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The rise of Chelsea Gray

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Connecticut Sun guard Chelsea Gray is having a great rookie season, as she's one of the main components on the top team in the Eastern Conference. But her plight and ascension to this point was anything but easy.

Photo by NBAE/Getty Images

Most players who score over 2,000 points in a Duke uniform, and helped lead the Blue Devils to three ACC regular season titles, two ACC Tournament titles and three Final Fours, would not be surprised to be drafted in the first-round of the WNBA Draft.

But Chelsea Gray's story is not that of most players.

Gray suffered season-ending kneecap injuries in both her junior and senior seasons at Duke. Despite putting up impressive numbers and setting numerous school records when healthy, Gray was deemed a risky pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft because of her past injuries.

"I was kind of shocked that I got the call to be headed to the draft," Gray says. "I was just overwhelmed with excitement that I was going to be there, and possibly get drafted. And then to be drafted as high as I did, I can't even describe it."

Gray was drafted 11th overall by the Connecticut Sun. The Sun showed exceptional faith in Gray, who was still rehabbing her knee at the time of the draft. Connecticut proved that they wanted Gray, now it was time for Gray to prove that she could excel in the WNBA, despite the injuries she had suffered.

"It was a hard road," Gray says. "After missing parts of my junior and senior years, it was hard to come back from that."

She worked diligently with a coach in Southern California, focusing on her quickness and footwork. Gray credits her close friends and family for helping her stay strong during her long road back.

"They kept on encouraging me and told me that God has a plan and to stay tough," Gray remembers. "Without those people that were behind me, I wouldn't be here today."

Gray also recounts what it was like to experience the elation of being drafted, but then having to sit out her entire first season with Connecticut while continuing to rehab.

"It was really hard for me to be off the court and not able to help my teammates out there," Gray says.

Fast forward a year later and now, seven games into the 2015 WNBA season, Gray is averaging 9.6 points per game and shooting 51.1% from the floor as well as 58.8% from behind the arc.

She is the second-leading scorer amongst WNBA rookies and her three-point percentage is good for second best in the entire league.

Gray credits her early season success to her teammates and specifically, Connecticut's veteran leaders like Camille Little and Jasmine Thomas. She also says that playing in the extremely tough Atlantic Coast Conference when at Duke helped prepare her for the WNBA.

"The physicality throughout the ACC is tremendous. It definitely helped get me prepared for the next level," Gray says.

When asked if she has found her rhythm seven games into her first WNBA season, Gray said, "I wouldn't say I'm completely in rhythm yet because we're not even in double digit games yet and we're still finding our chemistry as a team."

Gray's numbers beg to differ, as she is playing a key role on a team that is tied for the best record in the league. In the Sun's most recent victory versus the Los Angeles Sparks, Gray filled the stat sheet, recording 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals all while shooting 50% from the field for the game.

Over Connecticut's past three games, all wins, Gray has scored in double-figures in all three contests all while shooting over 50% from the field. In the Sun's 79-58 win over Seattle on June 16th, Gray led all scorers in the game with 16 points.

If Chelsea Gray doesn't feel like she's found her rhythm yet as a WNBA player, then the rest of the league should be really scared when she does.