AS Monaco won its first 7DAYS EuroCup championship and did so with a small rotation, but great heart and determination. Rob Gray became a key piece of the puzzle when he started playing for the team at the beginning of the Top 16. Gray went on to lead Roca Team in its most important games of the season, earning both EuroCup Semifinals and Finals MVP honors. Grat started the season with Boulogne Metropolitans 92 but his move to Monaco proved to be the most important one for any club this season. In 13 EuroCup games with Monaco, Grat averaged 18.2 points on 50.0% three-point shooting. He boosted his scoring average to 24.0 in the finals against UNICS Kazan. Gray is already thinking about his next goal, as he will play in the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague campaign with Monaco. "I am definitely looking forward to playing against the best teams on the biggest stage in Europe," Gray said. "It's going to be a big off-season for me preparing and that is going to keep me highly motivated all summer, thinking about coming back to play in the EuroLeague next season."
Hello, Rob. Congratulations on winning the EuroCup title. How satisfying it is to win this competition?
"It is what you play for, you know, the ultimate goal, and I was just excited to be able to participate in the competition for my first time this year. You always want to win the championship, but you have to take it one game at a time. And it was a pretty cool experience to keep advancing and giving yourself a chance to win at all in the end."
After winning the EuroCup Semifinals MVP, you said you wanted to be EuroCup Finals MVP - and you did it! How great was that?
"Yes, as I said, you always want to play your best. I always have a higher standard for myself, high expectations, so I guess it was just meant to be, supposed to happen, I don't know. We were able to win in two games and I was able to put two decent games together to get it done. More than anything, I am just glad that our team was able to win the championship."
"I always have a higher standard for myself, high expectations, so I guess it was just meant to be."
You started the season with Boulogne Metropolitans 92. How did the opportunity to join Monaco come up?
"I was in Levallois [Metropolitans] last season so I chose to come back but they switched the coach and it didn't work out as smoothly as I was expecting, so they allowed me to terminate my contract. And at the same time, Monaco was also looking for a guard. So it was just perfect timing. I guess it was just meant to be."
Monaco was only in a do-or-die situation in Game 2 of the Quarterfinals against Buducnost. How did the team manage to regroup?
"We lost that first game by 1 and defensively, we felt like we could have done a couple of things to make sure that we definitely won. So we went to Ljubljana and just wanted to make sure to force a Game 3 back in Monaco. We were able to do that. And then from that point on, the guys were just motivated enough to guard and rebound and squeeze out a win at home against Buducnost. Then, after that, we were able to go on a little winning streak. So I think the first round, they tested us and played us physical and tough, so after that, we knew that we were going to be only that same style of play or even more physical, so we had to come ready."
Can you take us back to the game-winning shot in Gran Canaria, which sent Monaco to the Finals?
"Yes, we had a play that we have been working on for a special situation in practice. We were trying to either get the ball to me or J.J. [O'Brien] to get a good look off. And they were switching everything. So they switched small forward, power forward, and thankfully I was able to catch the ball on the move, get a little space and I get a good open look. And then fortunately it went in. So there was no need for Game 3 because we wanted to really get that series out of the way in Game 2 and move forward to the championship."
Speaking of sweeping series, how important was it to surprise UNICS in Game 2, right away, and not go to Game 3?
"When we won the first game, I think everyone in the organization understood and wanted to execute and get off out of Russia. So with that being said, if we won Game 2, we would leave. We had two travel methods on the schedule before we left. I believe when everybody looked at it, they were hoping we could leave Option A instead of option B, meaning, winning the second game and leaving that Saturday."
Zvezdan Mitrovic was chosen as the EuroCup Coach of the Year. How is it playing for him?
"I like playing for Coach. He is demanding, pays attention to detail, and is going to always prepare the team with the correct game plan, especially from a defensive perspective, from watching film and paying attention to other teams, players and their habits, and their system. Overall, he is a really cool guy, pretty easy to get along with. He is demanding and screams a lot, and he is intense, but much, much easier to get along with than he may look like. I like playing for Coach, he is always easy to get along with and it keeps it real simple."
"Success is always going to find the hardest worker. So you have to definitely work hard."
In less than a decade, Monaco went from the French fourth division to being EuroCup champions. How does it feel to be a part of a franchise that is growing so quickly?
"Yes, it is cool. I am glad that I am here for the European championship part, but it's definitely cool to be here with this timing, winning the EuroCup and continuing the rise of the club, now going into the EuroLeague. We just want to continue to keep that same progression, continue to raise the club, improve the brand and try to win some games in the EuroLeague, not just be happy that we are competing there."
After the Finals, you mentioned how important your work ethic was. You made over 50% of your three-point shots this season. Of course, that comes with a lot of work. How hard have you worked to get to this level?
"Work is mandatory when you are playing basketball or any type of competitive sport, or when you are doing anything that requires skill and practice, repetition. So if you don't want to put the work in, it is going to be hard for you to make it to this point and maintain and have a career without dropping off. So it is something that I look at as mandatory: You have to work. You have to put in hours. Success is always going to find the hardest worker. So you have to definitely work hard. And it's almost like a day-to-day routine that you get yourself into and put the hours in because you know what you want to get out."
You will play the 2021-22 EuroLeague with Monaco. How much are you looking forward to that opportunity?
"I am excited about the opportunity. I know, ideally, that's where everyone wants to be in Europe, in the EuroLeague. So I am definitely looking forward to playing against the best teams on the biggest stage in Europe. I mean, it's going to be a big off-season for me preparing, and that is going to keep me highly motivated all summer, thinking about coming back to play in the EuroLeague next season."