In his second official game in an LSU basketball uniform on Tuesday night, Tigers point guard Josh Gray will come across some familiar faces on the Pete Maravich Assembly Center court.
But not many.
A year and a half after leaving the Texas Tech program, Gray will see that a lot has changed for the Red Raiders with only three teammates remaining from his only season in Lubbock — Toddrick Gotcher, Luke Adams and Clark Lammert. A fourth, Aaron Ross, is injured and won’t play against the Tigers.
Considering that, there likely won’t be the emotions that normally come with facing your old school when Gray and LSU go against Texas Tech in the finale of the ESPN Tipoff Marathon.
“It’ll be fun … I’ll enjoy it,” Gray said Monday. “I don’t have any hard feelings about it or anything.”
Gray, a Lake Charles native who played his final two years of high school basketball in the Houston area, was a freshman on coach Billy Gillispie’s final team at Texas Tech in 2012-13.
Gray was the third-leading scorer at 9.3 points a game and led the Red Raiders in assists (3.2) and steals (2.0), but decided to leave after Gillispie resigned because of health issues.
While he said he had nothing against coach Tubby Smith, who was hired to replace Gillispie, Gray moved on to Odessa (Texas) College and flourished as one of the top scorers and playmakers in the junior college ranks a year ago.
“Coach Smith and I had a conversation just before I left,” Gray said. “I had an opportunity to stay, but it was my choice to leave. He understood, most definitely. He just told me congratulations and good luck with the rest of my career.”
“I’m not going to say it wasn’t a good fit,” he said last month. “I came in with a (coaching) staff that I trusted and believed in. Once they left, I figured there was nothing else there for me.”
Gray landed at Odessa and in his only season there averaged 34.7 points, 5.9 assists and 2.7 steals in earning All-America honors, then signed on with his homestate team — mainly because of LSU coach Johnny Jones and assistant head coach David Patrick.
Gray said he hadn’t thought much about Tuesday night’s game when the schedule came out last summer although he knew Texas Tech was coming to Baton Rouge on the back end of a home-and-home arrangement.
“I didn’t circle it on the calendar or anything,” said Gray, who had 17 points, six rebounds and three assists in a season-opening 93-82 win against Gardner-Webb on Saturday. “I’m approaching it as another game on the schedule. I don’t have anything against them, everything was great there.”
As such, he said the emotions won’t be running too high.
“I just have to play normal, I have to play for my teammates and for my coaching staff,” he said. “We’ll have a game plan and I have to execute it as much as I can.”
Jones said he isn’t too sure about the emotion part.
“I’ll just tell him to make sure he keeps it within the lines,” he said Monday. “The one thing you want is guys to have an edge, and Josh is going to have that — them as well. That’s why you really play the game, but he’s been in enough games that he should be able to play himself through that.”
LSU forward Jordan Mickey was among the players named Monday to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 Watch List. The list will be trimmed to 25 in January with finalists announced in March. … LSU was among the teams receiving votes in the AP and USA Today coaches polls Monday, garnering five points from the writers and two points from the coaches. … Texas Tech reserve guard Stan Mays, a sophomore, is a Baton Rouge native who played his high school ball at Episcopal.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.