Gary Trent Jr. Takes Mental Toughness to Nike Hoop Summit
Only one player from the inaugural 1995 Nike Hoop Summit was taken in that year’s NBA Draft, and his name is Kevin Garnett. Of course, Garnett went directly from high school to prosper in the NBA, and most people knew him as “KG” or “The Kid,” but Gary Trent Jr. did not. He knew him as “uncle Kevin.”
“Uncle Kevin” played alongside “uncle Sam,” who most of us know as Sam Cassell, and the person Gary calls dad.
Gary Trent had a standout career at Ohio University, which retired his No. 20 jersey in 2012. Once referred to as “The Shaq of the MAC” (Mid-American Conference), Trent was drafted 11th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1995 NBA Draft, just six picks after Garnett. He bounced from Portland to Toronto and to Dallas before wrapping up his nine-year NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2001-04.
His son, Gary Trent Jr., remembers attending Timberwolves games as a youngster, specifically recalling the 2004 NBA Western Conference Finals when Kobe Bryant and the real Shaq, Shaquille O’Neal, upended his dad and the Wolves in six games. That atmosphere and those memories are particularly fond for the younger Trent, who hails from Burnsville, Minnesota.
He has since grown into a 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame and is rolling down a path that should create lasting basketball memories of his own.
On Feb. 28, Trent was named to the 2017 USA Junior National Select Team that will compete in the 2017 Nike Hoop Summit on April 7 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
This roster spot is one more accomplishment on a growing resume for Trent, who is one of three members of the team with more than one gold medal with USA Basketball.
“Just being on this team is a blessing in itself, being nominated for it. Now that I’ve made this team, it means everything in the world,” said Trent, who also was named a McDonald’s All-American and is set to play in the Jordan Brand Classic, too.
“Those other events, it’s the USA’s best against other U.S. guys. But now, we get to play other top guys from the world and get to represent our country through the game of basketball and showcase the amount of talent that we have here, and that’s great. I look forward to playing again with a lot of these great players.”
Trent earned his first gold medal as a member of the 2015 USA U16 National Team that won the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. He started in all five games and paced the U16 team in the scoring column with 16.8 points per game as he took home tournament MVP honors. He shot a healthy 50.8 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from long range and even matched a USA U16 single-game record with seven made 3-pointers in a game against the Dominican Republic.
In starting each contest for the 2016 USA U17 World Championship Team, which boasted a 7-0 record en route to gold in Zaragoza, Spain, Trent averaged 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Only Nike Hoop Summit teammate Collin Sexton filled the scoring column more than Trent, and it was Trent who led the way in the gold medal game against Turkey with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
“Being able to be coached by Miles Simon and his work with the guards and coach [Don] Showalter always just pushing me to be the best competitor and player I can be; always getting on me if I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do with my job on the court. So really, they’ve just helped me take responsibility and also get better from it. They’ve always been an example to work hard and show up and do the right things. I needed that.”
A second gold medal capped an eventful summer for Trent after a very successful campaign on the Nike EYBL Circuit with his summer team, Howard Pulley (Minn.). Howard Pulley won Division B on the EYBL Circuit with a 14-2 record and was steered by Trent’s stout line of 22.2 ppg., 6.2 rpg. and 2.2 apg, as he was named to the All-EYBL first team.
Then came a move to California.
For four years, Trent starred at Apple Valley High School, a school just to the south of Minneapolis. He played varsity ball as an eighth grader, won a Minnesota Class 4A state title his sophomore season with former Nike Hoop Summit athlete and current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones, and then averaged 26.4 ppg. his junior year, taking Apple Valley to the 4A state semifinals. He was even named the 2016 Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year as a junior.
But, the decision to take his game to California, to Prolific Prep, was a challenging one for Trent. It came down to a talk with his father – a chat that centered around the level of competition, the challenge of getting better and looking out for his best interest at the next level.
“At Prolific Prep, we have guys going to major, Division 1 programs and they are pushing me, and we push each other to get better every day. As they say, ‘Steel sharpens steel.’ That’s how we continue to get better.
“I feel like I became a better basketball player and a better student and a better all-around person coming out here,” said Trent, speaking from Windsor, California, noting that he has done well learning with time management and taking sole responsibility for himself away from home.
“We travel all the time, we play in different time zones and we play all these big teams. Every team we play has one or two Division 1 players going to major schools and then others to mid-majors, so it’s prepared me all-around with on-court talent and off-court travel and how much you need to take care of your body and the different things that come with being on the move and playing. It’s taught me to be focused and always on your P’s and Q’s no matter what.”
Always on his P’s and Q’s – that should please former USA Men’s National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is set to be Trent’s coach at Duke University next fall.
In a blog post on his signing day, Trent acknowledged that the little things are what drew him to Duke. That stories of Coach K’s interactions with different players and how he has helped them made it clear where he wanted to attend.
“They play some of the best basketball in college basketball. Their academics speak for itself; their university speaks for itself. It truly, truly has a family feel when you’re there. I just felt that it was the right spot and where I wanted to be.”
After his trial on the west coast, the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) awaits, presenting an entirely new, night-in and night-out challenge for Trent, who noted he, “loves everything about the ACC.” He, of course, most looks forward to Duke’s rivalry games with North Carolina, but he’s also eager to join forces with longtime friend, USA Basketball and Nike Hoop Summit teammate Wendell Carter Jr.
Regardless of his own scoring prowess and those that return to the Blue Devils lineup for the 2016-17 season, Trent is still trying to “up the ante on everything I do.” As he has learned from his time with USA Basketball and at Prolific Prep, much of the game happens between the ears. It’s something that connects Jr. to his bruiser of a father, and probably “uncle Kevin” and “uncle Sam,” too.
“The thing that we have in common is our mindset. We come into the game, and we aren’t taking anything from anybody – no prisoners. I think that’s important, and that’s where we are the same, having that mentality to go hard every possession.”