Behind the Scenes With Gary Trent, Jr.

One of the most explosive scorers of the summer recruiting circuit was Minnesota standout Gary Trent Jr.  Duke jumped in with an offer to Trent earlier this season and the Blue Devils have continued to establish a solid foundation with him.  We spoke with Trent’s camp about Duke’s recruiting pitch, it’s impact, and just how the prospect will narrow his list and ultimately decide.

How would you characterize Gary’s development over this summer?

Gary Trent, Sr, father of  Gary Trent, Jr.:  He’s had a solid summer from a performance standpoint and from a recognition standpoint. There’s still a lot of work to be done with two years of high school left and so, there are a lot of elements that can still be added to his game and they will be added to his game. 

Like what?

I watch film and I watch his game live.  Then we, me and him, go back and watch the film together. We see things he could have done differently or we see situations that could have ended up in his game by seeing this is the move in this part of the game that you will need when you catch the ball in this spot in this kind of offense. A lot of it is situational training and game moment training like certain things that will happen in the pick-and-roll from the top, from the middle or from the sides. They will guard you certain ways and they will force you down and you just gotta work on shots out of that and angles to attack.

From your perspective, how has Gary improved from this time a year ago?

He had a little growth spurt, his body got bigger and stronger so he’s able to go a little longer. He’s able to get more rebounds as a guard. His decision making has improved and with his body improving—his strength has improved and his shot has gotten deeper. I think the mental toughness has always been there but it’s just that it can be shown even more. There’s some things we’re going to add so his game can become as detailed as possible before he goes to college.

As his parent, do you have an opinion yet on the types of systems that are potentially good fits for Gary in college?

I think the college game that fits him is a system that likes to get up and down and that will give him the freedom to make plays. Not always just necessarily scoring but also making plays and scoring.

How much film are you guys watching of college programs to figure out what’s a potential good fit for him?

We don’t really watch film of programs because we are working on what we need to work on.  We watch live games, we look at what sets teams are running.  We look at colleges and we place him in their offense at the 1 or the 2, and we see what type of shots are designed for their guards, things of that nature and we look at what is the best fit for him, things of that nature.

Based on that research, are any programs showing themselves as a potentially good fit?

Realistically you are allowed five visits and there’s been about 8 or 9 programs that we’ve been watching closely and we will be in the process of elimination once the time comes.  There’s about 9 schools out there that are really basketball factories and there’s a few school on the rise that we’ve been taking an interest in as well. I don’t want to say which programs those are right now because I don’t want any of these schools to be insulted and I don’t want to really reveal what we’re doing. 

What are your thoughts on the media conjecture regarding Gary and the various players he may be wanting to play with in college?

Well I mean it’s great because all the talent you have come across in the EYBL, with USA Basketball, Global Games, these are going to be the McDonald All American first teamers and second teamers. These kids are going to be potentially college freshman of the year and potential draft picks so I’m glad and he’s very blessed to play with this level of talent with kids who are skilled, who are smart, who have a lot of potential. It only raises their level of play by playing against them for the whole summer. There’s no high school league that has the level of talent like these leagues have in the summer.

Does Gary need to play at the highest of the high levels in college as you think about where he could to go to college?

I’m preparing him to play at the highest level of basketball period. From day one all we did was NBA designed stuff. We’d sit here and watch stuff on NBA TV and depending on what time of the day it was, we’d watch Isaiah Thomas throwback games or Kobe throwback games or whatever it was and then we would go out there and work on that move. Watch the game at noon and then we’d be in the gym that same day at 3, trying out what we saw. So my son’s game is totally patterned after a pro style game. I played more years of pro basketball than I did college and high school combined so that was the game I understood the most.

Based on that experience with the pro game—what kind of feedback are you seeking from the college coaches and what kind of questions are you asking as you evaluate his fit to that particular program?

Well really I’m just listening to the coaches. I’m listening to what they think, how they feel about his game, what his potential of his game is. These coaches can say whatever they want on the phone, but I watch their games on the TV, I watch them during the Tournament, you talk to the other kids, top-10 kids that they are recruiting and see if they are telling you the same thing that they are telling other parents and kids because honestly, every coach can only say so much and do so much because everybody can offer five years of academics and four years of playing college, so I find what’s next.

Are there any coaches that are saying some really different things to you and Gary when compared to what other programs are saying in their recruitment of him?

