Trevelin Queen walked out of the doctor’s office hastily and nodded at his quizzical head coach. He had decided not to have surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right leg.
Queen, a senior at New Mexico State at the time, didn’t want to miss four to six weeks. He was putting the team first, but what about his own health? His NBA future? Head coach Chris Jans cornered Queen and marched back into the doctor’s office. His star player needed to understand the ramifications of his “unselfish decision.”
“I don’t want to tell people what to do, but if it was my son I would have the surgery now,” Jans told Heavy. “So, I walked back out there and said you gotta come back in here. Basically, we rehashed it out and he made the decision to have the surgery. But I thought it spoke volumes about what he was about. And how much he had grown and matured.”
Jans is now the head coach at Mississippi State – he was hired in March 2022 – after racking up a 122-32 record in five seasons at New Mexico State. He coached Queen for two seasons and watched the young man’s rise to stardom, from Western Kentucky transfer to WAC Tournament MVP. Queen always oozed confidence, according to Jans.
“His confidence, his belief in himself, is the reason he is where he is,” Jans said. “He always believed he could play at this level. He kept telling everyone, ‘I’m going to make it to the league.'”
That was another reason why Jans felt so strongly about Queen going under the knife on January 22, 2020. Prior to walking back into the doctor’s office, Queen was risking his NBA dreams. And Jans made sure the whole team knew it.
“He said, ‘Coach, I wanted to be there for you and for the team. I really want to know what I should do,” Jans said. “And I’m like, ‘Trev, it means a lot to me that you would make this decision.’ I told the team, too, that day, or two days later, when it was appropriate, so they knew how much it meant to him and where his head was at.”
Queen rehabbed hard and got back in 16 days, then COVID-19 shut college basketball down. He entered the 2020 NBA draft but didn’t hear his name called. The Houston Rockets eventually invited him to training camp.
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Queen Used to Overcoming Obstacles, Long Odds
Queen’s willingness to play on a torn meniscus is just one example of the many obstacles he has had to endure during his journey. He went unrecruited out of high school, then played for three different JUCO teams before finally landing at New Mexico State. Nothing was ever handed to Queen who was homeless and sleeping in a 1982 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale at one point.
Fast forward to 2022 and he’s attempting to crack Doc Rivers’ rotation for the Philadelphia 76ers. Queen flashed in summer league play with the ability to create his own shot. He averaged 13.4 points per game while sprinkling in hard-nosed defense and clutch passing.
Remember, Queen signed a two-year deal but it’s not guaranteed. Neither is a roster spot. His contract is worth up to $3.3 million (via Chris Haynes), with a partial guarantee for $300,000 in Year 1 (via Derek Bodner).
“I’m rooting for him. It’s quite the story,” Jans said. “He’s going to give back if given the opportunity. He’s going to represent the city and the organization in a good light.”
Getting Emotional During WAC Championship Game
When asked to share one funny or emotional story about Queen, Jans took a long pause before letting a chuckle out. There was one moment: the 2018-19 WAC Championship game.
“He was pretty emotional on the court and I remember turning to one of my assistants and saying I think he’s going to break down, like I think he’s going to cry,” Jans said. “He was so excited. It was like all these emotions came out. He was doing these things on the court that he had always envisioned himself doing on that kind of stage.”
Queen finished with 27 points and four rebounds while knocking down six triples. He had 16 points at halftime in a game that got out of hand in the second half. New Mexico State routed Grand Canyon 89-57 and Queen was named WAC Tournament MVP.
“It was the biggest stage and the biggest game he had played in,” Jans said. “He was playing to go to the NCAA Tournament, that’s every kid’s dream – and here he is, just going off in front of a big crowd and on TV, and on ESPN, and he knew it.”
Doing All the Little Things, Buying In
Queen’s highlight-reel videos had many Sixers fans salivating back in late June when the team first signed him. He’s not scared to shoot it, no matter what. And he’s not afraid to crash the glass for offensive rebounds, or dive on the floor for loose balls. Queen is ultra-aggressive.
“He can definitely get in passing lanes, got great anticipation,” Jans said. “He can block shots at his position. He can stuff the stat sheet. Now because of that attitude and approach of trying to get his hands on balls, sometimes he gets out of position, sometimes he’ll gamble a little too much.”
Don’t read that as a knock on the talented 6-foot-6, 190-pound guard. It took him a minute to learn Jans’ system, which leans on a slower pace. His teams pride themselves on rebounding, defense, and toughness. It took Queen time to adapt at New Mexico State.
“I think he’ll be the first to look back and say it helped him in understanding patience and buying in and everything else that goes with that,” Jans said. “The first year there was a lot of back and forth, quite a bit of a struggle with the buy in, but by his senior year, the conversations with my guys [assistants] changed, like ‘Wow, he’s changed so much.'”
The Sixers are going to expect a similar buy-in from Queen if he has any chance at making the final roster. Like Jans, Rivers won’t put guys on the floor if they can’t play defense. Queen is going to have to do all the little things, all the dirty work necessary for winning.
“I think at this point in his career he understands for him to stick, and for him to make himself valuable to an organization, he has to be that kind of a guy,” Jans said. “And I think he’s willing and able to do that and he’s always done that. He’s a good teammate, everyone likes being around him, and he’s got an engaging personality.”