July 10, 2021
Chelsea Gray adds to list of first-time U.S. Olympians
The Aces guard will enter Team USA's training camp at home in Las Vegas
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
On a U.S. Olympic team that is half debutants, Chelsea Gray might have been the most unlikely prospect to make the team. While seven of her teammates were No. 1 overall WNBA Draft picks and all participated on junior national teams in their younger days, Gray was the No. 11 pick in 2014 after an injury-hobbled career at Duke and had no USA Basketball experience. Now, the versatile 5’11 guard will head to Tokyo with the ambition to capture a seventh consecutive gold medal for the U.S.
“I’m excited to be selected onto this Olympic team,” Gray said. “If you think about it, to be one of 12, it’s a great honor. There are a lot of players who were told, ‘No.’ I’m extremely blessed and happy to be on this Olympic team with this group of women.
“We’re going to have fun and achieve greatness, while having fun with each other. The goal is to bring home the gold medal, and everything we’ve done since training camp has been going towards that goal. I’m excited to be joining them and to be able to have a couple of [exhibition] games here in Vegas so our families and fans here can watch and cheer us on because they are not going to be able to do that in Tokyo. So I’m excited and ready to get started.”
Gray is averaging 11.8 points and a career-high 6.3 assists per game in her first season with the Las Vegas Aces after five seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks that saw her continually improve into one of the league’s top players.
The Northern California native said she realized she could be an Olympian one day when she was invited to go on the national team’s tour against U.S. colleges in 2019.
“I was excited about that opportunity,” the 28-year-old Gray said. “This has been a goal of mine and a dream, the top of the top pinnacle. So I am excited to compete and be one of 12 on this Olympic roster.”
Gray, who will become the first Duke female basketball alum to play in the Olympics, will join a backcourt that includes Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd, Ariel Atkins and the timeless duo of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
“Their accolades speak for themselves,” Gray said of Bird and Taurasi. “They achieve gold medals, so I am excited to go and experience this with them because it could be their last time going for the gold medal, so you can’t take it for granted, these moments. I am just excited to start competing towards that goal.”
The U.S. will open play in Tokyo at 12:40 a.m. ET on Jul. 27 (9:40 p.m. PT on Jul. 26) against African champion Nigeria and will have group-stage games against Japan and France later in the week. Gray believes that having such a short training camp period before flying to Tokyo will be a hurdle for her team and unlike the practice time that WNBA teams have.
“One of the challenges is knowing each other,” Gray said. “… I think learning on the fly, even throughout games, learning through conversation and films is going to be huge. There are a lot of new faces as well for these Olympic Games, so it’s going to be [difficult] to incorporate [our individual strengths] and also learn each other’s strengths at a quick pace.”