Reshanda Gray, the Phoenix Mercury’s newest forward, is all for team spirit. Except right now, her spirit is for the wrong team.
Gray and guard Jennie Simms were signed by the Mercury on Monday afternoon, hours before their first game in Phoenix.
As Gray walked down the Footprint Center hallways for the first time as part of the Mercury on Monday, the end of her hair was tinted green — reminiscent of the Seattle Storm, the team that waived her on June 24. Ahead of Mercury’s 99-78 victory over the Fever on Wednesday, she paired her hair with a green outfit.
“She’s still got that green hair, came in with a green outfit today,” Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “Can those designers out there, can you send something new in purple and orange please?”
But Gray is someone who plans out her pregame outfits, no matter the team, she said. And purple hair is on the horizon for the new Mercury guard.
“I know I had a lot of heat for my outfit today, but I was telling them it was premade outfits,” Gray said Wednesday. “… I think it’s so funny because this was the first year that I was like, ‘Ooh, I’m actually getting in the team spirit and dyeing my hair green.’ But any other year I’m always purple.”
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Gray has traveled throughout the league in her seven-year WNBA career. She was selected 16th overall in the 2015 WNBA Draft to the Minnesota Lynx after a four-year college career at California. She has played with the Atlanta Dream, New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks, Lynx, and Storm in her seven-year professional career.
She’s also taken her skills overseas, playing in Italy, Korea, and Hungary.
“I always tell people that if you always want to be a part of my life, my life is six months to six months,” Gray said. “Depending on what part of the country I’m at, or world.”
Now, her newest home is Phoenix.
“It’s nice to add someone that knows who they are on the basketball court,” Diana Taurasi said. “Reshanda has been in this league for a long time now because she’s true to herself and she stays in that lane … she’s a great teammate.”
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And Gray, 29, has made a name for herself as a tough competitor.
Gray’s defensive toughness on the court is something the Mercury needed, Nygaard said. On Monday night, she had an offensive foul within her first second on the court in a Phoenix uniform.
“I really admire her toughness,” Nygaard said. “I think her physicality and toughness was something that we were really missing. She’s a bruiser. You’re not going to run by Reshanda Gray and not get a bruise. So, we have her in there now to create a little bit of that for us.”
Gray, standing at 6-foot-2, attributed her “bruising” qualities to her upbringing in South Central Los Angeles. When she played basketball in her hometown, she said, she needed to learn how to be tough.
“I’m like the nicest person in the world, in the world,” Gray said in response to Nygaard calling her a “bruiser.” “But where I grew up from, growing up was rough. I played blacktop ball, so it’s either you gonna get put off the court or you’re going to shut up and play.” Gray also gives Phoenix an open spot in the paint, Nygaard said, something the Mercury have been lacking since Tina Charles agreed to a contract divorce with the team and Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia. With Gray under the basket, Nygaard said, it is harder for opposing teams to crowd Mercury guards.
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In her second game with the Mercury, Gray was part of history. With 11 points in the victory over Indiana, she was one of seven players on Phoenix’s roster to finish in double-digit scoring, tying a WNBA single-game record.
“She’s just the ultimate professional,” Skylar Diggins-Smith said of Gray in the Mercury’s postgame press conference on Wednesday. “I mean, 5-for-5 tonight, in 12 minutes. Got her money’s worth too, with four fouls. She’s tough, there’s a reason she’s been in this league so long. She’s always on somebody’s team. She’s great in the locker room, smart, learned the system, plays. Chemistry-wise, it just seems like … she’s been here all year.”
“We’ll keep her,” Sophie Cunningham added.