Big East: Touch Of Gray

By - October 25, 2006

When asked which of his team’s two headline-grabbing preseason honors was more gratifying -- Pitt’s selection as league champ or Aaron Gray’s selection as Player of the Year -- Jamie Dixon paused to consider the question before choosing his seven-footer’s individual accolade.

“Aaron’s is probably more gratifying because of how he’s become the Big East Preseason Player of the Year,” Dixon said. “If you look back at the guys who have been Preseason Player of the Year, I don’t see anybody who’s come from where he’s come as far as a high school player and also his development.”

During his junior season, Gray averaged 13.9 points and a conference-leading 10.5 rebounds for the Panthers. The pivot man paced all Big East players with 17 double-doubles on the year.

But the Emmaus, Pa., native's road to recognition wasn't always an easy one. Gray played 88 minutes during his first season in the Steel City and averaged just 11.6 minutes off the bench as a sophomore. For his considerable third-year improvement, Gray was named the league's Most Improved Player at the postseason awards ceremony in March.

“You talk to [players] about paying the price and doing the things that are necessary. This guy did everything necessary,” Dixon continued. “I think it’s a good thing for college basketball. Here’s a guy: You work hard, you do it every day and you don’t take time off -- and you can become Big East Player of the Year. It’s easy to talk about but this kid did it. He paid the price.

“I think that’s a great story for anybody, basketball or other things. It didn’t just happen by accident.”

Posted by at 07:03 PM on October 25, 2006

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