When you earn boys lacrosse All-American status as a junior, as Shoreham-Wading River attack Chris Gray did last spring, what do you do for an encore?
“You are a little cautious about how it will affect him the next year,” SWR coach Mike Taylor acknowledged.
The answer? Gray once again is all-in. The 5-7, 170-pound dynamo leads Long Island in scoring with 70 points and goals with 54. He has been on a tear lately, with four goals, including the winner in overtime in an 11-10 victory over Comsewogue on April 22; four goals and an assist in last Wednesday’s 13-6 win over Rocky Point, and five goals plus five assists while only playing the first half in the Wildcats’ 17-4 win over West Babylon on Tuesday. For those feats, Gray was named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
“After last year, he came to me and said, ‘Coach, what do I need to do for the next level,’ ” Taylor said of Gray, who has committed to Boston University, a rising Division I program. “Chris is amazing with the ball in his stick. He needed to grow when the ball is not in his stick. He’s really improved on moving off ball.”
That’s a necessity because Gray is the focal point of every opponent’s defensive scheme, getting locked off or double-teamed. So Gray has utilized his speed and quickness to create plays, and though he hasn’t dramatically improved his assist total, he has embraced attracting attention to free up other SWR scorers.
“He’s become more of a team player even though he’s got so many goals,” Taylor said. “He’s always had the ability to dodge and get to the net, and has a terrific a shot. This year he’s much more of a part of the offense. When he isn’t scoring, he’s distracting the defense.”
Which has allowed other players to flourish, especially freshman Xavier Arline, an early commit to North Carolina, who has scored 22 goals with 32 assists.
“Last year, half of Chris’ goals came in man-up situations,” Taylor said. “This year, they are locking him off in man-up, so he goes behind the net, we play 5 on 4 and he’s OK with it.”
Why not? Gray still gets his points and SWR, the 2016 Long Island Class B champions led by Gray’s 101 points and 79 goals, is a Class C contender this year.
“He plays like a football running back,” Taylor said, a nod to Gray’s All-Long Island status on the school’s three-time Long Island Class IV football champions. “He’s fast and powerful. He’s not the biggest kid but he doesn’t play small. He’s hard to cover, with his acceleration and lacrosse IQ. He has that knack for getting to the cage.”