Published Thu, Jan 19, 2012 1:02 pm Dateline
Bobcat basketball great Gary Trent sat down with WOUB at the Ohio basketball alumni reunion on September 10. Trent, a nine-year NBA veteran, talked about his years in Athens and what he believes makes a great team.
WOUB: Why did you originally choose to come to Ohio?
Trent: "I was in a tight situation as a youth, and they offered me the opportunity to better myself."
What's your favorite basketball memory?
"I probably don't have one because the basketball memories that I have are all pinnacles to my life. Signing my scholarship was a pinnacle. At that point in my life, it would be just as important as getting drafted…I think the pinnacle points in your life, to me, mean more than some game moments. You're going to have plenty of games, but you're not always going to have pinnacle points in your life."
What's your favorite Ohio memory?
"The energy that the University and the campus and the kids and everything that we had here at the time. Just always winning, we had a high winning percentage, we won a lot of games here. Everybody supported us, there wasn't much going on at that time. We were ranked 11th in the nation, and it was something that had never been done here before, so it was a great thing."
How did Ohio basketball help you after college?
"I learned about work ethic. Coach [Larry] Hunter was a stickler for work ethic and he was a stickler for promptness. Later on down my professional career, it paid off to be on-time and to be professional and be ready to be work. Working hard is a mindset, it's not something you turn on and off."
How did Ohio University prepare you for life?
"It put me in a different environment. This environment was totally opposite of the type of environment I was raised in. It was totally opposite of the type of environment that I was bred in. So it gave me another side of life and an understanding of life and what you are to become in life."
What do you think of the current team under John Groce?
"I think they're a work in progress, and I think coach is very diligent in trying to get things done. He's come from some very successful programs, he's had some pretty good tutelage throughout his career and I don't think he's in this business to fail or to treat kids bad, so I think with just a little bit of time and with the right recruits I think things will pick back up around here."
What's the most important aspect to a being a successful team, in your opinion?
"You have to have a lot of the things lined up. You have to have talent. I don't care who you are as a coach, you have to have talent. Phil Jackson wouldn't be what he [is] without talent - he had [Michael] Jordan, he had Kobe [Bryant], he had Shaq. So if you don't have talent you don't have anything, Athletic ability is next. Once you have a talented athlete that's in the right mindset and is ready to work hard, that's where you get a bunch of great individuals. Once you get a great bunch of individuals who have that type of mindset, then this thing called chemistry needs to kick in, and that's when people start respecting one another and respecting the pecking order of their talent. They understand their mindset and who's going to be the leader and the hierarchy will be created naturally because a true leader is going to lead like that, but at the same time, that true leader has to have gratitude and the proper mindset also. It can't be me-me-me-me, it has to be "One Team, One Goal." If he preaches that, he works like that and he carries on like that, those athletes who have skill and talent and desire and passion will fall in behind him, and you can create a successful atmosphere. You have to stay healthy, too."
Why is Ohio basketball special to you?
"We did something down here that hadn't been done in a long time. Going to the NCAA Tournament, getting ranked nationally, winning the NIT. There were things happening here that had never happened before. Media were swirling around our campus. The movement we had then hadn't been done in such a long time. I think at that point in time, Ohio State was really down that year, so it really created "Ohio Basketball" because there wasn't any other university in Ohio that represented in basketball."
If you could share one thing with the players of the current team, what would it be?
"Don't take the opportunity here for granted, in no way shape or form, on or off the court."
If you could share one thing with the fans…
"Just...Thank you for everything."
What's it been like to see everyone at this alumni reunion?
"It was cool. Vic [Alexander] and a few other guys I've seen around Columbus. Some of those guys I didn't know. It was good to see some of the guys who played here before me. I've seen a few of them in the older books and it feels good that they know me. I can feel the appreciation and the pride…it's good to be out in the world and somebody can recognize your university, and I helped put our university in a media spotlight. When you live in California, you don't hear about Ohio University too often, so if you graduate from here and you move out there, you'll hear about everything else. So for our school to be on TV, and for our school to be on SportsCenter and for us to always be in the highlights, you get a chance to talk to some of your co-workers about your university too. You're going to hear about all the [major universities] all the time. So it's good to have your university on TV come NCAA Tournament time, when everybody's putting their bracket together. Especially in the NBA, everybody's rooting for their school, so it's good to see my school out there."
When you're back in Athens, any place you have to go?
"Most of the time, I always have to take a stroll uptown, and always go through Boyd Hall and the cafeteria. I always go over there because that's where I first moved to, I first lived on the West Green. Every time I come here, I probably go to the Convocation Center, and then I'm going to head uptown and I'm going to eat somewhere up there."
"So many of them changed over time, you know? It's a different look up there. I see they reduced the number of bars, so not everyone's staggering up there..(laughs)..I just always take a little walk and see some of the things they've created."