Clarksville, TN – What a difference a year has made for Austin Peay State University basketball point guard Tiasha Gray, as the sophomore’s off-season work has paid off with some early dividends for the Lady Govs.
Last year as a freshman, the Clarksville native had some early-season growing pains adjusting to the collegiate game, but finished the season averaging 8.1 points per game, including scoring double figures in five of the final six games.But no such early-season problems so far this season, as she is leading the team with an 18.3 points per game average to go along with averaging 5.7 assists per game.
“I’m much more comfortable out there having a year under my belt,” Gray said. “I’m learning what I can and cannot do and I’ve worked this summer to get better.
“Last year turnovers were a big problem and I had to learn how to handle the pressure. In college everyone is as big and as fast as me, so I had to make sure to slow down and see the game.”
Austin Peay head coach Carrie Daniels, and a former outstanding point guard for the Lady Govs in her own right, has also seen a vast improvement in Gray’s game early on this season.
“(Tiasha) has done a complete transformation,” Daniels said. “She really stepped up her play late last year in the conference season, but she really dedicated herself as soon as the season was over to work on her game and work on her leadership abilities because she didn’t want us to have the same type of season that we had last year.
“She worked on her shot, working off the dribble, defensively, just everything top to bottom on her game and it’s showing in our games and in practice every day.”
Daniels also gives a lot of credit to Gray’s position coach Brooke Armistead, who also spent countless hours – within NCAA limits — in the gym helping her develop and elevate her game.
“Tiasha would stay in the gym 24-7 if we let her,” Armistead said. “Part of her confidence comes from hard work and some success at the end of last season that has carried over, but it’s just a learning process and she will get better with each practice and each game.”
Gray is also learning to play more without the ball in her hands, as the Lady Govs are playing her as the two — or shooting guard position — for the first time in her career.
“I’m going to play off the ball some this year, which I’ve never done before,” Gray said. “I’ve always been a point guard, so I’ve been working on how to get open and be strong going to the basket. It’s been a process, but I think I’m getting better at it.”
Begin able to go strong to the basket and not avoid contact has raised her free throw attempts per game this season up to 5.3 per game, compared to the 1.9 attempts per game she recorded as a freshman.
“(Tiasha) missed a whole lot of layups last year because she shied away from contact,” Armistead said. “There were days in practice were I would guard her and just foul her the entire time, because she needed to learn how to finish with contact.
“She’s still got to get better at that, because she still takes shots and fades away from the basket at times, but she’s come a long way and improved a whole lot and we’ve proud of how far she’s come.”
Still just early into her sophomore season, Gray still has a high glass ceiling in reaching her full potential.
“(Tiasha) is still so young and I think that is what is so exciting,” Daniels said. “With the work she’s put in and how far she’s come there is still so much left that’s unseen. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens the next three years with her.”