IMG Academy point guard D'Mitrik Trice loved everything about Vanderbilt University and head coach Bryce Drew, but with all due respect to the Commodores, the 5-11, 180-pound prospect had no intention of going on his official visit to Nashville today.
Having strong feelings toward Wisconsin since the Badgers offered earlier this month, Trice knew as soon as he got to campus Thursday night that Madison was the right place for him.
"Just being around the guys personally was a big thing for me," Trice told BadgerNation. "Seeing the campus, as well, and how the fans just react towards you, the players and the coaches is just amazing. That's when I really know this was the place for me.”
"I really connected with all of (the players),” he continued. “They are all really cool guys. Nigel (Hayes) really took us around and put us under his wing, so we were with him mostly, but Vitto (Brown), Jordan (Hill) and Ethan (Happ) were all there. Bronson (Koenig) was around us. Even the walk-ons were around talking to us. It was a really cool experience, and they're all really nice guys."
Trice told the coaches at breakfast Saturday morning, lifting a huge burden of relief from the staff. Wisconsin tried desperately to find a point guard before November’s early signing period, but a thin talent pool in the Midwest and the uncertainty of Bo Ryan’s coaching future made securing an out-of-state point guard nearly impossible.
It’s part of the reason why Trice said head coach Greg Gard and his staff jumped out of their seat when he told them the news to hug and congratulate him.
“The point guard position is very important to what they are trying to do and what they have going for their system,” Trice said. “Not only does he have to be a leader, but has to be one of the guys who can bring everybody together, handle the ball, handle pressure and tell guys where they need to be. Me coming in next year under Bronson, it'll be a great experience.”
Wisconsin was originally going to bank one of its two available scholarships but became impressed with small forward Aleem Ford, a Georgia native who was Trice’s teammate at IMG Academy this past year. The two have grown into best friends and expressed interest in playing college basketball together.
According to Trice, Wisconsin assistant coach Lamont Paris had seen Ford played once previously but really fell in love with his game when they traveled down to IMG Academy to watch Trice’s workouts. Trice and his dad even went so far as to contact Gard about Ford, only to find out the Badgers had him on their radar.
When Milwaukee transfer, and Stoughton, Wis., native, Austin Arians committed to Wake Forest, the UW staff jumped on Ford. After he talked to his dad, Trice and Trice’s father (the group had become close over the year), Ford announced Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a major thrill (to commit with him),” Trice said of Ford. “We’ve been talking this whole year. We’re so close on and off the court together. We really wanted to try to play together, and now that both of us are going to Wisconsin, we talked that dream into a reality.”
While not much is known of the 6-7, 180-pound Ford, who reportedly had a handful of mid-major offers and one from Rutgers, Trice said the Badgers are getting a tireless worker.
“Aleem is the kind of guy who just works hard,” Trice said. “He’s very determined in what he wants. He became a great shooter, his ball handling has improved tenfold and really brings an energy. He just wants what’s best for the team. He’s a great team player and a great guy to have around. He fits Wisconsin’s culture to a tee.”
Ford and Trice will sign with Wisconsin later this week and report to Madison June 13 with the rest of the team for summer workouts.
Wisconsin’s guard depth looks solid next season with Koenig and Zak Showalter going to be seniors, Hill going to be a junior and Brevin Pritzl entering his redshirt freshman season. Even so, Trice wants to play in 2016
“That’s definitely the goal,” he said. “I want to come in and have an impact as a freshman.”