Allisha Gray has found a home with the Dream

Atlanta Dream All-Star guard Allisha Gray’s involvement with WnB Factory all started because Wing Stop was closed.

Gray was hanging out with her brother AJ when he wanted Wing Stop but it was not to be as the popular chicken wings restaurant was closed. Luckily for them, a WnB Factory happened to be close by and AJ suggested they try that out instead.

“He went over there and he was like, ‘the food is really good,’ Gray recalled in an exclusive interview with ClutchPoints. “We did our research, got in touch with the CEO and stuff and had meetings with them. And we were like, ‘yeah let’s do it.’ So that’s how it came about, one day he just wanted Wing Stop and they were closed, he turned around and saw WnB Factory.”

The restaurant chain began in Atlanta and prides itself on its variety of wings and burgers. Gray became one of the company’s most recent franchise members and she helped facilitate the grand opening of a franchise location in Milledgeville, Georgia.

One of Gray’s main focuses for becoming a part of WnB Factory was to help prepare herself for life after basketball. She obviously still has quite a few years left of playing in the WNBA, but she wanted to make sure that she was ahead of the game when it comes to her post-playing days.

“I’m always thinking of setting my life up beyond basketball because one day that ball is going to stop dribbling. The day I decide to hang up my shoes, I already know what my next step in life is going to be,” Gray said. “I like the WnB Factory franchise, I would like to open three or four more. . .And also setting up generational wealth, just thinking of one day wanting to have kids and being able to have them set up for life with college funding and stuff like that. When I get into business endeavors, for me it’s all about setting up and being comfortable for the future.”

The other part of Gray getting involved with WnB Factory was establishing herself in the community she calls home. Gray was a star at Washington County High School in Sandersville, Georgia. As a junior, she was named to Team USA’s U18 team. She led Washington County to a state championship in 2011 and was a highly-touted recruit.

One of the most highly decorated high school basketball players in state history, Gray was given a tremendous honor last week when she had a street named after her in her hometown of Sandersville. The street is nearby a mural of Gray that was painted in 2022 that features her in her Team USA jersey and the Olympics logo behind her.

It also reads: ‘Welcome to Sandersville. Hometown of Olympic gold medalist Allisha Gray. Gray is a legend in her home state but was initially unaware of the honor that was about to be bestowed upon her.

“Honestly I had no clue. My mom would ask me for a date when I was going to be home and I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ She was like, ‘well just give us a date when you’re gonna be home,’ so I gave her date,” Gray recalled. “I was just such a surreal moment, growing up in a small town of Sandersville George and being able to do the things that I do and continue to, I just appreciate where I come from, it just an honor cause they definitely appreciate me. First it was the mural, then they named a street after me and it was an amazing feeling.”

So perhaps that played a factor in Allisha Gray’s decision to sign a long-term contract with the Dream before even playing a single game for them. Gray was originally drafted by the Dallas Wings with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft. She spent the first six seasons of her career playing for the Wings and was the 2017 Rookie of the Year.

But this past offseason, the Wings traded Allisha Gray to the Dream. Just a couple of months after the trade, before the 2023 WNBA season even tipped-off, Gray signed a contract extension for two more years at slightly less than the WNBA max salary. It was a decision that she didn’t even need much time to think about, it just felt like the right thing to do.

“Something just felt right, I don’t know how to explain it, it just felt right. I just knew coming to Atlanta, it was going to be the right fit. They’re building something special,” Gray said. “One day I would like to be able to compete for a WNBA championship and be able to get further into the playoff rounds and stuff like that. . .something just felt very special about being in Atlanta.”

Something very special was brewing in Atlanta, indeed. In her first season with the Dream, Allisha Gray responded with a career-year. She averaged a career-high 17.1 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals with shooting splits of 46.5 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from the three-point line and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Gray had a case last season with the Wings for being named to the WNBA All-Star team, but was ultimately passed over. This season, there was no denying her a spot. Gray was selected to her first All-Star team, joining Dream teammates Rhyne Howard and Cheyenne Parker for the midseason showcase. Gray admitted it’s been a goal of hers and she was excited to finally check that off her list.

“It just shows that I’m right in the place where I need to be. I’ve been saying it the whole year how this was the best thing to happen to my career,” Gray said. “As a player, I felt like I was able to grow and really show the player that I can be, the proof is in the pudding, I was able to be an All-Star. I was very excited, it was like, ‘about time!’ That definitely was a locked-in goal of mine this season, to be an All-Star.”

While Gray has certainly had major success in the WNBA, the blueprint for that success was actually formed her last year in college. Gray committed to North Carolina out of high school, but played only two seasons for the Tar Heels before transferring to South Carolina. She sat out a season as per NCAA transfer rules, but came in as a senior and helped lead the Gamecocks to a national champiojship alongside fellow future WNBA players A’ja Wilson, Tyasha Harris, Alaina Coates, Kaela Davis and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.

The group was coached by Dawn Staley who has turned South Carolina into a national powerhouse and perennial championship contender. Since Staley joined the Gamecocks, she’s won two national championships, reached five Final Fours and has sent numerous players to the WNBA. But for Gray, it wasn’t just the basketball side of things she got from Staley, it was life in general.

“She’s been successful at every level so she knows what it takes to get to that level. For me, just being there one year and being able to develop under Coach Staley. . .that just speaks volumes of how they value their players and really care about their players. Not only do they care about you as a player, they also care about you as a human being,” Gray said. “To this day I still text and talk to Coach Staley even though I’m years removed from college. . .When Coach Staley tells you something, especially as a student athlete in college, you listen.”

This past season, the Dream made it to the WNBA playoffs for the first time in five years. While there had been some roster upheaval and turnover in recent seasons, the Dream looked like they were starting to establish something consistent. They fell in the first round against the Wings, but a foundation has been set for the future.

With a Dream core group that includes veterans such as Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker, and younger players like Rhyne Howard, Naz Hillmon and Haley Jones, Gray sees this as a group that has a high ceiling.

“As long as we stick together and keep working hard, the sky’s the limit,” Gray said. “I see something very special that can happen in Atlanta. I know with the coaching staff and ownership group, they really care about us as players. The facilities are nice, it’s just amazing. The organization is a pro organization. Being in Atlanta, you feel like a pro, you’re treated like a pro, it’s amazing.”


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