May 12, 2008
After a successful four years with the Pittsburgh Panthers, center Aaron Gray entered his name in the 2007 NBA draft. The Chicago Bulls selected Gray in the second round. He recently completed his first NBA season, concluding the year with a 19 point, 22-rebound performance on April 16 against the Toronto Raptors. This past week, Gray returned to
What brings you back to
"I love it here. It is a great situation for me. I am able to come back and work with the strength and conditioning coaches. I can work with players like DeJuan Blair and Austin Wallace and help them improve."
Now that the season is over, have you been able to relax at all and catch up with some friends?
"Yes, 82 games is a long season and it is nice to have a few weeks off. With such a demanding season, you almost have to take some time off, take some down time for yourself."
Have you been able to go home and catch up with the family as well?
"Definitely, I was able to go home and see my mom, dad and my dog. I was able to catch up with some friends back there as well. It was great to have a nice home cooked meal."
With your first NBA season under your belt, can you describe the experience? What was it like?
"You really do not know what to expect or what to prepare for. With so many games, there are many highs and lows throughout the season. It is an emotional rollercoaster ride.
How long did it take you to make relationships with the team? Was it similar to when you first arrived at Pitt?
"It does not take very long. I have always got along with the people I have played with at Pitt and with the Bulls. The older players on the team watch out and take care of the younger players."
What is life like in the
"It is a lot bigger than
"The fans are great. They adopt you. The last game of the year I had a good game and they gave me a standing ovation which felt amazing."
What has been the most enjoyable part of your first year in the NBA?
"The best part is probably being on road trips with the team. At home, you have your group of friends and your family but on the road, you are all you have. You do everything together as a team."
What has been the most difficult adjustment since leaving Pitt?
"Traveling has been the most difficult part as well. With 41 road games and two-week west coast trips, it can become extremely grueling and intense. It is one game after another. Sometimes you forget which city you are in."
Do you still try to stay in contact with your former teammates and coaches?
"Absolutely, I use them for advice and help all the time. Coach Dixon came out to training camp last year too. They have continued to be great teammates and coaches since I have been with
Were you able to catch any of Pitt's Big East Championship run this spring?
"Oh yes, they had me on speakerphone the whole time. It was as if I was celebrating right there with them."
What are your plans for the summer? Do the Bulls have a busy summer schedule for their players?
"I will be all around. I will be in
Towards the end of the season, you started seeing your minutes increase, do you plan on playing a larger role on next year's team?
"That is my goal. It is tough because you never know what the team will look like next year or who your teammates will be. You just have to build on the previous year. I feel I had a successful rookie season and am taking steps towards my goals."
What can you do to keep improving as a player? What must you focus on during the offseason?
"The most important thing is your work ethic. You have to maintain it over the summer and keep pushing yourself. You must play to your strengths and forget your weaknesses."
Now that you have reached the NBA, what would you tell kids that aspire to follow in your footsteps? What is the most important thing you learned while at Pitt that has helped you succeed?
It is funny because success does not usually come right away. I sat all my freshman year at Pitt and waited for my time. When an opportunity arises, you have to take it. When I was at Pitt, I was able to prove to coach
Lastly, which is better,
"Primanti Brothers, definitely, the pizza is good there but it is not Primanti's."