Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amber Gray brings the LadyVols Team Together

Amber Gray is in no shape to be calling together her Tennessee women's basketball teammates and coaches in a group huddle.

She's been immersed in her own medical ordeal for most of the month.

Yet she's gathered everyone just the same.

"Given the circumstances, all that she has been through, I think it has brought our team and all of us closer together,'' Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "When you see someone who's so young, going through so many challenges. Amber is family. It has brought us closer together. . . . and made us realize how precious life is."

Complications ensued after Gray underwent shoulder surgery on July 2 at St. Mary's Medical Center. The Lady Vols forward underwent a series of tests and later was moved to the University of Cincinnati's Neuroscience Institute, where she underwent a 12 1/2-hour surgical procedure beginning on July 20 for an aneurysm in her brain.

Gray was moved last week to the Drake Rehabilitation Center in Cincinnati. Gray's mother, Tonya Carter, said Monday that there's no timetable for her daughter's recovery.

Summitt said that she's been impressed with Gray's upbeat attitude in the face of such a challenge.

"It wasn't like 'why me?' " Summitt said, "It's 'what do I have to do to get better.'

"I think her positive attitude has helped her family and everyone. She's kept a great sense of humor. Every time I've gone in the room, she'd had something to say."

The Lady Vols want to buoy Gray's spirit with their support. While Gray was in Knoxville, the players convened their own vigil on her behalf with their presence at the hospital.

"The people at St. Mary's did a great job of protecting Amber but letting her teammates go in two or three at a time,'' Summitt said.

With Gray in Cincinnati, the Lady Vols' challenge is closing the distance between here and there. They've built a bridge through cyberspace but have to be careful about too much traffic.

"I was talking with Tonya,'' Summitt said. "They just had to turn (Amber's) cell phone off so she could get the quality rest she needed."

While the Lady Vols figure out the right amount of communication with Gray, they seem to be locked in on the appropriate content.

"It's going to be important that she knows every day she's in our thoughts and prayers and we're pulling for her,'' Summitt said.

And since Gray went to all the trouble, they ought hold that huddle together, too.

"She's brought us all together,'' Summitt said, "in a very good way."

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