The path between the East Baltimore basketball courts and Clemson, S.C., is hardly direct, and the route has been pockmarked for those who have traveled it before.
But Devin Gray is convinced that his stay in the South Carolina piedmont will be more productive than those of his predecessors.
"I'm looking forward to playing there," said Gray, a 6-foot-7 senior center from St. Frances-Charles Hall. He signed a national letter of intent yesterday, two weeks before the end of the signing period. "I think I'll have a good time there."
Gray, who averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds and was the Catholic League Most Valuable Player, said the past experiences of two Baltimore schoolboy stars who went to Clemson -- Skip Wise and Sean Tyson -- were of little consequence in his decision to play for the Tigers.
In fact, Gray said he knew nothing of Wise, who left Clemson after his freshman season in 1975 to pursue a professional career with the short-lived Baltimore Claws of the American Basketball Association and later was convicted on drug charges. Wise has been paroled and is doing community service work.
Of more recent interest to Gray were the travails of Tyson, who, like Wise, attended Dunbar. Tyson, a 6-7 reserve forward, was suspended twice this season by coach Cliff Ellis and was charged with assaulting a female student in February.
Tyson was allowed to remain in school and was placed on disciplinary probation, on the provision that he attend counseling sessions and work in the school's office of student development.
Gray said he had spoken with Tyson, who told him that his run-ins were his own fault, not the university's. Gray said Tyson, who will graduate next week, sold him on Clemson's record of graduating black athletes [four graduated last year, and four are on schedule to graduate this spring].
"I talked to Sean and he told me that he's going to graduate May 10," said Gray. "He told me that it would be a good thing for me to come down there." Clemson earlier signed Corey Wallace, who went to Meade High and Allegany Community College.
Gray's final choices included Towson State, Maryland, St. John's, Richmond and Minnesota.
It appeared to many observers that Gray would choose College Park. His high school coach, William Wells, said Gray very nearly signed with Maryland, but ultimately decided against it because he was concerned about where he would play in relation to other players Maryland coach Gary Williams was recruiting.
"At one time, I think Maryland was the No. 1 school on his list, but it sort of wandered away," said Wells.
Gray scored 690 the last time he took the SAT. The NCAA requires a score of 700 to avoid Proposition 48 restrictions, and Maryland's admissions requirements are even higher.
Gray said he will take the test again and vowed to score at least 700, but added that Clemson had pledged to offer him a scholarship whether he topped 700 or not.
There is an unwritten rule in the Atlantic Coast Conference that schools will not sign players who don't meet Proposition 48. In addition, NCAA rules now say a player who doesn't meet Proposition 48 cannot receive an athletic scholarship as a freshman. If he doesn't score 700, Gray would have to pay his own way for his first year at an NCAA school.
Asked about Gray's statement that he would receive a Clemson scholarship no matter what, Clemson spokesman Tim Bourret said he didn't know the particulars of Gray's situation. But it's possible that if Gray doesn't score 700, he could enroll in prep school for a year and then join the Clemson program, Bourret said.