Chelsea Gray is going to play a big-time basketball game on Sunday with her very best childhood friend on the other side.
Gray and Cal’s 6-foot junior guard Afure Jemerigbe have been good friends since elementary school, and three years ago they experienced a real high when the McDonald’s All-Americans led Stockton St. Mary’s to a 34-1 record and the Golden State’s Class 6A state title.
Gray, an accomplished stat-sheet stuffer, is averaging 16.4 points, 7.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 3.6 steals. Jemerigbe averages 9.5 points and 2.5 rebounds on a team with five averaging in double figures.
“We’ve never played against each other (at this level),” explained Gray, whose cousin Alexis Gray-Lawson starred for the Bears before playing in the WNBA. “But I’m excited about it. My mom will be here — Afure is like a second daughter to her.
“Cal was in my top five (on her recruiting list). The previous coach, Joanne Boyle (now at Virginia), and I have a pretty good relationship. And I always went to a whole lot of games with my cousin being there.”
It’s the first of a two-year contract with the Bears.
“We’ve got to take Chelsea back (next season for a ‘homecoming’ game) so that seemed like a nice match,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“Chelsea is more mature than she was at this time last year. She’s really dictating and making great decisions. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is 5-to-1. To be an All-American point guard you’ve got to empower everybody. And she’s also mentoring Lex (freshman Alexis Jones). Chelsea is the best in the country. I don’t accept that anyone is better than she is.”
Gray, of course, was happy to hear her coach’s nice words.
“Those are some big words to fulfill when she says that,” Gray said. “I thank her for that compliment. But there’s always room for improvement defensively and offensively.”
With an array of injuries Duke had been limited to nine players including scrappy, charismatic sophomore walk-on Jenna Frush through the first three games.
But forward Richa Jackson got on for one minute at Michigan on Wednesday night, and point guard Chloe Wells may be ready for some minutes against the Bears.
“Richa (knee) is cleared to play but not quite in condition to play - she might play 10 minutes,” McCallie said. “I’m trying to get Chloe (leg) cleared. She won’t play a ton of minutes, but we’re kind of hopeful there. I’d like to see both of them, because they look great in practice.”