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NEW PORT RICHEY — Nothing has ever come easy to Gulf’s Chris Gregory.
Just four months ago, the sophomore shooting guard’s mother, Sandra Gregory, died of complications from a stroke, brought on by constant drug and alcohol use. Gregory has no relationship with his father, James Howard, who is in prison because of drug-related activity. So he was an instant orphan.
“It definitely hurt,” Gregory said. “Not too many people can take that and move on. I just have to hold my head up higher and that’s the only way I’m going to succeed. I’ve been taught to fight through this by my coaches and everyone around me.”
Gregory’s misfortunes turned around when he was adopted by Paul and Melanie Schulman. Paul, who coached Gulf’s boys basketball team in 2008-09 and has two daughters Jordan (2005-08) and Lexy (present) on the girls squad, has become Gregory’s life coach.
“It’s a great family,” Gregory said. “They love sports and I love sports. They …have taken me in and helped me out in any way I’ve needed. (Paul) Schulman has really helped me with my game, but he also has helped motivate me to do better in school as well.”
Paul, a local army recruiter, brought his family together soon after hearing of Gregory’s loss. After a family conversation over dinner, the Schulmans decided to bring Gregory, a close family friend, into the household.
“Lexy has known Chris for a couple years as a close friend and we always had him around a lot,” Paul Schulman said. “We got to know him a little bit and then more and more. He’s been a blessing really and he’s helped us out just as much as we’ve helped him.
For him to be so appreciative of everything that has come to him has really helped out our family a lot. The kids have seen and know what he’s been through and it’s really helped them realize to be more appreciative of everything in life.”
“I just don’t think people realize how much he’s done for our family.”
With last year’s leading scorer David Ramirez (27.7 ppg) now graduated, Gregory has stepped into Ramirez’s role quite nicely this season, averaging an impressive 19.4 points per game. As a freshman, academics kept Gregory sidelined half the season and he averaged a mere 2.8 points per game with a season high of 13.
Over his past five contests, Gregory is averaging 25.8 points and scored a season-high 36 in last week’s 67-60 win over Pasco. Gregory has also improved in the classroom, boosting his GPA to 3.2.
Gulf coach Buck DeWitt said he knew the shy 16-year-old would become a solid player in due time.
“Last year, he wasn’t sure where he would fit in on the basketball team,” DeWitt said. “This year, he has worked on his jump shot and driving to the basket. He’s a very unselfish player and has really come into his own this season.
“When you coach at this level, you don’t do it for the money. You do it to see kids like Chris (Gregory) develop and we are all really proud of him.”
For some coaches, overseeing their pupil’s maturation process is the reward.
“Really even though his mom and dad were around, he hasn’t had a mom and dad,” DeWitt said. “…My wife was talking to the players about parents working in the concession stands and Chris (Gregory) stood up and said proudly, ‘My mom (Melanie) can do it!’
“And I think that showed how nice of a kid he is. He just knows that nothing ever comes easily.”
Photo: From left, Lexy Schulman, Jordan Schulman with newborn Maison, Paul Schulman, Melanie Schulman and Chris Gregory.