Southern's Aaron Ray shoots as Wiley's Traylin Prejean defends during Wednesday's game at the F.G. Clark Activity Center on Wednesday.

Advocate photo by April Buffington

Specifically related to a box score, Southern coach Morris Scott knows what Southern will receive nightly from star forward Jared Sam. Points, rebounds and production that will overcrowd and cluster a stat sheet.

But to Scott, the biggest surprise of Southern's youthful and developing season is found elsewhere — and the first-year coach doesn't hesitate expressing he's proud.

"Aaron Ray," Scott said.

"I think he's really been a solid glue guy for us that can really come in and seems like every night when you look at the stat sheet, he's doing something positive."

"He's one of these guys that comes off the bench and brings with a lot of energy. Plays with a lot of effort, emotion. He's a competitor. He always wants to win."

Ray, a hyper and reliable spark as Southern's sixth man off the bench, enrolled at Southern as one of a handful of transfers Scott's program acquired during the past offseason. Hailing originally from Middleton, New York, Ray left Garden City Community College in Kansas and ventured south to Louisiana, where he now calls Southern's basketball team home.

"I like this school," Ray said. "I like the team. I like the coaches. They be on me. They expect me to do big things. They expect me to play hard all the time, give that energy off the bench."

As it is routinely asked of first-year players, Ray fell in line with Southern's transforming program. Scott acquired the steering wheel of the team prior to this season, his first as the Jaguars' head coach following years of service on athletic director Roman Banks' coaching staff. 

Ray's transition was smooth — for the most part.

During the preseason, where Ray angled for make his presence known on Scott's first team, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard said he faced some serious adversity before this season began without revealing what, specifically, the details of his struggles were when asked.

"It was pretty tough," Ray said. "I was going through a little adversity in the preseason. I did some things I wasn't supposed to do."

The root of the issues may engineer Ray's aggressiveness and drive by nature, wanting to out-work a personally rocky offseason and put it behind him. May be they do not. But the accountability installed by Southern's program nowadays is what Ray desires.

"I don't like nothing easy," he said. "I want to work for it. I've got to earn it. That's the way I live by. Earn everything. Work hard."

"Yeah, he's doing something great," Scott said. "The buy-in part for him was kind of easy. He came in and bought in right away and he's definitely taken strides in the right direction."

As previously mentioned, what's become most impressive to Scott is Ray's work ethic. A vocal and physical catalyst on the floor, believe it or not, Ray is timid and soft-spoken off the floor.

To Scott, who says Ray and fellow guard Chris Thomas are Southern's "best competitors," you'd barely be able to recognize Ray as the same person inside and outside of the gym.

The Ray on the court — who is averaging 7.8 points per game in 17.4 minutes — isn't that quiet fellow off the floor.

"He's never come to practice without the energy and effort," the coach said. "He's always going to bring that. You don't have to rev him up to get him going.

"He's a quiet and reserved guy, though. Doesn't really speak a whole lot. Stays to himself at times ... But when he's on the court, he's really passionate and aggressive and you'd think he's talking all the time."

"That's what I'm here for," Ray said.