Marshall, who played at St. Paul's and later at Cornell, recalled the only time he faced his cousin in an official game, during his senior year and Gray's junior year. It was in the championship game of a tournament at Lutheran High.
“St. Frances beat the hell out of us — they did the Phi Slamma Jamma on us. Every point seemed to be a dunk,” said Marshall, who later played professionally in Europe. “I had recruiters from Dartmouth and other colleges there. Some schools stopped recruiting me after that game.”
In leading St. Frances to its first BCL championship, “Devin put us on the map,” Wells said, helping draw a generation of players to the school, including Mark Karcher and Sean Mosley. Gray continued to live with Wells and his family after he went to Clemson.
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“We just came to be family,” Wells said.
When Gray's mother visited her son's grave site Thursday, Wells' daughter, Keita, whom Gray “thought of as a sister,” her father said, went, too.
‘Just a competitor'
With Gray averaging 16.7 points per game and being named to the All-ACC third team as a sophomore, NBA scouts made their way to Littlejohn Coliseum to watch a Clemson team full of talent. Guard Chris Whitney was two years ahead of Gray, and center Sharone Wright was a year ahead.
“Devin was just a tough, hard-nosed player who could do a lot of things,” former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis said. “He was just a competitor. Some people will just go play the game, but you've got to do more than that. Devin not only played the game, he competed.”
While Gray had some high-scoring games for the Tigers — including 27points and 23 points in two games against Maryland as a sophomore — Ellis' favorite memory of Gray was his defense against Duke star Grant Hill during the 1994 ACC tournament.
“Grant Hill was just having his way with us,” said Ellis, who left after Wells' junior year for Auburn and is now the coach at Coastal Carolina. “They put Grant Hill at the point, at the top, and I put Devin on Grant. It was just a battle. Duke won, but Grant had to work for everything he got.”
It was the last ACC game Gray played for the Tigers. After having what was described at the time as a mild heart attack, Gray was forced to withdraw from his classes that spring and was declared academically ineligible after the fall semester. He joined a Continental Basketball Association team in South Dakota shortly after leaving Clemson.
Ellis said Gray was “one of the most underrated players in the country” but that his size and shooting range might have held him back from a sustained career in the NBA. Gray played a total of 27 games over three seasons in the league, mostly on 10-day contracts.
“His shooting range was about 15 to 18feet, and at 6-6, I think he got the most out of what he had,” Ellis said. “I think he was just a couple of inches shorter and his range was about 3 or 4 feet shorter than would make him that guy who would play in the NBA for a long time.”
William Wells thinks something else held Gray back in his professional career.
“I think the heart scares had a toll on Devin,” Wells said. “Devin really didn't go as hard as he could have. He did what he needed to do to get by. If he was physically strong and fit, Devin would have been in the NBA [a long time].”
Gray's mother said doctors told her 20years ago that her son's condition was “1 in 2 million” and that he was prescribed Coumadin, which prevents clotting in the heart but can increase the risk of bleeding.
Those who take the medication regularly are advised to avoid activities that put them at risk of bleeding or injury. It isn't known whether Gray was taking it regularly, or at all, before he died.
Wells said the two often had conversations about Gray's professional career, which ended with a team in Venezuela in 2001. He spent most of the past decade in Baltimore, where along with Marshall he helped start a foundation that paid for local youth to attend summer basketball camps at a fraction of the normal cost.
“To me, he should have stayed overseas [to play], not pursue the NBA career,” Wells said. “With the short season [overseas], he could have lasted longer over there [than] in the NBA. He wanted to be with the big boys in the NBA.”
That is what attracted him to Atlanta, where he was set to join Chubby Wells and former Clemson teammate Donnell Bruce in the sports agent business, representing NBA and European players.