WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Lakota West junior guard Chance Gray doesn't remember a day without basketball.
So when school buildings across Ohio were closed for several weeks late last winter and spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 5-foot-9 basketball standout improvised.
After working on her parallel parking at Lakota West, Gray used those same driving cones to practice her dribbling.
Gray and her father, longtime Lakota West assistant coach and former NFL defensive back Carlton Gray, also ran laps around the school and at Winton Woods park.
"She would run, and I would try to keep up," Carlton Gray said. "I kind of walked and jogged."
There is no slowing down Chance Gray, who is ranked the nation's No. 14 player in the 2022 class by ESPN.
Gray is considering scholarship offers from schools such as Oregon, North Carolina, Ohio State, Arizona, Michigan State, Michigan, Maryland, Mississippi State and UCLA.
She has been instrumental in helping the Firebirds compete at an elite level against other Greater Cincinnati teams this winter.
Gray scored a game-high 33 points to go along with eight rebounds and an assist in a key 49-37 win at Princeton on Jan. 20 in a Greater Miami Conference showdown. That game marked the seventh time this season she scored at least 30 points.
Gray scored 36 points a week later in a win at Middletown. She averages 26.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals for the Firebirds (15-4).
In mid-December, Gray became the sixth player in Lakota West girls basketball history to reach the 1,000 points career milestone.
Even with the spotlight and a number of accolades, Gray remains humble. She admits there is always room for improvement.
"I don't even really look at my points when I'm even playing until after the game," said Gray, who has played basketball since she was 4 years old. "So I'm just focused on making sure everyone is bought in and doing what we're supposed to be doing to grow and try to win a GMC (Greater Miami Conference) championship and move on to the state tournament -- so that's what we've been focused on."
Gray, 16, is also focused as a student-athlete. She has a 4.0 grade-point average and would like to study law one day. She enjoys English class, reading, photography and art.
"I work very hard in the classroom," Gray said. "I'm a student-athlete and student comes first."
Gray's parents, Carlton Gray and Paris Brown, appreciate her academic focus and interest in staying informed about the world.
Carlton Gray is a longtime assistant coach in girls basketball, track and football at Lakota West. His elder daughter, former Lakota West standout Amber Gray, is also an assistant coach this season.
He is proud of how Chance has implemented her own work ethic in and out of the high school season.
"She puts plenty of time in with basketball and she's a well-rounded kid," Carlton Gray said. "As a parent you're still afraid of all the things that they can get involved with but so far so good, and we're just hoping that she continues to stay focused and keeps improving, keeps working hard."
Chance Gray has carried additional responsibilities on the court for the Firebirds this winter. She was asked to rebound more often and play an increased role defensively.
"Honestly I just don't like people being better than me, so I know I'm going to do everything in my power to try to lead in everything that I can," she said. "I knew this year I was going to have to take over; I was going to have to score the ball. So going in with that mentality I've gained a lot of confidence."
Gray is often the focus of opposing double teams or other strategies to try to limit her scoring ability.
"I think that one of the things that Chance does is she studies herself," Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said. "She goes back, whether it's into the film or into her mind, and she takes it seriously on what is it that 'I need to do better.'"
Fishman said Gray has shown a great deal of maturity as a leader for her teammates.
"It's a process and every year you build," Fishman said. "This year she's finishing more at the rim. She's finishing in the air -- tapping balls in off of offensive rebounds. Just moving without the ball and bringing a greater physicality to our team offensively."
Gray has relished her new role and appreciates how the Firebirds' program has helped her to improve mentally and physically on the court.
"It's meant a lot," Gray said. "It's definitely helped me grow into a better person. My first two years I was still growing and trying to figure out who I was as a player. So I feel like coach Fishman and other coaches in the program have helped me develop and I still have a lot of growing to do."