In November 2016, at the beginning of the women’s basketball season, Argyle High School senior superstar Vivian Gray signed her letter of intent with Fort Lewis College and decided play basketball in Durango for the Skyhawks.
Gray chose FLC over national division I powers like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Christian University, Rice, Texas, Kansas State and Tennessee Tech, she said.
Growing up in Argyle, Texas, Gray developed into one of the best prospects in the country throughout her four years at AHS. According to ESPN’s top 100 recruits, Gray was ranked as high as the 14th best high school basketball player in the nation her sophomore year.
Gray won three 4A Texas state titles, was a three time Texas 4A player of the year, one time 4A athlete of the year, and won the most valuable player of the Texas 4A state championship game her sophomore and senior years of high school.
It came down to a decision between FLC and Oklahoma State for Gray and it was no small choice, she said. Ultimately she chose FLC.
Why would such a highly touted recruit choose a division II school like FLC over schools like Baylor University, which ended last season ranked number five in the nation at the DI level?
The answer: family
Gray’s older sister Olivia also plays on the FLC’s women’s basketball team. A year older than Vivian, Olivia spent the past season as a redshirt, not playing any games, so that she could keep all four years of eligibility and play her four years with her sister.
“I’m a pretty family-oriented person, so, to able to have my sister up here and see my parents a lot while having kind of a laid back environment to where I can actually have fun with basketball instead of it being a job,” Vivian said.
The Grays’ mother went to school here and and their grandfather has lived in Durango for a very long time, so this has really become their home away from home, Olivia said.
Their parents are getting a place in Durango so that for the next four years they can watch their daughters play, Vivian said.
“We are super, super close, so being able to play with her and like, we have a connection on the court,” Vivian said. “We understand each other and like, what the other is going to do. Being able to be back on the court with her, I missed it.”
For Olivia, it was most important to have her sister here with her, she said. If Vivian did not come to FLC, Olivia would have foregone her senior year and graduated early, she said.
Family was the biggest factor in Vivian’s decision to come to FLC, but the Fort’s winning tradition in women’s basketball factored in a bit as well, she said.
FLC women’s basketball has not had a losing season in the the last 10 years. In the 2009-10 season, they went to the DII national championship game which they lost to Emporia State 65-53.
Even though DI programs were coming after her, FLC head coach Jason Flores said he always knew that he had a shot to get the Texas superstar to come to FLC.
“I’d say that I thought we had a shot, is that crazy?” Flores said. “We knew we had enough of a shot to know that it wasn’t a waste of time to recruit her.”
Flores has been enamored with Vivian and her sister since they came to a basketball camp at FLC in 2013. Flores felt like to get Vivian and her sister, he had to try and beat some of the traditional powerhouses to the punch by starting to recruit them early on, he said.
The camp occurred before Vivian blew up on the national recruiting stage, so Flores knew that he had an in with the Grays from that point forward, he said.
“Sometimes it’s a fit thing, you know?” Flores said. “Her parents love Durango and they always vacationed here. To be able to recruit a player and be able to compete against who you are competing against for her, you needed to have some sort of draw and some sort of in.”
Now that the recruiting process is behind her, Vivian said that her eyes are on a DII national championship.
“At the beginning of the year, we were all supposed to write down our goal on our board and every one wrote ‘national champions,” Vivian said.
This year’s FLC girls basketball team has a lot of depth and a lot of talent, Flores said.
“There is no reason that we should not have a chance to win every game we play,” Flores said. “You can’t normally say that, but I feel that with this crew, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win every game you play, but we have the capability of doing that, and that is a good place to be.”
What has always driven Vivian is her want and competitiveness to be the best, whether that is the best player on the court or the best team in the nation, she said.
“I have always had really high expectations of myself,” Vivian said. “I feel like I am a leader. Even though I am younger, I do lead because of my competitiveness. I refuse to lose. I have to win and I know there is a lot of pressure on me coming in but I think I can handle it because I do have really good teammates.”
Vivian, with her family on the court and in the stands, will play her best and thinks it will result in a championship, she said.
This team is vying for a title, but Vivian has her aim set a little higher:
“National championship, four years in a row,” she said.