TAMPA — Strawberry Crest High senior guard Aliyah Gregory plans to score 597 points this season. If she can accomplish her goal, Gregory will become only the 11th female player in Hillsborough County history to reach 2,000 career points.
Reaching 2,000 points, however, is not the motivating factor for Gregory. The 5-foot-11 guard who will play at the University of Central Florida in Orlando next year is dedicating her senior season to her deceased aunt, Nicole Bush, a victim of domestic violence.
Gregory, arguably the top player in the area, is seeking pledges for every point she scores this season, with all proceeds benefiting domestic violence causes in the Tampa Bay area through her “Assist and Score” campaign. Gregory will accept pledges through an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, and with her family, will sell purple wristbands, the official color of domestic violence awareness, at home games. To add, the entire girls basketball team at Strawberry Crest will wear purple shoes and socks this season.
“She was very important to me,” Gregory said. “She helped me raise money whenever I needed money for sports equipment. In honor of her, I figured I can help raise money for anybody else dealing with that so they don't have to go through the same thing I went through.”
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office arrested Sean Bush, Nicole Bush's estranged husband, at his home in Jacksonville in August 2011 on a charge of first-degree murder with a firearm in the May 31, 2011, death of Nicole Bush, in addition to a charge of burglary of a dwelling with a person assaulted and while armed with a firearm.
Nicole Bush was 35.
The most recent course of events regarding the open case was a felony pretrial on Friday in St. Johns County. Another felony pretrial is set for March 6, 2014.
“We would go up to Jacksonville a few times a year to visit,” said Kimberly Gregory, Aliyah's mother and sister of Nicole Bush. “She'd come down and we'd always spend every holiday together. They were very close.”
Kimberly Gregory became guardian of her sister's two sons, now ages 12 and 9.
When her daughter told her about the campaign, Kimberly Gregory was overcome with joy and pride.
“I was blown away,” she said. “She said, 'I want to dedicate my senior season to auntie Nikki' and I'm just thinking maybe that's motivation for her. But when she explained her plan and what she wanted to do to seek pledges to help stop domestic violence, I was just blown away. I am very blessed to have Aliyah as a daughter.”
And when Aliyah approached her coach and teammates, the concept was immediately accepted.
“Our team is like a family,” Aliyah Gregory said. “We do everything together and we support each other whenever it's needed, so they were ready to support me.”
In leading the Chargers to a 20-8 record a year ago, Gregory averaged 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game and was selected to the Tribune's All-Hillsborough County Girls Basketball First Team.
Entering her senior year, she had scholarship offers from Pittsburgh, Central Florida, James Madison, South Florida, Jacksonville, Georgia Tech and South Alabama.
Gregory scored 597 points last season and has averaged 467.7 points per season since her freshman year.
Gregory did not set a specific amount to raise through her campaign, but a dollar for every point — 597 — will help.
“It's definitely attainable and it will happen,” she said.