Sunday, November 25, 2018

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, made national headlines in 2014 when Jaire Grayer was at a Florida prep school.

But more than four years later, the issue still hits home for Grayer, a 6-foot-5 senior starting shooting guard at George Mason. Grayer grew up in Flint and so did his father, who played 10 years in the NBA.

While many national reporters have stopped covering the story, Grayer continues to give back to his hometown.

“I was more aware of (the crisis) my freshman year of college,” Grayer said. “When it first happened I was in Florida in prep school (at IMG Academy) and really didn’t know much about it.”

The Flint water crisis began more than four years ago when the city’s main drinking water was switched from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River, according to published reports. Due to poor water treatment products, lead from the water pipes found its way into the drinking water.

Grayer was able to make it back to Flint for a few days last summer.

His father, Jeffrey, is among those working to switch the water pipes from lead to copper.

“The current situation is they are still working on it and fixing up the pipes,” Jaire said. “They have a vast number of them done but they still have a lot to do.”

This past summer, Jaire Grayer helped pass out bottled water to citizens in need of clean drinking water.

“It was a long line of cars,” he said.

In the past, he has volunteered at the Fresh Flint Festival during the summers to teach young boys and girls basketball skills and proper water drinking/testing techniques.

For his efforts, Grayer earned a spot on the 2018 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Give Back Team.

But his involvement with youth in Flint began before the water crisis.

He was involved in basketball clinics with Flint natives Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson, who both played at Michigan State and in the NBA.

“The first time I did a camp in Flint was with Mateen,” Grayer said. “I was helping him out and coaching up kids while I was in high school.”

Grayer began playing basketball at an early age.

He said he wasn’t pressured into playing basketball by his father, who played in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets. His mother, Patrice Martin, played at the University of Detroit.

“(My father) let me make my own decision,” Grayer said. “I knew as soon as I got a basketball in my hand. I knew I wanted to play basketball.”

Grayer has been a model of consistency in his four years at George Mason.

He played in 32 games with 31 starts as a freshman and averaged 9.5 points per contest. As a sophomore in 2016-17, he averaged 11.4 points while playing in 34 games, with 33 starts.

Last season as a junior, he started all 32 games and averaged 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 30.7 minutes.

That came after he dealt with a nagging foot injury late last season. He shot 40 percent from 3-point range in the first 21 games of last season but that slid to 25 percent down the stretch as he dealt with the foot issue.

Grayer had a foot procedure done prior to this season and appears to be back on track after missing summer workouts. In the first six games this season, he’s averaged 10 points per contest for the Atlantic 10 Conference team.

“It is good to have him back. I think he still is not 100 percent with lateral quickness,” George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. “He is continuing to progress. It had to be frustrating to be inactive for six months.”

Grayer is studying sports management and is on track to graduate in the spring.

He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father and play professional basketball. He is not sure where they could take him, with perhaps trips to the G-League or overseas.

“My first option is to go to the NBA,” Grayer said. “I will have to weigh my options.”

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