|Livingstone standout guard Roger Ray is the CIAA's little big man|
|Guard owns school assists and scoring marks|
|Published Saturday, February 22, 2020 8:10 am|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Livingstone guard Roger Ray is the Blue Bears' all-time leader in assists and scoring. He's 69 points from becoming the first player in school history to break the 2,000-point barrier.|
Roger Ray believes in signs.
During a morning shootaround before Livingstone’s game against CIAA rival Johnson C. Smith, the senior guard from Raleigh hoisted 360 shots – the number of degrees in a circle. To him, it’s indicative of completion, something to be fulfilled. Perhaps a league championship, or conference player of the year.
“There’s definitely unfinished business,” he said after last week’s game at JCSU. “I don’t look back. I just thank God for the journey. …I really want to bring a championship back to Salisbury and hope everything just comes full circle.”
Ray’s journey hasn’t been an easy one. At 5-10, he was barely an afterthought to recruiters and arrived at Livingstone with nothing more but a chance to make the team as a walk-on. Today, he’s the school’s all-time scoring leader after dropping a career-best 45 points in a December double-overtime win against Virginia State to surpass Jeff Persall’s 1,464 points. With 1,931 career points going into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Winston-Salem State, Ray’s on the cusp of becoming the first Blue Bear to break the 2,000-point barrier. He’s also Livingstone’s (12-15, 5-11 CIAA) all-time assists leader.
“I’ve been through tough situations – real life tough situations – so basketball is simple,” Ray said. “You put the work in, you go out there and play your game. God gave me a unique game. I’m not the [tallest], I’m not the most athletic, so I get in my spots.”
That ability to create open space is what make Ray, a two-time All-CIAA pick, unique. He can separate from bigger defenders with quickness and guile, whether it’s off the dribble or a sudden change of direction for one of the league’s best step-back jump shots.
“He has offensive talent,” said JCSU coach Steve Joyner, who saw Ray torture his Golden Bulls for 30 and 33 points in their regular season games. “He knows how to negotiate defenses; he knows how to negotiate defenders. He’s more than capable of scoring the basketball a number of ways. His jump shot is certainly prolific, but he has a command and an understanding of how to play as an offensive player who is as good as anybody in the country at any level.”
Said Ray, who is second in the CIAA at 23.1 points per game: “My coach (James Stinson) always tells me be the smartest person on the court at all times. That way, when athleticism isn’t always there, you can think your way through.”
As a result, opponents are forced to compensate, whether it’s sending multiple defenders at Ray or going one-on-one. Either way, it isn’t a pleasant task.
“He has kind of a dog attitude to him,” said JCSU guard Cayse Minor, the Golden Bulls’ MVP candidate. “He’s small, so it’s kind of hard to stay in front of him. He knows how to get through the creases, so he uses his body well and he has a pretty good step-back, so he’s an all-around good scorer and it’s tough to guard him.”
As his final season at Livingstone winds down, Ray is looking for completion. Earning a pair of all-conference designations is great, and he’d like a tournament title next week in Charlotte. There’s also the possibility of earning player of the year, which would be a nice touch, on a personal level.
“If it’s God’s will, it’ll happen,” he said.
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