The Red Raiders squeezed out a close one in the opening game against High Point on Friday night. There were momentum shifts back and forth throughout the match, but the thing that caught my eye was the spark that Justin Gray provided off the bench.
To get you caught up on the Justin Gray injury timeline here is the breakdown –
- He had been sidelined last season with tendinitis flaring up in his knees and didn’t play in a regular season game since last January.
- Had knee surgery this past winter.
- Before the beginning of this season he had arthroscopy to clean things up.
Also, last week after the exhibition game against West Texas A&M it didn’t seem that Tubby Smith thought Gray was fully healthy yet… –
“Justin’s way off,” Smith said. “His timing is off. He had three turnovers in 10 minutes. He looked like he hadn’t played for a while. It’s just a matter of physically getting out there, getting his focus back, getting his timing back.”
Now, it seems Gray has his focus back. After watching him on Friday night against High Point, I think he might be on the road to a full recovery sooner than we all thought. He played 2 minutes in the first half with no stats to show for it. Then in the second half Gray saw some action on the floor about 3 minutes into the half, and stayed on the court for the entire rest of the game. That’s when he sparked things for Texas Tech. In the second half he was 3-5 from the field (1-3 from 3-point) and had 3 rebounds. He hit 5-6 from the free throw line including 2 huge makes during the last 12 seconds of a tight game. Gray finished the night with 12 points and saw 19 minutes of playing time.
Our team seemed to flow more efficiently on offense as Gray mixed things up and played both at the small forward and power forward positions. He is a hard player to defend because he has a shot, but can also drive to the lane and put in the layup. He is a key piece to the lineup that seemed to be missing since he went out of it last January, but now we have it/him back again.
I want to be cautious with Gray. Not overusing him causing unwanted wear on his knees leading to another injury. But, I also want to see the best players on the court. Though, he did look healthy and ready to get plenty of minutes on the floor… maybe even good enough to be inserted into the starting lineup. It will be something to keep an eye on over the tournament in Puerto Rico starting Thursday, as you have to be careful pushing any player with heavy minutes coming off injury in back-to-back games.
— TexasTech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) November 17, 2015
Gray is a special player, with unique talents we need on the court this season. Hopefully he is 100% sooner rather than later. Wreck ’em Tech!!!