“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you‘ll be successful.”– Eric Thomas.
This quote is one of many for professional basketball player Briana Gray, she thrives in success, in having to work so hard for it and then to finally achieve it. She says her favorite part of competing in a game is the competition, the chance to go out there and play against opponents that may be better than her but in doing so makes her a better player and based on her accolades and her achievements both on and off the court, it’s no wonder.
“Every time I go out on the court and I’m able to learn something new to execute my skills then I know I am one step closer towards success, it’s me versus me, that’s the mindset I play with. I make the choice to believe that I can always go out and be a better version of myself whenever I play…persistent, that’s the one word that I can use to describe my attitude.” – Briana Gray
At around three years old Briana started playing basketball with her brother, of course at this time she did not necessarily take it as seriously as she does now. Back then she says it was just about making friends, but as she grew older she realized how much she loved the game and what it had to offer. She explained that one of her main reasons for being a part of a team sport like basketball is because she loves being around people who are driven and drawn towards it like her.
In January 2020, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Briana signed a contract with to play in Alexandria, Romania. Before that she was in Portugal from September 2019 to December 2019 playing in the top women’s’ league.
When asked who her sports hero was, she came up with two that reflected who she was as a person the most, the first being Candice Parker. She identifies with Parker firstly because she is a woman just like her and sports being mainly a man’s world an extraordinary talent like hers has resonated well with Gray and also the fact she was very visible within the media. “She’s the kind of person I see myself in, she’s hardworking”, Gray explained that she was one of her main inspirations when she was just coming up as a young basketball player, she even dreamt of wanting to play at the University of Tennessee because of her. Later on in her career as an adult she looked up also to Dwayne Wade, “I really mirrored my game like his”. She finds Wade to be a tremendous inspiration whenever she’s on the court and usually watches his games to pick up on his techniques.
Speaking of picking up on new techniques, Gray also practices really hard. She makes practice with her teammates fun by having friendly competition, if her coach says they need to make ten shots that day and her teammate makes eight she’s going for nine or even ten the next day. She sees this as way for them to push each other and help build team work especially during their first half of the season which she explains tends to be boring as they are only focused on technique and things can get monotonous.
Having Bri on the our Phoenix Lady Elite 1’s team is like having a player coach that is alway ready to lead our team into battle but keep me connected to the players on the floor at all times. She is a natural born leader on and off the court…fearless and focused! – Wayne Dawkins, Head Coach Phoenix Lady Elite 1’s
Whenever she plays a game her focus is razor sharp, “no doubt is present, no negative thought, I feel invincible”. Gray explains that though she does not want to sound too cocky her confidence level is high when she is playing a game, she says even if she makes a mistake she still knows how to correct it and what to do next. An excellent quality that should be possessed by any athlete. If she could have anyone to watch her performance at these games it would have to be her grandmother who has never seen her play a game before and she says, “it would be a dream come true”.
Of course during her time playing basketball she would have come in contact with many coaches who would help her and groom her into who she is today. Andria Ward was one such coach, she met her when she was about eleven years old. Ward became a very important figure in Briana’s life and she saw her as a second mom especially due to the fact that she met her right around the time her father passed away. She helped her both on and off the court and was there for her at a very sensitive time in her life. Another coach which really helped Gray was coach Skyler Young, she met him at her junior year at Bradley University. “He was a great coach but importantly a great person”. Young was also very pivotal in her becoming the great athlete that she is today.
Originally Briana wanted to major in medicine or engineering as she found these to be really interesting and something she would want to do, but with those particular majors they take up a lot of time and with her training schedule she wouldn’t be able to keep up. Ultimately she majored in economics which she loved and says she had no regret, but if basketball was never a factor her choice in education would have taken a different turn. That also goes for what other sport she might have played if not for basketball and she said that she would run track. She did it in high school and said she had fun, “people say I’m much better at track than I am at basketball”.
Briana also strongly believes in having goals off the court that can help her in her daily life.
“I have a vision board with all the things I want to accomplish. I also believe a lot in prayer and it is a reflection of my identity in Christ. It helps me to envision where I need to be and what I want to do, this not only helps with my performance on the court but helps me holistically as a person.” – Briana Gray
For her being an athlete has inspired her to become a better person as she notices more young people looking up to her and her talent and also because she is given the opportunity to speak on things of substance. She encourages young people to play team sports because it helps to learn self-discipline, working with others and not only does it keep you active and healthy but ultimately it can make you a better person.