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Chris Gray as a member of the Atlas.

Inside Chris Gray's Trade to the California Redwoods

March 20, 2024
Kenny DeJohn
Premier Lacrosse League

Last week, the California Redwoods traded the fifth pick in this year’s Premier Lacrosse League College Draft to the New York Atlas for attackman Chris Gray and the Atlas’ third-round pick (No. 18 overall) in the draft.

The NCAA’s all-time points record holder, Gray, was the No. 2 pick in 2022 out of North Carolina and has produced 71 points across two professional seasons.

Atlas head coach Mike Pressler now owns two of the top five picks in the draft, which will be held on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. Eastern and broadcasted on ESPNU. It’s the sign of a clear rebuild for New York.

But for the Redwoods? Head coach Nat St. Laurent is going for it with an attack of Gray, Rob Pannell, Wes Berg, Ryan Lee and newly re-signed star Ryder Garnsey.

“We’ve been in one championship game, two semifinals, and never not in the playoffs,” St. Laurent told PLL writer Jerome Taylor. “We think it’s been a good run, but we wanted to address some things, get a little younger, get a little bit more energy, and get some pieces that we desperately needed.”

The conversations with Pressler started when St. Laurent expressed interest in moving up from the fifth pick in the draft. This draft class is exceptionally deep on attack, with the likes of Brennan O’Neill (Duke), Pat Kavanagh (Notre Dame) and Connor Shellenberger  (Virginia) headlining a group of attackmen that also includes Levi Anderson (Saint Joseph’s), Dyson Williams (Duke), Matt Brandau (Yale) and others.

St. Laurent started conversations with other teams ahead of the Redwoods, but the talk didn’t progress to the point of a deal. Instead, the Redwoods put a spin on a deal with the Atlas.

“If Chris Gray were available at fifth in this year’s draft, we would take him in a heartbeat,” St. Laurent said.

Opting for a proven commodity in Gray over an untested pro out of the draft, St. Laurent made the deal to improve an attack that looks to be one of the most potent in the sport.

Gray could also be the heir apparent to Pannell as the Redwoods’ primary X attackman. St. Laurent said that Pannell is “probably at the back nine of his career,” and having Gray learn from Pannell before he retires could make the transition seamless.

“It’ll be the right decision when [Pannell] makes it,” St. Laurent said. “And Chris, Ryder, Ryan Lee and Wes Berg, that attack unit’s still going to be extremely strong.”