Some of its similar and some of its different because let me give you an example. If you ask a coach what they like about his game, it’s going to be hard to give you a different answer, so, we have to look to find a different answer but even when we find a different answer, they may say 60 % or 70% of what another coach said, but that’s no knock on what they said, they are just describing his game as they see it. The question is presented so we can see how closely as a coach you are paying attention to his game, how much they’d be able to develop him, and to see where you see him fitting in your offense because I know every deficiency that my son has in his game, what he needs, what he needs to improve on. So I’ll ask them when you saw him before and then now, how has he improved since then.

Has any coach said anything unique enough that it caught your attention for any reason?

Everybody has their own angle and their own way of creating conversation and I’m sure when they are talking to Top-20 players in the country, there’s only so much you can say in the conversation to the point that it’s almost a rehearsed sale pitch by position. Like what you say to a center, you probably wouldn’t say to guard and the conversations you have if you are trying to sell a parent probably isn’t the same thing as to talking with a player. You do this year after year.

With Gary’s decision—do you view it more based on a business type decision, or will it be more built around a relationship that’s built? 

Both because this game is all about business because you wouldn’t be offering my son a scholarship because of his personality. This whole game is about business and it’s about getting the best kids on your campus who can take their game to a national championship. That’s the core goal of every coach, so it starts with business. Now, the relationship that you develop along the way during your recruitment with a university is what will also be important. I’ve had coaches recruiting my son that have never spoken to me or to his mother, so I watch how they do things like that. Would you ever let your child schedule to spend the night at somebody’s house that you didn’t know ? I watch some of these coaches call and talk to my son and they don’t do anything to get to know his family at all which is really funny to me.

So with that approach would you say it’s a 50/50 mix of the 8 or 9 programs you guys are looking at who have taken that communication approach?

A lot of these schools do their recruiting tactics how they do them, it’s not my job to call them or correct them on how to do their recruiting, I’m going to let them do what they do and honestly if that method has been successful for them, some people like doing that and some people don’t.

It it important for Gary to spend all four years in college to develop being going pro?

We are going to take it one step at a time, one season at a time. You know a year ago we only had a couple of coaches calling and doing some interviews. Someone told my son that he saw his team on ESPN last year and that was the first time he had ever been ranked. That was a benchmark number and that was in September 2014. I said by the end of your high school season and by end of this summer, let’s see what they say about you in September 2015. The only way we can control that and the only way you can feel good about yourself is by putting in the gym hours, work on your game as much as possible, do what you are supposed to do and everything else will take care of itself. Then we’ll say the same thing by September 2016 and we’ll see what the media and coaches and the public has to say about your work ethic, your game and we will just take it one day and one season at a time. 

Is there a timeframe that you think is appropriate for him as it relates to making a college decision at this point?

I think by next summer you will have to have narrowed your decision down to five schools and then it’ll be time to start doing some official visits potentially because you have your two years ahead of you. Right now the focus is just to go out, play, have fun, put in the gym hours and then by September 2016, we’ll see what the coaches have to say and who has come into the picture. 

Last year there were certain schools that we didn’t get a letter from and now we are getting regular phone calls from them. So I think it’s just a testament to him logging the gym hours, his desire and his work ethic. Now that my son has played with USA Basketball and he’s won a gold medal, when he comes back from an event like that it just makes him want to log more gym hours because he’s hungry for more success. He’s hungry to be better, he doesn’t come home from that tournament and puts his feet up. I have to regulate the gym hours that he logs to make sure that he works efficiently while working hard because you can really kill yourself with a  lot of wasted hours and time. You have to turn your energy to what you can do when you can do it, it just depends what stage of the summer it is, what tournament you have next will determine what time you hit the gym and how many hours you log when you are there. 

There’s really no straight blueprint that we have except that we’re going to be at the gym, we make it almost daily sometimes depending on what we are watching on film and we keep grinding. A lot of teams have been doubling him as of late, so we’ll work on situations like that or pick and roll, we’ll look at this is what you need to do. We have to keep learning new tactics because he’s to the point now, I can take my son to the gym, I design the workouts and I don’t have to push him anymore to either want to work or to want to get better, he wants to do that all on his own and he knows what is at stake. As an elementary kid, as a middle school kid I had to push him then because he didn’t understand the greatness I was pushing him to. Now that he’s starting to see it since 9th grade, I don’t have to push him anymore. All I have to do is figure out how to get him to the gym or if I tell him that we’re going to leave at this time for the gym and be ready, he’ll be up early and that’s the difference in his maturity now. 

