Jayla Gray makes an impact at Paul Smith’s College

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

By Barbara Boxleitner

Jayla Gray opened her college basketball career making an impact.

Through 10 games, all starts, the freshman out of Smithfield High School has been an offensive and defensive catalyst for Paul Smith’s College (N.Y.).

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“I have been pleased with my performance,” said Gray, daughter of Shenille Davis and Anthony Gray. “I have more games to play, which is more time to improve. I have high expectations for myself, and I work day in and day out to meet them.”

The 5-foot-11 center led the team with 9.3 rebounds per game, which ranked fourth in the Yankee Small College Conference and 12th among United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II players as of Jan. 26. Her 10.8 points per game ranked 10th in the YSCC and her 41.4 field goal percentage eighth.

“She’s doing great,” said Josh Clemens, interim head women’s basketball coach. “She has a lot of size, a lot of length. We try to run our offense through her, because she’s pretty dominant.”

Gray averaged a team-high 36.4 minutes per game, which ranked 10th in the YSCC. She played 40 or more minutes three times.

“I did expect to play a lot of minutes, because I came in working hard,” she said. “I sometimes don’t come out of the game because I work very hard to be on the court.”

She scored in double figures five times, including three consecutive during early January.

She had 25 points in her first game, leading players from both teams during the 28-point win over Word of Life. She had nine consecutive points in the third quarter, when she scored 11, to help the team increase its lead from 37-14 to 46-16. She had a team-high 11 rebounds.

“I have improved my mid-range shot. I have been working on mid-range jumpers since the season started, and I feel very comfortable shooting them in the game,” she said. “My moves to the basket have improved as well. I play very loosely, and if I see an open lane, I’ll take it.”

In the third quarter, she grabbed three offensive rebounds and converted two of her subsequent three jump shots. “I have gotten many shot attempts and second-shot attempts in the games simply from being able to box out my defender,” she said.

Gray recorded her second double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds against NHTI, Concord’s Community College, and added two more double-doubles after that.

“When my point guard brings the ball down, I usually start high post (free throw line), or I will read the defense and move to open areas,” she said. “I’m more physical down low, so if I feel I can take the girl, I will post up on the block.”

Despite her early success, she’s trying to expand her offensive profile. “I’m working on becoming more than just a center/forward. I have been able to dribble and get to the basket or even dribble into a pull-up, which is something most centers aren’t able to do,” she said.