Prospect Profile: Chris Gray
By Sarah Griffin | May 6, 2022
As an attackman who can truly do it all, Chris Gray has proven more than once he has the skill, versatility, lacrosse IQ, and perhaps most importantly a team-first mentality to instantly upgrade any offense. The projected overall first pick, Gray’s found personal success everywhere he’s played that’s helped elevate the game of those around him in turn.
High school career
Gray grew up in Wading River, New York and was a dual-sport athlete between lacrosse and football at Shoreham Wading River High School. A member of the varsity squad for lacrosse for three seasons, he helped bring Shoreham to two consecutive titles in 2016 and 2017 in his junior and senior seasons, leading all of Long Island in points both years. He was named a US Lacrosse All-American both years as well.
In football, Gray won three consecutive championships from 2015 to 2017, and as a running back led all of Suffolk County in rushing in 2016.
Obviously athletically gifted and with a chance to play either lacrosse or football at the collegiate level, it’s always been lacrosse for Gray.
Right from the get-go playing at Boston University, Gray did not miss a beat going from high school to college lacrosse. Still a relatively new D1 program, BU came into their fifth season in 2018 coming off the program’s first winning year, finishing third in the Patriot League the year prior.
As a freshman, Gray played in all 17 regular season games starting in all but the first two and quickly turned heads as his impact was instantaneous. He led the Terriers in both points and assists with 71 points, and was second only to James Burr in goals with 31. Gray was added to the Tewaaraton Watch List and was one of just three freshmen named an Inside Lacrosse All-American.
With no shortage of personal achievements his freshmen year, It was Gray’s sophomore season his reputation as one of the best attackmen in the game really began to build. He set the Patriot League record with 111 points and finished third in the NCAA in assists with 62. He recorded at least three points in all 17 games played, and in fifteen different games recorded at least five points. A Tewaaraton Award finalist, Gray guided BU to their best year as a program.
His junior year, Gray transferred to UNC to help bring back a national championship to Chapel Hill. Since the program’s last national title in 2016, they failed to make the playoffs the following three years. Once again he found himself in a unique position as an attackman not just to play his game, but improve the game of those around him.
Gray and the Tar Heels got off to a hot start in the 2020 season: in his debut with UNC, he was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Week, and then again a few weeks later after a career-high eight goals and one assist versus John Hopkins. UNC was 7-0 before COVID shut down the 2020 season, Gray already at 48 points.
Coming into his first full season as a Tar Heel in 2021, at that point there was no shortage of recognition of what a talent Gray was. Despite all the accolades, he remained grounded and very much always a team-first kind of guy. In only his second season at UNC, his teammates unanimously voted him captain for the 2021 season.
All sights set on a national championship, Gray was everything the Tar Heels needed and more on their offensive unit. He led the ACC in goals with 49 and was second only to Michael Sowers in the conference in assists with 42, trailing Sowers by two. He broke Bruce Ledwith’s program record for points in a season with 91 total, Ledwith leading UNC prior with 81 in 1973.
Gray led the Tar Heels to the ACC regular season title and all the way to the Final Four as a No. 1 seed. Ultimately, the Tar Heels fell to the eventual national champions in UVA in a heartbreaking 12-11 loss. Gray was later named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year as well as the ACC Men’s Lacrosse Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a Tewaaraton Award finalist once again.
Gray’s become one of, if not the, most talked about college lacrosse player this year most recently due to the fact he broke Lyle Thompson’s record as the all-time college lacrosse career point leader. On May 1st, 2022 in UNC’s final game of the season and Gray’s final collegiate game, he broke Thompson’s 400-point record. Gray’s 401st point came in the fourth quarter on an unassisted goal with 7:23 remaining in the game.
While it was no doubt an exciting personal achievement, it was certainly bittersweet for Gray knowing there was no playoff push as a Tar Heel this year for him and his teammates as his collegiate career came to an end.
So what makes Chris Gray the best of the best? For me, three things stand out the most in his game:
As a quarterback
The most prominent element of his game is his ability to quarterback the offense from X. Gray’s not immediately taking the ball to the net every time it’s in his stick. He displays patience and discipline both with and without the ball, always seemingly one step ahead of his defenders, something his teammates really benefit from.
“He’s not a guy who needs the ball,” UNC head coach Joe Breschi said. “He’s a guy that gets the ball when it’s needed, and I think that’s different.”