He kind of started getting this attitude when he was in the 7th grade, when he started having some success he started getting it in his mind and I think his mindset has separated him from all the players around the country because of that approach. Because he was old enough to come to some of my NBA games and be in the locker room and being able to meet guys like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, meeting guys after the game and seeing these guys in the NBA, getting to talk to them after the game, he was able to meet people like Yao Ming and things like that when you are a kid they have an impact on you. It helps you to see that becoming good can be a reality and there’s a lot to be done to go to the pros because it’s the greatest level of basketball. A lot of these kids, how they are driving for that but there’s really only room for like 30 guys each year in that first round and really you are trying to be in that lottery. 

Have you guys looked at any other guards or wings in his class that appear to a potential good fit to play with in college?

You know I think him and a lot of the point guards on the circuit have developed some relationships and some of those bigs he’s built a relationship with as well. I think it will be a great decision to play with any of those bigs or any of those guards that’s been in communication with if they end up playing together because they are all high level kids, all high level IQ and that formula right there-it only leads to success.

How big a factor is it for you guys in evaluating the potential depth chart at the 2 and 3 as you figure out the best fit for Gary?

It’s a very big deal. My son doesn’t want to go to anybody’s college and come off the bench. He’s willing to work and has worked to be a starter all his life because of that work. We watch teams offensive sets, we watch the guys in the program that are going to be there when you arrive, who will not be there when you arrive. As far as other guys being recruited and things of that nature, we watch that to see who your potential teammates might be, but we don’t watch that to figure out who is a starter and who isn’t because we log them gym hours and we know that he can take care of that. At the same time, looking at the talent that he has, if he’s interested in a school that already has somebody at the position, that’s why there are other schools.

From a recruiting perspective, where do you see the overall process being at at this point?

Well really he just caught fire and it took a big jump so it’s still early. Every school, just about every major basketball school has contacted him and sent us letters and most of the top basketball schools have contacted us.  Really the recruiting stuff has just caught on with him the last 60-90 days so really there’s not too much to say about the programs yet.  For me every school that has contacted us like Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Baylor, Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan State, University of Minnesota, all those schools that have just started contacting us, there’s a whole lot more over the past few months.

How much is Gary handling the conversations with college coaches versus how much communication you are having with them?

Well you know part of it is I listen to and communicate with some of the coaches, then others communicate with his mother and they are communicating with him as well. All of us are in this process because he needs to understand how this process works. He needs to figure this stuff out for himself so he can see what position of growth and prosperity they are perceiving for him, so he needs to see that and feel that as well. At the end of the day, he has to live with the decision that he makes on the coach. He has to live with the position of the kids that he’s going to be around. He will make that decision, it’s up to him because I do not want my son to regret my decision, this is his opportunity and as his father, I can help him control the decision and I can help navigate my son into the best situation for him.

Does everyone in the family have a common reaction to most coaches and recruiting pitches?

I don’t react to any of it. I just listen to it all and listen to what they have to say with their philosophies, their reasons behind doing what they do and I just absorb all of that.

Have a lot of programs asked you to consider coming down for a visit?

No, we only just are getting ready to head into his junior year, so that will happen with the unofficial visits. None of that has been discussed yet. We haven’t had any discussions yet about specific programs to visit, we have to look at his high school schedule  and look at the college schedule and see what Saturdays can we potentially do an unofficial visit, catch a game, see a practice. It’s kinda difficult with some teams playing on TV with his high school schedule. Once I see what unofficial visits we can squeeze in between now and his senior year, then we’ll know.

Are there any programs that have either shown a little bit of interest or no interest at all so far that you and Gary are hoping to hear from in the future?

I think that any school that has not contacted him yet, there could be a potential few reasons. They could already have somebody committed from that class or they feel like he might be a reach for their school due to their basketball history or their location, my son and his job is to just go to the gym, log gym hours, work on your craft and they will find you, whoever finds you is supposed to find you. We’re not sending out letters or videos to colleges and recruiting them, he’s going to keep logging gym hours because that’s how you control your destiny. You work on your craft, you work on your skills, you log your gym hours and whatever level of basketball you are supposed to play, you will play. Whatever level of player you are supposed to become, you will become. You just put in as much work as possible and you that way you won’t have any regrets later if you don’t make it to the pros or if you don’t make it to the level of school you wanted to be at, you won’t have any regrets because you gave it your all.  As long as you work on your craft and you are in the gym, you won’t have to worry about anything because you know you did what you are supposed to do.

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