J.T. Gray had about as spectacular a junior season at Coolidge as you’re going to see anywhere.
Gray – who’s gotten offers from quite a number of schools, including Arizona State, the University of Arizona, Mississippi, Mississippi State and the University of Oregon – had 914 yards rushing to go along with 15 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 177 yards and another touchdown. Throw in his 271 yards on kickoff and punt returns and that adds up to 1,362 all-purpose yards for Gray.
Those are just his offensive numbers. Now we move to the defensive side, where he was just as much a beast. As a defensive back, Gray was by far the team’s leading tackler with 112 (75 solo, 37 assists).
I put all those numbers out to illustrate my point: Coolidge wouldn’t have been as successful as they were last season without Gray’s contributions, which made what allegedly happened at Hamilton back on March 9 such a point of controversy.
It was then – at the inaugural Rivals Camp Series Presented by Under Armour – that Hamilton head coach Steve Belles was accused by Coolidge High School of trying to recruit Gray to his squad, something Belles vehemently denied ever happening.
This situation is being handled at the district level, with a possible jump up to the Arizona Interscholastic Association if need be.
In the meantime, Gray decided to transfer to Basha High School and join head coach Bernie Busken and the Bears.
A funny thing happened once Gray hit Basha’s campus: he went AWOL.
I had a chance to sit down with Coach Busken in his office this week and talk about the situation with Gray, and he laid it out pretty straightforward to me on what’s exactly going on with Gray.
He went to the Alabama camp, and at this point, won’t return a call to his mom or anyone
“He showed up here, enrolled in school, [and] it’s the first I’d seen of him or heard of him,” Busken said. “He was here a little bit, seemed like a real nice kid, nice momma.”
Busken said Gray was taking part in various football camps around the country, including one at USC, the University of Washington and the University of Alabama.
Here’s where things took a strange turn for Gray and the Basha football program:
“[He] flew to Mississippi to spend time with his dad, [and] unbeknownst to his mother or any of us, it was a one-way ticket and dad wants him to stay there,” Busken said.
“He went to the Alabama camp, and at this point, won’t return a call to his mom or anyone.” “I don’t have no idea what’s going on,” Busken said.
Busken then turned things around and turned his focus toward the players he currently has in his locker room, his weight room and on his football field. “I’m really proud of our kids and how they’re working,” Busken said. “He’s [Gray] a nice kid and I’m sure he could help us if he was here, but if he’s not I think we’re gonna be great.”
Just because Gray isn’t with Busken and the Bears right now, doesn’t mean he couldn’t just show up one day, asking to be a part of the program. That’s the unknown part of this whole situation.
Busken wouldn’t be opposed to having Gray on his team if that day and time came. “If he wants to be part of that, obviously we’d love to have him, but if he doesn’t, then good luck to him,” Busken said.
When I asked him if he was disappointed in how this whole matter with Gray went down, in a matter of words he said ‘Yes,’ but to Busken, he can’t be the most disappointed person that has any type of association with Gray. “Not anymore than his mother is,” Busken said. “She can’t understand this. She believes it would be best for him to be out here for many reasons.”
“She seems to be a real nice lady, [his] little brother’s enrolled here and doing great,” Busken said.
Let’s take away the football aspect as far as Gray’s concerned. Busken genuinely cares about this young man’s total makeup, not just what he can do on the gridiron.
“I think there’s other things, the academic part, the structure part,” Busken said. “It’s hard to go from a ittty, bitty town to big time, and it’s not the football part of it, it’s everything else.”
“I think we can help him with that,” Busken added.