NORMAN — Oklahoma baseball coach Sunny Golloway says he maintains complete trust in Jonathan Gray.
He trusts that reports of his ace pitcher's positive drug test — administered by Major League Baseball in advance of Thursday's draft — is but a blip in his career as a Sooner.
Trusts that all he's seen and known through two seasons stands as the truer indicator of the player and person.
And trusts that the news won't be a distraction for Gray or the Sooners this weekend when they face LSU in Baton Rouge, La., with a spot in the College World Series at stake.
Golloway confirmed Tuesday that Gray will start Game 1 of the Super Regional on Friday.
“There's nothing more to learn about Jonathan Gray and his mental toughness and his character,” Golloway said. “I said this three weeks ago, he's who I want my son Callen to grow up to be like — not pitch like, be like. He's who you want your daughter to marry, because of his character, of how hard he works and the person that he is.
“He's Oklahoma grown. And he's proven his mental toughness. He's proven his character. And he's proven his self worth. I don't think he needs to prove it any further. All the guy's done is go out on the mound for two straight years and made me not even think about pulling him before the sixth or seventh inning. And he's been an outstanding student-athlete, off the field, on the field.
“He's got a C on his chest for a reason. He's one of our captains.”
That captain's role didn't involve addressing the drug test issue Tuesday, when Gray was made available to the media, but only briefly, and without taking any questions. Instead, he nervously recited what sounded like a rehearsed statement.
“We all know we're going down to Louisiana and it's going to be a great team and a tough atmosphere to play,” Gray said to the dozen or so reporters gathered. “But we just have to focus on getting back to Omaha. My job is to help us out as much as possible and make sure we get there.”
With that, Gray turned and walked away, with no mention of the MLB drug test, which as reported by ESPN.com on Monday, returned a positive test for Adderall, a banned substance most commonly used to treat ADHD, but comprised of two amphetamine salts. ESPN reported that Gray did not have a prescription for Adderall.
The MLB test is administered to the top 200 prospects in the run-up to its draft. Gray not only fits in that group, but has been frequently linked to the No. 1 overall pick. ESPN.com's Keith Law, who broke the news of Gray's test, wrote that an MLB source suggested the Sooner ace's draft stock wouldn't likely be affected.
Gray's NCAA eligibility also appears intact, according to Golloway and the university.
As for Gray's explanation for the positive test …
“I didn't ask Jon for an explanation,” Golloway said. “As the head coach at the University of Oklahoma, it's real simple, cut and dry. The NCAA has their drug testing and has their rules. The university, our institution, has their drug testing, has its rules in place. And as coaches we have to follow those, and we do, right to the last letter.
“At this point in time, Jon Gray is an eligible student-athlete, like all the rest of them. He's held accountable, like the rest of the team is held accountable, like all the student-athletes are. That's pretty much end of the story.”
The coming days, involving Thursday's draft and Friday's performance, will likely dictate where the story goes from here.
Gray is a prominent figure both nights. He could go to the Houston Astros with the No. 1 overall pick Thursday and projects as no lower than the No. 5 selection. The following night, he carries much of the Sooners' hopes for advancing through the weekend and beyond.
“Jon's a great teammate,” said OU catcher Anthony Hermelyn. “We've trusted him all year long and he's picked us up as a team all year. We trust him 100 percent. He's been a great teammate and a great guy.”
Gray has been one of the nation's most dominant pitchers, currently standing 10-2 with a 1.59 earned run average. His 138 strikeouts rank No. 2 among Division I starters. He went the distance, striking out 11, in OU's 7-3 win over Coastal Carolina in the first game of last week's regional at Virginia Tech.
On an even bigger stage this week, Golloway said the message is simple.
“Just tell him to do his thing,” Golloway said. “Tell him that his family, his teammates and his coaches have his back. If we needed one more thing to inspire us, maybe this is it. So we'll go forward and we'll take whatever comes out of the stands and we'll bunker down and go play baseball.
“It's us against the world right now. We understand that. And we like that.”