Chelsea Gray Hopes to Find Herself on 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Following Expanded Training Program
Gray is one of eight players in the program taking part in more practices and games ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games.
After growing up in California, Chelsea Gray knew it was a risk to move completely across the country to play at Duke University, but one she felt was worth taking.
“It was a different experience to be able to have been on the totally opposite coast, so I decided to take a risk, take a gamble,” she said. “It just felt like family when I went to visit.”
Gray started off well with the Blue Devils her first two seasons until fracturing her right knee late in her junior season and then again as a senior. Although she had put together a fine career, the injuries made her question whether she would be able to play professionally.
“I didn’t know if I was still going to have a career,” she said. “It put a lot of question marks like that in my head. Then I got invited to the 2014 WNBA Draft. My last two years I was hurt all of the postseason and some of the regular season. So, it was a real testament to the Connecticut Sun, their staff and ownership to take a chance on me in this league. I’m glad they did.”
Connecticut made her the 11th pick in the first round, though with her knee injury, she was unable to play in the 2014 season. After playing the 2015 season with Connecticut, she was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks where she has gone on to make the WNBA All-Star Team the past three years as a guard. Her upward trend has continued into the 2019 season. Gray posted a triple-double in a game last month, scored 29 points in another and had a double-double in points and assists in early August.
Also a member of the 2019-20 USA Basketball Women’s National Team player pool, Gray soon will be joining Sparks teammate and two-time World Cup gold medalist Nneka Ogwumike as one of eight players taking part in USA Basketball’s new expanded training program leading up to the 2020 Olympics. The national team’s next tournament will be the AmeriCup in Puerto Rico in September, but the first official training of the expanded program will begin early November, and Gray is looking forward to the chance to represent her country.
“It’s exciting. It’s definitely something you want to accomplish,” Gray said. “I’m excited to be able to share this with my family and friends, and the people closest to me. It’s really an honor to play for your country. I’m really grateful to be able to do that.”
Gray, 26, also hopes that she will make the team competing at the Olympics, where the American women have won the past six and eight of the past nine gold medals. Having not played for the national team before — she was invited to a training camp in 2017 but was unable to participate due to playing in the WNBA Finals — making the Olympic team would be a dream come true.
“I definitely have aspirations to be an Olympian,” she said. “It would be a great honor.”
Gray may not have played internationally with USA Basketball before, but she has played overseas during the WNBA offseason, as many U.S. players often do.
“It’s a good experience,” said Gray, who has played pro basketball in Israel, Spain and Turkey. “It’s pretty much what you make of it, but also some situations are better than others. I’ve been in Turkey a lot more than other countries, so it’s been good so far. It gave me the opportunity to see the country, to be able to meet different people from all walks of life. So, it’s been amazing.”
In addition to her accomplished playing career, Gray also has coached youth basketball with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), helping develop young players.
“I have a lot of communications with them and can be a leader for them, someone they can look up to,” she said. “And (teach them) that they can chase any dreams that they have in mind. Positive reinforcement. Being a positive leader and an active woman out there, being able to show young girls — and even young boys — that you can achieve great things no matter what obstacles you go through.”
And her past knee injuries are not an obstacle right now. She’s been able to put those behind her and assemble an all-star caliber WNBA career and also get to represent her country.
“The injury was five, six years ago so I try not to look at it so much,” Gray said. “But it definitely helped with the way I am now.”
Jim Caple is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.