When Gary Trent Jr. announced in April he was leaving Duke for Thursday’s NBA draft, his famous father compared him to a vintage European sports car that obeyed the “speed limit” during his one collegiate season.
So now that he’s entering a pro game all about space and pace, just how fast can he go?
“I think I can go pretty fast, but we’ll see,” he said. “Only time will tell.”
A Minnesota state high school champion when he was a sophomore and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year when he was a junior, Trent decided to forgo his senior season at Apple Valley High and enrolled at a California prep school because it would better prepare him for his collegiate and professional future.
The son of former Timberwolves forward Gary Trent was raised around the NBA, he is now headed there himself. A 6-6 guard, he was primarily a spot-up shooter on a Duke team that had four other possible first-round draft picks — including projected top 10 picks Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter — and reached an NCAA tournament regional final before it lost to Kansas.
Like teammates Grayson Allen and possibly Trevon Duval, he could be selected in the first round — as high as the low teens possibly — or not until well into the second round.
“It’s funny, I’ve heard everything,” Trent said during the pre-draft process at May’s Chicago combine. “I’ve heard 10 to 20, late lottery. I’ve heard second round. So I just stay true to me: Play hard, showcase what I can showcase, take care of myself.”
Just as he considers his decision to play one season at Prolific Prep in Napa the right one, Trent calls Thursday’s draft the correct time to go pro.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “I work so hard, hours and hours and hours, blood, sweat and tears into my craft. I felt like my year at Duke was good enough where I could make that jump and be successful making it.”
With two gifted fellow freshmen doing their work near the basket, Duke needed Trent to find the floor’s open spaces and shoot it, which he did. He broke J.J. Redick’s freshman three-point school record by making 97, two more than Redick in 2003. Trent averaged 14.5 points per game and made just over 40 percent of his three-point tries.
Trent is part of an Apple Valley pipeline that sent former high school teammates Tyus Jones to Durham for one championship season before him. Tre Jones is headed to the Blue Devils next season. Trent’s road to get there, though, included a year at Prolific Prep, a school that plays a national schedule.
“It was a great decision for me, it prepared me for the next level, which was college at the time,” Trent said about playing for the same prep school that produced 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson. “Having to fly across the country, you still had to turn in homework assignments. It helped me with time management. It helped get me out of my comfort zone.
“I left home a year early. When I went to Duke and some of my teammates were missing their parents or missing home, I was already a year removed from that.
“Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota has some great basketball players. But I was looking for a new challenge.”
Trent now calls himself a shooter whose ability to score is “second to none,” but also says he can do more than just that, such as create for others and put the ball on the floor.
Just like his other draft-declared teammates, Trent said he did a specific job last season that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski asked — and needed — him to do.
It’s a role his father once likened to that sports car you drive 60 miles per hour due to the speed limit when its motor really can reach 200 mph.
Now apparently, it’s time to buckle up.
“I believed in Coach K,” Trent Jr. said. “Anything he wanted me to do that was for the betterment of the team, I was willing to do that. We all sacrificed parts of our games. Coach needed to me to spot up and knock down shots. So that’s what I did, but there’s a lot more to my game.”
Krzyzewski called Trent the ACC’s best three-point shooter last season when he announced his decision to go to the NBA.
“At the NBA level, that’s what they’re looking for,” Krzyzewski said in a statement that day. “He has the size of a two-guard who will be able to fit in the NBA.”
Trent’s game since age 5 was shaped by a father who played nine NBA seasons, first with Portland and last with Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. Trent Jr. deems Garnett one of the many “uncles” — his father’s NBA teammates — who helped raise him.
“I’ve known him a long, long time,” Trent said. “Whenever I’m around him, I pick his brain, hear him out, listen to what he has to say. Being at his house — seeing his house, his cars, everything he has — is motivating. It pushes you to try to be that.”
Born nearly four years after his father was drafted 11th overall and dealt by Milwaukee in 1995, Gary Jr. grew up with a dad who coached him and with the game all around him.
“Just being in the locker room when I was a kid, playing with Sam Cassell’s son, I remember those little things,” he said. “He has given me everything. We’ve been working on my game since I was 5 years old, so every question teams now will ask me and what the pre-draft workouts will be like, he gave me the blueprint.
“The connections he has and everybody he knows, the way he can talk to me about certain things, it’s almost like I have a cheat sheet in a certain sense.”
Trent considers himself a versatile guard who also can play some small forward offensively and defend four positions (power forward as well), while his father was a 6-8 power forward who banged with the big guys.
“It’s kind of funny,” Trent said. “He was a big man who produced a guard.”