Since fully embracing the concept of one-and-done players, Duke has proven to be as effective as Kentucky at bringing in top-tier freshman talent. The Blue Devils have always been consistently good to great under Mike Krzyzewski, but in recent years, they’ve been winning with freshmen playing crucial roles.
One of their latest freshman stars is shooting guard Gary Trent Jr., who established himself as a top shooter in high school and has shot over 50 percent from behind the arc in his first two games with the Blue Devils.
On Tuesday, the difficulty level for Trent spikes drastically, as top-ranked Duke faces its first real test in a matchup with No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago.
Here are five things you need to know about Gary Trent Jr.
1. He’s the Son of a Former NBA Player
Gary Trent, Jr. is the oldest of four children of Gary Trent Sr., who spent his time playing power forward in a nine-year NBA career with four NBA teams, including Milwaukee and Minnesota, the last of which he chose for his family’s eventual home. But while his son tends to get his points from behind the 3-point arc, Gary Trent, Sr. was an inside scorer, earning the nickname “The Shaq of the MAC” during his college career at Ohio University.
The son might be the more prolific shooter when it comes to scoring from distance, but in terms of shooting percentage, Gary Trent Jr. can’t match his father — and neither can anybody else. While in high school, Gary Sr. shot 81.4 percent from the field, which remains the national record for a high school basketball player.
2. He Didn’t Shoot a Basketball Until He’d Been Practicing For a Year
Given Gary Sr.’s specialty and Gary Jr.’s performance from downtown, you might expect his basketball education to have begun with getting in the gym or on the playground and shooting every night until it was finally time to come home.
But when he first started practicing with his father at the age of 5, Gary Jr. didn’t start taking jump shots until he was 6. There was one simple reason: Gary Sr. wouldn’t let him shoot.
In fact, the elder Trent didn’t even take him to a place with basketball hoops during the first year. He took his son to the local track and had him dribble the ball around the track for a year.
“I’m like, ‘Why am I dribbling a basketball?’ I’m like, ‘Why can’t we go shoot or something?’,” Gary Trent Jr. said. “He’s like, ‘Well you can’t get your shot over if you can’t even dribble so …’
“I was, like, ‘That’s true.'”
The result is that unlike a lot of catch-and-shoot players, the younger Trent is just as adept at creating his own shot as he is at taking a pass and putting up a great shot when he gets a look at the basket. Duke isn’t likely to ask him to do much in the way of assists, but he has that ability if the Blue Devils find themselves in a tight spot.
3. He Chose Duke Because of Coach K’s Olympic History
One of the reasons that the great coaches are consistently able to pull in top-tier talent is because they have a history of producing great players and winning championships. In the case of Trent, he chose to come to Durham because of a story Mike Krzyzewski told him involving him coaching Kobe Bryant while on the Olympic team.
“Not a lot of coaches, on any level, can say they told Kobe Bryant that he needed to pass the ball more and have Kobe listen to him,” Trent said. “If you can make Kobe Bryant change his whole game based on what you said, that’s big. That’s the coach I wanted to play for.”
His first real test as a collegiate athlete will come against one of the other coaches that he strongly considered playing for: Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
4. He Split His High School Experience Between Minnesota and California
For his first three years of high school, Trent dominated his competition, eventually leading Apple Valley High School in Minnesota to a state championship during his junior year. But for his senior year, he found himself without much of a challenge on the court, either in practice with his own team or from the opponents on Apple Valley’s schedule.
So for his final season, Trent headed to California, joining up with Prolific Prep in northern California, a basketball prep squad that is unaffiliated with any high school, allowing its players to attend school elsewhere in California while playing strictly with the team for practices and games.
Initially, Trent had planned to go to Findlay Prep in Nevada, but switched to Prolific Prep when Findlay went through a coaching change, losing its coach when Andy Johnson departed Nevada to take an assistant coaching job at Southern Utah in the Big Sky Conference.
5. He’s Projected as a Late First-Round Pick in 2018
Trent might be part of a hyped class for Duke, but that doesn’t mean that he’s guaranteed to be gone following his freshman season. For one thing, having lived in a well-off family thanks to his father’s NBA career means that he doesn’t have to chase the money following just one year in college if it’s not the right spot for him.
Plus, he’s currently listed as a late first to early second round choice in the NBA draft, which puts him right on the borderline of players who choose to leave after just one year as opposed to players who opt to return for their sophomore seasons.
If he were to go pro after just one season in Durham and was taken in the first round, he would become the 18th Duke player in the past decade to be selected in the NBA Draft’s first round. Duke had three players selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft and has had at least one player selected in the NBA’s first round in every draft since 2008.