Coming off a tantalizing 2022 season, Atlanta’s brightest glow in nearly half a decade, the Dream came out and caused a stir in the offseason, trading for Dallas Wings standout guard Allisha Gray . At the end of the 2022 season, Gray requested a trade to Dallas, wanting to find a better fit after spending the first six years of his career in Texas. And it turns out Dream star and 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard also wanted Gray to find a new team.
“I actually asked (Dream trainer Tanisha Wright) to try and get her here, and so when it happened, I was super excited,” Howard told Dime.
Originally from Sandersville, Gray was thrilled when her agent called to say she was heading to Georgia, back to her home country and closer to her family. The Gateway Center Arena in College Park, the arena of the Dream, is a few hours from the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, where Gray played in college – Gamecock fans frequent to watch the Dream, the W team closest to their university.
Around the quarter into the 2023 WNBA season, Gray offers a career year. She’s averaging a career-high 18 points per game with no drop in efficiency, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Gray became an All-Star for the first time.
“You want to be happy when you come to work, and everyday, no matter what, the people here are amazing, positive…Coach T brings the same energy every day,” Gray says. “You don’t understand how happy I am here, I feel like a whole new person, I feel like I’m slowly coming out of my shell. It’s actually a blessing that I got traded here, it’s refreshing.
The opportunity and space to be a more aggressive offensive player paid off for Gray and the Dream as a whole – Gray lost a career-high 27 points to the Sun in Atlanta’s overtime win . Wright’s offense is predicated on reading and reacting. It’s less about set pieces than triggering actions. Gray fits that perfectly, as she is a player who can make good decisions with the ball, drive hard to the edge and shoot from anywhere on the pitch. She brings one of the best engines in basketball and is a tireless and versatile defender.
“She’s evolving into that goalscoring role, and she’s going to have to continue to feel a little more comfortable because of where she’s come from and how she’s been used in Dallas,” Howard said. “We want her to be aggressive, we want her to score. The teams have to focus on both of us.
Gray was traded to the team in January and had no previous relationship with anyone on the Dream. Howard texted her and welcomed her to the team as soon as the trade happened, and the duo have been playing video games together ever since, particularly bonding over Fortnite. Gray is a great player; she brought her console with her to the Tokyo Olympics, where she won a gold medal in 3×3, and can often be found live Call of Duty on his Twitch channel.
“I had never met her in person, and the first time we had a conversation was actually over the gaming headset,” Gray says of Howard.
Naz Hillmon, a second-year forward on the Dream, shares an agent with Gray. They had met at an agency dinner, but got to know each other during the Athletes Unlimited season in Dallas in the spring. Each week, the captains drafted a new team and played three games together before rotating and drafting again, with players earning points on the UA leaderboard for in-game achievements. Hillmon and Gray played four of five weeks on the same team, and that was intentional.
“Naz knew how to choose me with his first choice. Second choice, do what you do, but that first choice would have better been me, otherwise I wouldn’t have been happy,” Gray says before laughing heartily.
“I wanted to build that chemistry together knowing that we would come to Atlanta together,” Hillmon said.
She wanted to find every opportunity she could to learn Gray’s game, figure out how to compete better, and get to know his personality. As Season W continues, the blossoming friendship between the trio of Gray, Howard and Hillmon also grows, with Gray having “no choice but to have fun here” upon arriving in Atlanta. . She was roped ICT Tac dances, and fans are continually remembered as Goggles Lish, one of Gray’s nicknames due to his glasses on the court.
They embraced who she is while bringing her personality and star power to the fore. Howard knew Gray was funny, but before the exchange she was known to be on the quieter side. As such, Howard has made it his business to give Gray the wherewithal to show off his personality.
“She acts like she’s quiet and she has this little Southern accent, but she’s a jokester,” Hillmon says. “She likes to talk to us a bit about rubbish, not so much on the pitch. She just has this sly little side about her, where if you’re not that close to her, she’s more reserved.
Hillmon even gave him a new nickname, Big Al, in recognition of how the first syllable of Gray’s first name is pronounced.
“That’s why she has two Ls!” said Hillmon laughing. “I found out about this and I was like, oh, your name is Big Al. So I’m trying to get Big Al to understand the rest of the world. I feel like it suits him.
Gray is a fan of the new moniker, perhaps because she’s thrilled to be in Atlanta. She is thrilled to be welcomed by a new organization and new teammates, and excited to spread her wings as a player in a way she knows she is capable of. Her goals include getting that first All-Star nod and making an All-Defense team, and so far she’s outright defended both.
But above all individual accolades, Gray has a goal in mind.
“Keep building, being able to win a championship here,” she said. “I think that’s the main thing. Everyone wants a championship.
The team is still young and finds itself in the second year of a reconstruction. Now is not the time to compete for a title. Instead, this season is all about getting ready to be ready for that next step, and embracing Gray turned out to be a crucial next step in Dream’s dreams.