There’s no doubt in her mind that she will play basketball again for Tennessee. But not this year.
"I’m not sure of the timetable ... but I definitely will play again," she said Monday as she prepared to leave a long-term rehabilitation facility to continue her recovery at home in nearby Mason. "As soon as they say I can go out on the court, I’m getting out there.
"I’m still working on my walking," she said. "I do eyebrow raisers every day."
Gray was voted the top girls prep basketball player in Ohio a year ago and was recruited by all the top college programs. The Associated Press Ms. Basketball chose perennial power Tennessee and played in 27 games as a freshman.
It wasn’t until after the 6-foot-1 forward had shoulder surgery in July that doctors found a brain aneurysm, later repaired in a 12 1/2-hour procedure that may have saved her life.
"I think I took life, in general, for granted," said Gray, 19. "You don’t know what it (a life-threatening situation) is like until you go through it. I’m a lot stronger mentally, which is where I struggled last year."
Dr. Mark Goddard, who helped oversee her rehab at Cincinnati’s Drake Center, said it might have been a lucky that the aneurysm showed up while Gray was hospitalized.
"Whether you call it serendipity or divine providence, they noticed that something wasn’t right," he said. "She probably had this all along, but people don’t generally notice it until their 30s and 40s."
Gray expects to return to classes in Tennessee in January.
"Amber’s strong will, positive attitude and determination, coupled with the excellent work of her medical team, has allowed for her release 2 1/2 weeks ahead of schedule," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said in a statement released in Knoxville.
"The Lady Vol basketball family continues to keep Amber in our constant thoughts and prayers. We know she will approach the next phase of her rehabilitation with the same strong will, determination and intensity."
Goddard said Gray had successful rotator cuff surgery on July 2 in Knoxville, and the aneurysm was unrelated. But within hours of that surgery, Gray’s lungs filled with fluid and doctors performed more tests as her mother prayed.
"We went from celebrating to not knowing if my daughter would ever wake up again," said her mother, Tonya Carter.
It was days before the broken blood vessel that caused the stroke showed up. Meanwhile, Gray had been transferred to University Hospital in Cincinnati for neurosurgery, and then to the rehabilitation center on July 23.
Goddard called Gray’s progress "meteoric," and said it’s been inspirational to other patients.
"I’ve always known that she was a strong person, but she was amazingly strong," Carter said.