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Interview with former California Golden Bear Alexis Gray-Lawson

Alexis Gray-Lawson cuts down the nets at Haas Pavilion after defeating Miami to win the WNIT.
Alexis Gray-Lawson cuts down the nets at Haas Pavilion after defeating Miami to win the WNIT.

All season long, we've been working with fellow SBN site, Swish Appeal, to provide high quality women's basketball related content.  We've seen this women's basketball team, full of talent, but also youthful inexperience, gel at just the right time to win the WNIT.  The undisputed leader of this team was senior superstar, Alexis Gray-Lawson.  Recently, she was drafted by the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, where Q McCall at Swish Appeal, has many contacts.  He worked with the WNBA to organize an interview with Alexis Gray-Lawson.  Head over to Swish Appeal to read the half of her interview about her WNBA experience, but here at CGB we have her answers that related to her time at Cal.  Without further ado, Alexis Gray-Lawson:

Q.  So how’s the east coast? 

It’s pretty good. It’s nice out here. I like it so far.

Q.  I’m actually from Berkeley and went to college in DC. So how was the move from the Bay Area to DC? 

Maaaaaaaan. At first I thought like, ‘Well this is real far – I’m a California girl. That’s been home my whole life. So it’s time to move somewhere new – anywhere is going to be different for me. So me coming all the way to DC, I thought like, ‘Maybe I might not like it or I might not like the city.’ But I actually love the city here. All the people are like really nice. I like my teammates and my coaches. So I’m having a good time while I’m out here.

Q.  What area of the city are you staying in? 

In Arlington [Virginia].

Q.  So there are also a few other Bay Area players trying to make teams right now – Devenai Hampton, obviously. Jene Morris and also Donisha Tate was actually at Tulsa’s [open tryout] yesterday. So have you kept in touch with any of them at all? 

I talked to ‘Nai – Devenai – she’s supposed to be heading out there [to Seattle] soon. And then Jene I’ve talked to – she’s pretty much prepared to go out there [to Indiana], she’s trying to get out there early and so she’s just trying to get her flight. And that’s pretty much it – I haven’t talked to ‘Nisha.

Q.  So with Jene, how closely have you two stayed in contact since she transferred from Cal? 

Oh that’s like one of my best friends. So we actually talk a lot. Especially during the tournament – I was keeping up all the time, she was doing so well. So we were talking to each other, just trying to prepare each other for the draft and everything else to come. 

After the jump, more of Swish Appeal's interview with Alexis Gray-Lawson.

Q.  So let’s start with your career at Cal – what was your favorite memory from your career at Cal, on or off the court? 

Man. Off the court, definitely it’s our team – our team is like the funniest team in the Pac-10. So we’re always just laughing and joking about everything. So definitely off the court I always had fun with them. And on the court, probably my most favorite moment was when I had 38 against Arizona this year. Mainly because I was sick and it kinda tested my ability and my will to win and want to be better no matter what the circumstances. So it definitely tested me a lot and I kinda pulled through so I was definitely proud of myself.

Q.  So about that game – I’ve talked to some Cal fans about your best game and there was some discussion about the 47 point game against Oregon State, the 35 in the overtime against Washington, the 37 points against Stanford. But you definitely say the Arizona game is your top game? 

Yeah. Everybody always brings up the Stanford game because it’s Stanford, of course. And to this day Tara [Vanderveer] always tells me every time she sees me, like "Man – if you can do that against us, you can do that against anybody else." So for me, the Stanford game definitely kinda made me realize like, "Oh – well dang, I’ve got a lot to show for." So it kinda made me want to work a lot harder so that when next year came around, it wasn’t just that one game that I had a breakout game – it was a consistent basis.

So the 47 point game, it just kinda happened. Everybody always asks me how I did it and it just kinda happened – I ended up shooting the ball very well that game and everything I threw up kinda went in and it went to overtime. Then we went to Washington, I was in foul trouble, and I ended up with 37 that game. So, I mean, I think this year for me was about being in the flow of things and getting used to kinda being the number one scorer on a team and trying to be consistent in doing that.

Q.  And what are you going to miss most about Berkeley – just being in college? Or eating somewhere on Telegraph?  

Well obviously I’m from Oakland so I think one thing I’ll miss the most is just being around family and friends all the time and being able to be around my teammates. When you are with a group of people for a long period of time – you know me and coach [Joanne] Boyle both came here at the same time – so just getting used to everything and being around. On Telegraph, there’s so much stuff you can eat: Chipotle – I think that’s our team’s spot – Blondie’s. I mean there’s so much stuff that you can do on Telegraph. I’ve just always had fun in Berkeley in general. So I’ll definitely miss the atmosphere and fans.



Q.  I figured a Pac-10 athlete would be at like Intermezzo or somewhere. 

Aw, nah. Nah. I mean, I like it – it’s actually pretty good. Like my teammate, LC [Layshia Clarendon], that’s like her favorite food place to go to. And I went there like twice with her and it was ok, I liked it, it wasn’t bad. But like all the athletes they all tell you the truth is that it’s all about Chipotle. Especially when it first got built – everybody in Berkeley was everybody was at Chipotle I felt. So it was pretty good.

Q.  So, going forward to the WNIT – a lot of people sort of dismiss the WNIT as a second-rate tournament. But to you, what did winning the WNIT mean to you in your last college game – at home on top of that? 

