2022 Players Top 50: #33 Chris Gray
By Lauren Merola | Dec 6, 2022
Chris Gray was sitting with his dad Ken in the bleachers by the outfield at Yankee Stadium when it hit him.
“What am I waiting for?” he remembered thinking. “Why not just do it right now?”
It was a June day in 2019, and Chris walked under the bleachers to call University of North Carolina lacrosse coach Joe Breschi. He committed to play for UNC – transferring from Boston University – for his final three years of eligibility, including the additional year granted to NCAA athletes during COVID-19.
There, he posted 299 points in 51 games. As a graduate student in 2022, Chris led the Tar Heels in goals (48) and assists (32). He finished first in the ACC in points and was selected as a Tewaaraton Award finalist for the second straight season. On May 2, in his final regular-season game for the Tar Heels, Chris set the new NCAA Division I career points record – passing Cannons attackman Lyle Thompson (400) – with 401.
Atlas coach Ben Rubeor grabbed Chris with the No. 2 pick in the 2022 Premier Lacrosse League College Draft. Chris closed out his rookie season with 34 points (16G, 1 2G, 16A), ranking eighth highest in the League.
He was a Rookie of the Year candidate.
On the field, Chris’ accolades span far and wide, but off of it, you’d never know the 22-year-old’s laundry list of accomplishments.
“He’s calm. He’s a competitor. He is extremely skilled and when he gets on the field, he’s really just trying to win,” Rubeor said. “I don’t think he cares about the points. I don’t think he cares about the accolades. I think he wants to go out there and help a team win. That’s a skill in itself. Not everybody has that.”
Chris said his decision to transfer to UNC was mostly an academic decision. He wanted to pursue a business degree and wasn’t admitted to BU’s Questrom School of Business.
He didn’t get the needed scores during his freshman year of college, but the one test he needed to pass, he aced.
Upon arriving at UNC for his campus visit, Chris, Ken and his mom Donna were set to meet with Breschi. They all walked through the players’ lounge to reach Breschi’s office, but the coach didn’t meet them outside his office, nor at his office door. Breschi stayed by his desk to check how Chris handled the doorway.
“It’s a recruiting trick to see what kind of kid he is,” Breschi said. “When he came in, he opened the door. Mom and dad walked in. Chris was buttoned up in a polo shirt and long, khaki pants and walked right over with a firm handshake and eye contact. Right away, I knew he’d fit here.”
Chris arrived at UNC as a junior in 2020. For the first month of fall ball, Breschi said Chris was unassuming. He listened more than he talked during practice. Breschi saw flashes of Chris’ brilliance, but it wasn’t until the scrimmage against Ohio State that Chris made Breschi’s eyes go wide.
“Chris was doing stuff that made me go, ‘Holy smokes,’” Breschi said. “He will put on a show on the field, but he’s not like that off the field.”
Chris will do however much – or however little – is asked of him. If it’ll help the team win, Chris buys in because, quite frankly, he can’t stand to lose. He hates it. He’s hated it since he was 5 years old.
Chris and his brother Nick grew up competing against each other. They played pick-up basketball, lacrosse, soccer and Wiffle ball – even video games – daily at their house in Wading River, N.Y.
Nick, being two years older and seven inches taller, always won. He introduced Chris to losing, and the feelings that come with it.
“I would always get so pissed,” Chris said. “I have vivid images in my head of Nick beating me in pick up, or him beating me one-on-one, and I’m just out in the backyard or the driveway playing for another two hours after because I just wanted to beat him so bad.”
Chris said his mom often says he’s two different people.
Who he is depends on where he is.
“As quiet as he is, he’s an extreme competitor,” Jeff Teat said. “The way he goes about himself, he doesn’t do anything blasphemous. In practice or in games, he has to talk a little bit more. That competitive edge comes out and I think that compliments his game well as opposed to being calm and cool the whole game, he definitely gets a little fiery.”
On turf, Chris is hyper-focused, intense and competitive. Off of it, he’s more mellow and laid back.
And works in silence.
Back in February, Breschi took his 15-year-old daughter to the indoor field on UNC’s campus to throw the lacrosse ball around. It was around 8 p.m., and when Breschi pushed the door open, he saw a familiar figure.
At the other end of the field, with his music playing, Chris was taking shots and playing wallball.
While earning his MBA, practicing regularly with and captaining his team, Chris found extra time to work on his own.
“He’s a lacrosse junkie with regards to creativity and creating his game. Chris was in there taking shots that he doesn’t do in practice but he’s trying to fine-tune his craft so he’s confident enough to not only do them in practice but eventually in a game,” Breschi said. “He did stuff when people weren’t looking to elevate his game to a whole new level.”
At that moment, Breschi was confident in the decision he made the first time he ever met Chris during home visits on Long Island when he tossed Chris his car keys and told him they were the keys to the Tar Heels offense.
A decision replicated by Rubeor.
After the individual success Chris had in college, he was the projected No. 1 pick in the 2022 PLL College Draft. When Chrome coach Tim Soudan selected Maryland attacker Logan Wisnauskas with the No. 1 overall pick, Chris wasn’t surprised, nor bothered. He said he knew Chrome needed a lefty attacker and a Wisnauskaus-caliber player was hard to come by.
Chris said the draft went exactly how he hoped. He wanted the chance to play with Teat, the 2021 PLL Rookie of the Year, and Trevor Baptiste, the 2022 PLL MVP.
“For him, it wasn’t about the number,” Donna said. “It wasn’t about being the No. 1 pick. It never is.”
While Chris wasn’t surprised, Rubeor was. Still, seeing Chris on the board at No. 2 was an opportunity too good to pass up. Rubeor drafted Chris and called the rookie to tell him. Immediately, Rubeor knew he made the right choice.
“I was pleasantly surprised to hear the humility on the other end of the phone,” Rubeor said.
Atlas didn’t have a huge need on the right side of attack, but Rubeor liked the righty-lefty pairing of Gray and Teat, respectively. He knew they could both play anywhere down low and was excited by the balance they’d provide on the wings.
Their chemistry was instant.
Gray and Teat each assisted each other five times during the season. They connected on 10 goals total, the second most among teammates in 2022.
“Immediately, he fit in extremely well with our team,” Teat said. “Him being the No. 2 overall pick and the NCAA all-time leader in points, it’s pretty magnificent seeing him be as humble as he is and do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
Teat said Atlas’ captains exercise humility and extreme willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Two qualities Chris encapsulates. It’s why he fit seamlessly into a team that prioritizes family-style play, where “everybody eats.”
It’s why Rubeor drafted him, and why Breschi said Chris is the most talented player he’s ever coached.
“Chris can dodge. He can feed. He can play off ball. He can work off ball to get his teammates open,” Breschi said. “He’s the most complete lacrosse player I’ve ever been around. Along those same lines, he's also the most humble.”