Allonzo Trier, former NYT coverboy, now a top 50 recruit

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s a story that you hear far too often in basketball circles.

A basketball player becomes a star before leaving middle school, getting scholarship offers to the biggest programs in the country while he’s trying to decide who he wants to ask to the eighth grade dance. That player gets flown around the country to play in exposure events, becoming a hired gun for AAU programs looking to secure a deal from a shoe company only to fizzle out before ever his career really ever got started.

The most famous example these days is Demetrius Walker, the biggest name in George Dohrmann’s book Play Their Hearts Out. ‘D’ was a star in his pre-teen years, having sprouted to 6-foot-3 and physically maturing before the rest of his peers. That size and athleticism allowed him to dominate, getting “ranked” No. 1 in his class as a center. He was capitalized on by his AAU coach and dubbed ‘The Next LeBron’ by Sports Illustrated. But Walker never got any bigger, and by the time the rest of his peers had caught up to him physically, Walker found himself behind when it came to developing perimeter skills.

Walker eventually finished outside the top 100 in his graduating class, enrolling at Arizona State for a season before spending two years as a reserve at New Mexico and, finally, transferring to Division I newcomer Grand Canyon University for his final collegiate season.

And he’s far from the only cautionary tale out there.

Renardo Sidney had the size and talent to be an NBA all-star at 15 years old, but he never learned how to work out, spent the first year-and-a-half of his college career suspended for illicit benefits he accepted as a high schooler, and is now an out-of-shape has-been looking for one final shot at a career. Taylor King committed to UCLA as an eighth-grader, ended up at Duke, and flamed out of two schools before finishing his career at an NAIA program. He was last seen playing in Taiwan. The list goes on: Derrick Caracter, Lenny Cooke, Schea Cotton. Cooke and Cotton both have documentaries being made about their life and their downfall.

Think about that.

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When Allonzo Trier was 13 years old, he was on the front page of the New York Times magazine, the subject of a feature on the capitalization of grassroots basketball in America. (The article can be found here.)

source:
New York Times

At the time of the story, which was written in early 2009, Trier was fully immersed in that world.

The summer before his sixth grade season, according to the author, Michael Sokolove, in the span of three months, Trier flew from his hometown of Seattle to the east coast four times while also making trips to LA and San Diego. He participated in the Adidas Junior Phenom Camps, which were run by Demetrius Walker’s former AAU coach Joe Keller. He had his own line of clothing with his personal motto, “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform”, and signature on them. He had received a questionnaire from John Calipari, who was then a coach at Memphis, and his mother was consistently receiving text messages from another college coach. When on campus at one school for a camp, he received a private, all-access tour of the team’s locker room and arena.

All of that happened when Trier was a 5-foot-5 point guard. All of that attention was heaped on him when he had just turned 13 years old.

Trier’s now 6-foot-3. He’s still a point guard, having developed some pretty good bulk for a high school junior, and is currently ranked 35th in the Class of 2015 by Rivals. Now living in Oklahoma, the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Marquette and Wichita State have offered him a scholarship.

And, according to Trier, the biggest regret he has with the article has nothing to do with the hoops side of it.

“It definitely released a lot of my life,” Trier told NBCSports.com while taking part in the Nike Global Challenge last week. “It put all my personal things out there of me and my family. There was a lot of good sides to it, but there were a lot of bad sides to it. Not everything that was said was true.”

In fact, Trier embraced the added pressure that came with being the coverboy for a magazine that covers much more than just basketball. He enjoyed the fact that it put a target on his back, that every time he took the court the team he was going up against had a chance to make their name and build their reputation by outplaying him. “I’m a competitive dude,” he said. “I like to win. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. If a guy is going to come competitive at me, I’m going to come competitive right back.”

Trier is different that some of the other phenoms, however. He’s not blessed with freakish athleticism, and he didn’t survive as a youth simply because he was bigger or faster or stronger than everyone else. Remember, Trier was a 5-foot-5 point guard when that story was written. “You have some kids that grow early, but I was small for a while, and I just started growing pretty recently,” he said. The reason that Trier was so good, and part of the reason that the New York Times story was written, was that his work ethic even as a 13 year old was tireless. He’d play for more than four hours a day after school, going through individual workouts and team practices.

The reason that some of the guys listed above flamed out was their belief that the NBA was a foregone conclusion; they didn’t need to work hard to get to the next level, they had already “made it”. They bought into their hype, Trier earned his.

But Trier admitted that, at times, the attention and the pressure to perform would wear on him. At times, it still does.

“You definitely have something to live up to. It’s as much pressure as you want to put on yourself,” he said. “You don’t ever want to disappoint. To be advertised to be this good, that means that every single game you play, there’s someone that hasn’t seen you play. If you don’t live up to it, then there’s a guy that’s seen you play on your bad day. He doesn’t think you’re that good.”

Imagine having to deal with that as a 13 year old.

Imagine thinking that every game you play will define your career despite being in the sixth grade.

What’s worse is that there will be people who think that the fact that Trier is “only” ranked 35th in the class means he’s a failure. The idea that a 6-foot-3 point guard who can’t jump all that high, who isn’t super-quick and who has made himself good enough to represent the US in Nike’s Global Challenge through hard work is a “failure” is crazy, I know. But the fact that he’s gone from No. 1 to No. 35 in four years will lead some folks to believe as much.

I’ll never support the idea of ranking and publicizing middle school athletes, but to Trier’s credit, he has a refreshing take on the subject.

“You have some of the most important people in the world that haven’t been able to [make the cover of the New York Times],” he said.

“It is what it is, but I don’t regret it.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.