It meant a lot. Our team definitely dealt with a lot of adversity this year and I think everybody expected us to make the tournament. I think a little bit of disappointment came when we didn’t make the tournament -- of course I was a little disappointed in being that I had made it to the tournament pretty much every year. And then I hear about the WNIT and they were like, "Oh well, if you don’t get to tournament, you’re going to the WNIT." And at first, all of us were kinda bummed out about it. But then, I feel like everything happens for a reason. So for me it was just kinda like at least you have one more game. And then we won that game. So the next game it was like, "Well you got one more game. You got another 40 minutes to play with your teammates." And to me that was more important than anything. So winning on my home floor: it was so big because everybody – like all my family and friends and pretty much all of our fans – came out and supported us. To be able to cut down nets and bring that back to Cal was definitely big – we hadn’t won a championship in a really long time. So any championship was good for us. And we were just blessed to be in that situation.

Q.  So how was it watching the men’s team win the Pac-10 championship this year? 

Oh it was big! Berkeley was going crazy! It definitely was going crazy. Me and Jerome [Randle] actually are really, really good friends. So Jerome was just telling me, "Aw man I can’t believe we’re in the tournament, we’re going to the tournament. We’re going to the championship, we’re gonna get a championship. We’re about to win, we’re about to bring it back." And then we heard they lost. And everybody was a little bummed out, but everybody was very, very proud of them this year. And winning the conference championship was big. So we were just happy for them and happy for what they had accomplished.

Q.  So how do you think the women’s will do next year without your leadership obviously but a great freshman class this year and I think they have good recruits coming in this year? 

Yeah, we have two McDonald’s All-Americans coming in – Lindsey [Sherbert], Afure [Jemeriqbe]. And they’re really going to be a great addition to our team. They bring a lot of heart and hustle and that’s definitely what Cal basketball is all about. So I think they’ll be fine next year – everybody’s a little worried that, as far as leadership, who’s going to step up. But I think they have enough leadership to know that when it’s time to play they just come in and play every game like it’s their last and I think they have a lot to prove this year. So I wish them the best and I think they’ll do fine. They might be battling for first, second, and third in the Pac-10. And everybody don’t believe me, but I’m there at heart to the fullest, even out east. So I just wish them the best.  



Q.  Just going back to Jerome – have you talked to him about his preparations for the NBA Draft at all? 

Yeah, everybody keeps telling him that he’s probably going to go late-first, early second. So I told him, on draft day he asked me how my draft day went – I was a nervous wreck because obviously you’re very anxious to hear your name called. So I told him no matter what happens you go in with a positive attitude. No matter what pick you get once you get picked, you get a tryout with the team. And when you get to tryouts, you work your butt off and hopefully you make that team.

Q.  So when you talk about working hard and such, what is the most important thing you think you learned at Cal that will help you make the WNBA? 

Just to be positive in all aspects. Like when you come to a veteran team like ours, it’s pretty much everybody’s been here except for you but you’re pretty much the only one who kinda got recruited this year. For me, it’s just learning from the best – I talk to Katie Smith all the time because I just want to be better. When you play with great people around you all the time – like one of my favorite players is Alana Beard and it was just so perfect that I got to come and I got to play with her and I was like, "Oh my god!" And then she got the ankle injury but I try to text her and she definitely gives me a lot of wise words and a lot of things to focus on in training camp. So for me, just taking what everybody says in and doing what I’m told. And I think I definitely brought that from Cal.

Q.  You talked a little bit about your advice to Jerome about draft day, but what was that experience like for you on draft day? Like I heard before the draft that you were like a second round pick pretty much and so you fell a little bit. So what was that like for you?  

I think for me, I was very, very calm. Everybody thought I shouldn’t have been that calm. I was just sitting there just waiting, just being patient. I feel like if you work hard, you work your butt off then good things happen for you and you get a lot of payoff in the end. So regardless of if I went first or second round, to me it really didn’t matter as long as I got picked. And that team needed me and that team wanted me to be on that team and that’s pretty much my focus. So when I got drafted to the Washington Mystics at the 30th pick, there was a whole bunch of things running in my mind. Like they have a lot of guards and where do I fit? And how do I get better? Who do I talk to get better? And that’s pretty much been my focus since I’ve gotten here.

Q.  And was there any particular team that you thought you were going to or that showed the most interest in your prior to the draft?  

No – I actually hadn’t talked. My main thing during the season was to not talk to anybody – I didn’t want to know nothing about the WNBA. I didn’t want to know nothing. I wanted to make sure I was totally focused towards my team and it was important. So when we ended our season, my dad and my agent kind of told me about different places I could go and where I would fit. And Washington was one of the places that I fit. So when I got picked to be a Washington Mystic, that was pretty much a dream come true because obviously I’d probably get to play with one of my favorite players of all time.

Q.  So how is that experience of transitioning to professional ball from college ball? What are some of the challenges or things you’ve found surprising?  

It’s definitely a learning curve for me because at Cal I was pretty much THE scorer at Cal. And I didn’t really have to move without that ball that much because I would usually have the ball in my hands. And here, being in practice and just learning how to move without the ball. On defense, usually I’m going over screens and hard hedging and going under. And I’m learning how to switch on post players and how to play post players and I’m a lot smaller than a lot of the post players, but I’m also very, very strong so it kinda works out. So it’s just pretty much all those little things, just trying to tighten it up. Training camp’s on Sunday so just trying to be better and getting used to the ball is a lot different from what I’m used to. And so just making sure I’m getting extra reps and doing everything possible to make sure that I’m prepared. 


Many thanks to Alexis Gray-Lawson and Q McCall at Swish Appeal for their help with this awesome interview.  Go Bears and Go Mystics!