WSU Hoops: Trevor Dunbar & The Shift Team

PULLMAN- Most incoming freshman basketball players begin to build a fan base when they enter a Pac-12 college basketball program. The opposite can be said for Cougar true freshman point guard Trevor Dunbar, who already has over 15,000 followers on Twitter and 46,000 followers on Instagram. How did THAT happen?

Dunbar said he’s developed his large following with flashy no-look passes and smooth crossovers on YouTube videos combined with the creation of what he calls the Shift Team Movement. Dunbar talked about the origins of said, and his goals in Year One on the Palouse, with Cougfan.com recently.

Dunbar says he created the movement with three other friends in the eighth grade with no intention of taking it seriously. But during the summer leading up to his junior year at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, Dunbar used the phrase, “Shift Team we out here baby,” on the intro of a summer highlight tape. It took off.

“Ever since then, everybody just fell in love with the name Shift Team and what it’s all about,” Dunbar said. “When you shift somebody, it’s basically you’re crossing them - you shift from left to right - and you either go to the basket and make a play or kick out.”

It’s become a hash tag, with people using it on pictures tweets.

“Now it’s to the point where Shift Team is bigger than me, people know about Shift Team and say Shift Team and they don’t even know who Trevor Dunbar is,” he said.

It got big enough that Ballislife.com, a popular basketball website, started making shirts with the Shift Team name printed on them.

“It was a coincidence, I had started planning on making shirts and they (Ballislife.com) took it and made a shirt,” Dunbar said. “They posted on Instagram and it said, ‘This shirt is for guys with serious handles’ and I was like, ‘Wait, I had nothing to do with this.’ … I got hold of Ballislife… ‘Hey I know I don’t have it copyrighted but you know, I know this is my thing.’”

Ballislife stopped selling shirts and took it down off their website. Dunbar said he now has a good relationship with Ballislife.com. They even put up a highlight tape of his senior season on their YouTube channel. It had 639,555 views at last check.

WHAT MADE DUNBAR a YouTube sensation are the aforementioned no-look passes and crossover -- one would think he works on his transition passes constantly. But Dunbar said he rarely works on his passing.

“It’s just kind of instinct,” Dunbar said. “It just comes with playing a lot and being confident, so you’re confident to make those passes.”

Though the highlight tapes helped Dunbar get his name out, he says it didn’t help him much in the recruiting process.

“The YouTube videos and Shift Team did give me a lot of buzz and a lot of hype so college coaches would hear about me, but they would only see the fancy passes and the fancy crossovers,” Dunbar said. “College is more about substance rather than style, so they would see that and think that was the player I was when really that’s just some stuff I do towards the end of the game or something like that on the high school level.”

During his senior year at St. Ignatius, Dunbar averaged 22 points, five assists and three steals on the way to being named West Catholic Athletic League MVP and San Francisco Chronicle City Player of the Year. More importantly he led St. Ignatius to their first Division II Central Coast Championship in ten years.

“They’re all my best friends since freshman year and my senior year was really fun because we were winning some games and I was playing well,” Dunbar said. “A lot of people across the league in the Bay Area knew who I was, so we would go to other schools and they would be messing with me during warm ups or during the game, saying stuff about the Shift Team and all that.”

ON THE RECRUITING trail, Wazzu was the first school to reach out to San Francisco point guard: former coach Ken Bone sent a letter to Dunbar when he was in the eighth grade. But Bone years later went a different route and offered a scholarship to Garfield point Tramaine Isabell. Bone was let go by WSU in March and Ernie Kent released Isabell from his Letter of Intent. Dunbar said it was all of a three-day recruiting process.

“I got offered the day after my graduation and committed right there on the phone,” said Dunbar.

Despite Dunbar’s popularity in the media and in cyberspace, he says he was overlooked at the college level because of his size. The 5-10, 160 pound guard is using that as motivation.

“They (younger basketball players) post pictures of me sometimes and they have captions: ‘You really inspire me because you’re a small guard,’” Dunbar said. “Stuff like that makes my day and that really pushes me because I don’t want to let these kids down and I want to let them know it doesn’t matter about how tall you are -- it’s about how bad you want something and how hard you’re willing to work for it. And that’s great I’m able to have an affect those kids.”

Kent has a history of success with shorter guards -- something Dunbar is well aware of – that includes the likes of Aaron Brooks, Luke Ridnour, and Tajuan Porter.

“Not only is it an advantage (to learn from Kent) because he knows the blueprint of what it takes to as being a point guard,” Dunbar said. “Tajuan Porter and Aaron Brooks were also small guards….so he knows what it takes. And he always tells me what it takes to be a successful point guard at this level and the next level.

“Knowing that he’s coached those top point guards and top basketball players for the USA Team, it really inspires me. It really just makes me think, maybe that could be me if I work hard enough.”

Dunbar played five minutes in the exhibition win against Azusa-Pacific, with one point and one steal, but says his goals this season are team-oriented.

. “It’s DaVonte Lacy’s last year and it’s Jordan Railey’s (and Dexter Kernich-Drew’s) last year -- I really want to do if for those guys,” Dunbar said. “Coming in as a freshman I really want to make a difference and make an impact on the team because there’s a lot of buzz going with a new coach -- Coach Kent -- and the incoming freshmen. I have a little bit of buzz going just from high school so I want really want to back that up, go far with my team and win games.”

“Trev’s doing good,” Lacy said. “Obviously at first he’s a freshman, so he’s going to make freshman mistakes, he’s going to go too fast at times and sometimes he’s not going to see some things, but that’s where us as the captains, and the veteran guys stepping up and help him, and he’s doing well.”

Sophomore point guard Ike Iroegbu had this to say of Dunbar’s progression.

“Trev’s real good at the point,” Iroegbu said. “He’s real shifty, he has a really good cross over and he’s going to be real good down the road.”

The Cougs open the season this Friday at UTEP at 7 p.m. followed by a Monday tip at TCU at 5 p.m., (CORRECTION: no free TV for UTEP; the TCU game was showing up on the programming guides of Fox West, Root Sports NW and other FS channels.)

NOTABLE NOTE:
Dunbar is one of six new players on the 2014-2015 Cougar men’s basketball roster, including freshmen guards Jackie Davis and Ny Redding and junior forward Aaron Cheatum. Junior F Valentine Izundu is sitting out this season due to transfer rules and walk on junior G Marcus Graham is in his first season at Washington State out of Lincoln Land CC in Springfield, Ill.


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