From Fontajau you can also contemplate the stars

In 2009 came the turning point. Uni Girona, then in the hands of another sponsor and still very few years old, beat Obenasa Navarra (69-61) and thus became a new team in the Women’s League. Quite a success, much celebrated, but then very few people imagined what would come next. It’s not just that the club has grown exponentially since then, but its echo has been evident, nationally and even internationally. More than a decade later, Fontajau has applauded tenures and celebrated titles. Consolidated in the category and with an increasingly extensive resume in Europe, the dressing room has opened its doors to renowned players. Little by little, the list is getting longer. There is room for Laia Palau, a whole institution, with an incredible track record and since a few months in the offices after leaving the track. Also the new MVP of the League, the American Rebekah Gardner. But they are not the only ones, not by a long shot. Since from Fontajau you can sometimes also see the stars, it has been possible to sign, and not once but twice, a player like Chelsea Gray.

Gray, playing with Uni against Zaragoza in Fontajau. | MARC MARTÍ

The Californian is not just another piece that arrives from the USA to complete the group and offer some quality details. Already in Girona, he showed his potential, despite perhaps being half-hearted. Now it’s finished blowing up. She won her second WNBA ring on Monday, being a key piece for the Las Vegas Aces. So much so, that she was recognized as the most valuable player in the finals of a play-off that ended scoring 21.7 points per game. The icing on the cake, the recent call-up with the national team to face the World Cup that has just started.

They are big words, without a doubt. And how is it that someone of his characteristics, with such potential, has worn the Uni shirt twice? Pere Puig, until just four days ago acting as the club’s sporting director, is the ideal person to remember it. The clear architect of its incorporation. A “sum of factors” allowed his arrival. The first of them, an untimely injury. “She was playing at Duke, one of the three best American universities, but she got hurt and seriously. He devoted a lot of time to his recovery and did not play again until the end of that stage.” Despite this, she is selected in the draft, but this is where the second factor comes into play. “Connecticut Sun picks her in eleventh position, below what was expected of a player like her.” Since he still “wasn’t in the mood to compete at the highest level”, he left to play in Israel. “It’s a minor league, even though they pay him very well.” One more ingredient is added, a certain “body type”, quite large to be a base. Despite everything, Puig assures that “we didn’t have access to players like that, but I went behind him, insisting to an agent that he was a real shark, one of the worst I’ve come across”. In the end, the player and representative agreed and in 2015 Gray agreed to sign for Uni. Now, there was one condition. The contract made it very clear that “from the second month of being in Girona, she could leave whenever she wanted if she received an offer from a Euroleague team”.

Too short an experience

That’s exactly what happened. After “two beastly months” she packed her bags to leave again, seduced by a proposal that came to her from Turkey. However, with a dozen games he had enough to not leave anyone indifferent and put up some considerable numbers: 18.4 points accompanied by 4.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds per performance. “He arrived when there were two or three days left to contest the Super Cup and he became a key piece to end up winning it. He doesn’t need to score 30 points to be decisive, even though he also scores easily, but he brings many other things that help the team.”

With the first chapter closed, almost no one imagines that Chelsea Gray would live a second one in Girona. In the meantime, she has time to gain experience in Europe and win her first ring in the WNBA, with the Los Angeles Sparks. Pere Puig then remembers her as a “very consecrated” player. How does Uni throw the hook to catch her again? “Taking advantage of the fear generated by the coronavirus, and after spending a couple of years in Turkey, we convinced her to come back here. It was 2020, and then the first Copa de la Reina title and a runner-up in the League fell. Overcame the barrier of 20 games, more than twice as much as in the first stage. “The thing is that we played behind closed doors and when we opened them, it was only for a few spectators. People couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest.”

Gray will turn 30 in October and has a resume that goes hand-in-hand with his skills on the court. “He had touches of genius like those of Magic Johnson. It is very difficult to see bases with these characteristics. She is a winner who sees basketball as a spectacle. He made passes that you couldn’t imagine, risking the maximum”. Uni benefited from it for a while. Maybe not enough. “We didn’t enjoy it much, but it is a matter of pride for this club to have had someone of his talent and characteristics”. Now, with a splendid present and still rope for a while, thinking about a third chapter becomes difficult. “I see it as impossible, but who knows…” Whether it’s her or someone else, there will always be time to keep looking at the stars.



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