His instincts are unmatched, and despite being on the smaller side, if anything he uses it to his advantage to leave his defenders completely out of position. He’s not trying to body his opponent and chuck the ball at the net or just rip a pass into the open, he utilizes fundamentals to make the dodge and create time and space for himself, allowing his teammates to find time and space for the pass. This one step ahead way of thinking ties back to his roots as a running back in high school.
“Football and lacrosse are very similar in that they both require toughness, speed, and vision,” Gray said. “For example when I played running back in high school, I had to use my vision to find the correct hole to run through. It’s no different in lacrosse when I am looking for the open cutter to throw the ball to.”
As a freshman at BU, he became the first Terrier to record thirty assists in one season, setting the program record finishing with 40. His sophomore year he smashed his own record with 60 to finish the year as he led BU to a program best 11-6 record to tie for second place in the Patriot League, and thirteenth overall. After transferring to UNC, he remained amongst the top of the ACC in assists, with the second most assists in the conference in 2021 and third most this year.
As a shooter
A dual threat both as a passer and shooter, Gray’s lethal from any and everywhere in the zone. He’s not someone I’d consider flashy in either respect, but that’s what makes him so successful. He’s so good at all the little things and makes it look so simple and effortless, more of a “technical flair”. Of course, there’s nothing effortless at all about what he’s able to achieve on the field, but that just speaks to what a complete player he is.
He has the talent and skill to shoot from any quadrant at any angle. When he transferred from BU to UNC for his junior year in 2020, going from the Patriot League to the ACC initially there were a few instances where it appeared some of his opponents viewed Gray more so strictly as a passer from the top of point rather than a long shot dangerous shooter. Gray assimilated to the ACC with ease, putting to rest any doubts his opponents had as we saw on a few instances defenders loosening their coverage on the ball expecting Gray to be looking for the pass, and seconds later launching a rocket right by them.
As a matter of fact, Gray actually improved as a shooter going from the Patriot League to the ACC. His shooting percentage as well as shots on goal percentage steadily increased each year of his collegiate career (excluding the 2020 COVID season). As a freshman at BU he recorded a 24% shooting percentage with 52% shots on goal, and now most recently in his fifth year, completed the final year of his college career shooting 34% with a 61% shots on goal percentage.
Going back to the idea of him having more of a technical flair as a shooter, that doesn’t mean to say he has a shortage of highlight reel worthy goals, because that’s most certainly not the case. However if you look at a majority of the goals he’s put in net, he’s able to make the finish from any location because of that combination of utilizing fundamentals paired with quick thinking and pure precision as a shooter. Still, he’s had his fair share of jaw dropping behind-the-back goals and some dives to the crease.
As a teammate
Even as the now all-time leading point holder in college lacrosse, as a player and teammate, setting records and posting crazy numbers has never been something Gray particularly cared about. “I would trade all of the points away for a trip to the postseason. It’s really a product of all the guys around me throughout my college career.”
A team-first guy, Gray’s one of those rare players who seemingly can create chemistry with any teammate, something his UNC teammate Nicky Solomon spoke about recently. “As a teammate, he’s one of our best friends. And that speaks highly of his lacrosse skills on the field.” Again as much of a pure talent he is, he has the team-first mentality to elevate the play of everyone around him.
As the projected number one draft pick, Gray’s selfless play and priority as a team player is perhaps the most important part of his overall role as a player. Everyone knows adding one star to your roster doesn’t instantly transform you into a winning team. It’s all about forming chemistry and finding your role on the team and gelling as one cohesive unit, especially on offense. We saw it last year with Jeff Teat and the Atlas. Nobody expected the Atlas to make the run that they did last season in what many deemed a “rebuild” year for the club, and it wasn’t Teat alone who changed the entirety of the Bulls’ offense. Rather he found his place within an offensive unit where no one was trying to be the star. All focus was always on the game at large and doing what was best for the team.
With the Chrome projected to take Gray first, they’d be getting the perfect guy to do the same for their offense. “Everything I’ve heard about him is that he loves lacrosse. You watch and you see how great of a teammate he is. He’s unselfish. He just fits the mold for us,” said Chrome head coach Tim Soudan. Surrounded with the right weapons on attack, Gray will be presented with yet another chance to grow both his game and his teammates, this time at the professional level.