Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson and Tim Quarterman to get the ball to.
“No disrespect to the people he had the opportunity to play with in junior college, but he’s going to be surrounded by some other individuals that he’ll have the opportunity to trust more and won’t have to do as much,” Jones said. “He’s a good passer and can create opportunities for others.
“It’s great having a guard that has the ability to score and be such a scoring threat out there inside and out. He can get to the rim, get to the free-throw line as well and also knock down jumpers. He is a great passer as well.”
Whatever happens, Gray says he’ll remember where he’s been and how he got home — and certainly won’t take anything for granted.
“It’s been a long, confusing journey, but I appreciate the people in my life that helped guide me through it,” he said. “It made me the man I am today, so I appreciate it.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.