WHEELERSBURG, Ohio -- Words. Thousands of words. Strung together in short, compelling phrases.
Words to play by, words to live by and, especially, words to motivate.
'Defeat is worse than death, because you've got to live with defeat.'
'Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.'
'All men are created equal, except for the great ones.'
The collection goes on and on.
'I've got tons of this stuff,' beams 19-year old Scott Gray.
Twenty bulging scrapbooks. Rolls and rolls of scotch tape have been used over the years to stick in more and more 'great sayings' that Gray seems to find just about everyday in newspapers, magazines -- in just about any printed material.
Books. More than 100 books. Potent, motivational things like 'Great Sayings of the '60s.'
'That's a real good one,' says Gray. 'I sent in for that one.'
Since his grade school days, Gray has been turning his home in this tiny southern Ohio hamlet near Portsmouth into a big world of words.
'To motivate me, to get me going, to pick me up when I'm down in the dumps, to help me live, to help me play,' he answers.
'Play' to Gray means basketball and there can be no argument against his motivational method there.
'Before every high school game,' he recalls, 'I read from my collection for at least an hour.'
Gray became so motivated that he just couldn't be stopped in high school basketball. Last year as a senior, the 6-3, 175-pounder averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds a game. And some thought he was even better on defense.
They called him the 'Pete Rose of Basketball' in southern Ohio because he was the hardest working and most motivated player seen in the area.
When he went to the highly-respected 'Five Star' basketball camp in Pittsburgh with 300 other blossoming stars, he was voted 'Mr. Hustle.' When he went back the next year and competed with another 300, he again was named 'Mr. Hustle.'
Heavily-recruited, Gray chose the University of Dayton and enrolled as a freshman last autumn.
Dayton officials referred to him as a potential 'major factor' in the team's success the next four years, but some unfortunate events immediately befell him.
He injured his foot just a week before the season started and then came down with mononucleosis. He was unable to play. Although Gray completed his first semester with a B average, his basketball debut had been ruined.
And, he was disappointed to learn that his Dayton basketball future would be as a 'point guard.'
'I don't feel I'm best used as a point guard, playing outside,' he said. 'I think I'm best at second guard, getting in closer to the basket, closer to the action, where I can scrap and rebound. That's where I'm best.'
So, Gray decided not to enroll the second semester at Dayton and is now choosing from several other schools that want a good athlete with a B average on their campus.
And, Gray is counting on his 'motivational material' to help him more than ever as he enters what could be a rough transition period in his life.
He's been going through his collection daily as he recovers from mono and prepares for a second start.
Naturally, he's found many sayings to fit his situation.
'Here's one from John Wooden,' he says. ''I will get ready and then perhaps my chance will come.'
'And another one from Wooden, ''Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.''
Townspeople, of course, wish Gray luck. But to Gray, luck really means work.
'Vince Lombardi has a couple of good ones on luck,' he notes. ''Luck is when preparation meets opportunity' and 'The harder we work, the luckier we get.''
One of Lombardi's classics also is one of Gray's favorites. 'Defeat is worse than death because you have to live with defeat.'
'That,' says Gray, 'gets me fired up.'
Gray isn't sure who Jeremiah Morris is, but he sure likes a quote attributed to him, 'That which doesn't kill me only makes me stronger.'
'He means,' says Gray, 'you can work or practice to exhaustion, and in the long run, it will help you.'