Allonzo Trier left the SAP Center on March 24 thinking he might have just taken his last shot ever for the Arizona Wildcats.
The then-sophomore had scored 15 straight points late in the UA’s loss to Xavier in the Sweet 16 in San Jose, California, but his 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have won the game didn’t fall, eliminating Arizona from the NCAA Tournament.
For the next three weeks, Trier seriously considered the possibility that he was done with the Wildcats. He felt he was ready for the NBA — he still does — but instead, on April 13, he announced he’d be forgoing the draft and returning to Arizona for his junior season. After all, national championship aspirations and All-American and Player of the Year award possibilities were in view.
Friday, Trier put up more than 1,000 3-pointers over the course of 90 minutes at Arizona’s Richard Jefferson Gymansium, converting 78 percent of them. Trier was in a “mood,” he said, so he just kept shooting.
“I’m absolutely motivated,” Trier told the Star in his first interview since announcing his return. “I’m motivated every time I take the basketball court. For a lot of people that know me, the way I work, the time I put in, that I dedicate to the game, I expect to do well every time I step out on the court because of the way I prepare. I’m very motivated for a great junior season not only for myself but this whole program.”
With a longer deadline to declare than in past years, there was a cavalcade of players in college basketball who decided to “test the waters” for the NBA draft, which gave the ability to declare without hiring an agent — maintaining college eligibility — and work out for teams to find out information about draft stock and then finally make a decision.
Arizona’s Chance Comanche and Rawle Alkins both did it. Comanche stayed in the draft; Alkins returned.
Trier never bothered with that, and there’s a reason.
“If you’re good enough to go, then you’re going to go,” Trier said. “I don’t think you need to have any ‘Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.’ My whole thing was, if I was going to go, I was going to go. I knew I was good enough to go, that was the tough part of the situation.”
Trier’s sophomore season was a tumultuous one. The 6-foot-4 guard missed Arizona’s first 19 games on a suspension that was shrouded in mystery for most of the season — both in detail about what happened and how long Trier would be suspended. Neither the public nor Arizona knew how long he’d be out — and he never felt like he was able to show off the skills he developed between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I never got there,” Trier said. “Never. I think my numbers would’ve been way higher, way more inflated if I did play all (the games). So it was a tough situation. I came in early and it was an adjustment period of trying to fit in with my teammates. It was more about not coming back right away and being (snaps fingers) the Allonzo everybody knows. I had to ease back in and make myself fit to this team and help them and not slow the pace we were going at. So it took me a while before I was able to put some numbers up.”
Trier still wound up leading the Wildcats with a scoring average of 17.2 points per game and improved his numbers across the board, including in rebounding (5.3 per game), assists (2.7) and three-point shooting percentage (39.1).
Against teams with top-level NBA talent, Trier performed well, too. He scored 28 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA and 21 against Markelle Fultz and Washington in February, and those were the top two picks in this year’s draft.
When the season ended, though, Trier’s draft stock wasn’t quite where he thought it would be. He was never projected higher by DraftExpress than No. 36 overall (a second-round pick) for the 2017 draft.
That was all factored into Trier’s decision to return, as well as conversations with UA coach Sean Miller and the hiring of associate head Lorenzo Romar.
Trier and Romar, the former Washington head coach, have known each other since Trier was 9 or 10 years old, he said, and used to attend Romar’s basketball camps in Seattle. Trier said he spoke with Miller about how they were going to fill the assistant coaching position vacated when Joe Pasternack was hired as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara, and the possibility of bringing Romar into the fold intrigued him. Romar was officially hired just days after Trier’s return announcement.
“It’s honestly one of the big things that made me want to come back to school,” Trier said.
As for Trier’s draft stock, right now, it hasn’t improved much yet for 2018 — DraftExpress’ last mock had Trier projected as the No. 35 pick in the 2018 draft, while NBADraft.net had him at No. 38.
Still, Trier felt like, had he declared, he would have won teams over in workouts, even though, he said, top-level players like Ball and Fultz never would have worked out against him.
“All of those guys, there was never a chance I’d get to work out out with those guys, because of their agents or whatever,” Trier said. “They’re not going to go against a guy like Allonzo Trier or anything to bust up their stock. So a lot of things play into it, and it’s somewhat political.”
So now Trier is back, Arizona is a popular pick to be the preseason No. 1 team, and with the return of Alkins, center Dusan Ristic, point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright and the addition of freshman big DeAndre Ayton, a projected Top-5 pick in the upcoming draft, the Wildcats are a trendy pick for the Final Four.
“I think the best thing for me was to come back to school, play start to finish, prove a lot of things but then have an opportunity to try and win a national championship,” Trier said. “Coming back to a really good team also makes it easier because it’s like, OK, I stick around for another year, I have a chance to do something special.”
- Tickets for the Red-Blue game on Oct. 20 went on sale Saturday. As of Saturday at 6 p.m., there were only 150 remaining. Just over 12,000 of 14,600 tickets were sold within an hour.
- Former UA guard Kadeem Allen signed a two-way contract with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, which will allow him to earn anywhere between $75,000 and $279,000 depending on the number of days he spends in the NBA with the Celtics, as opposed to the G-League — the NBA’s developmental league, formerly called the D-League — where he will spend most of the season. Allen was drafted in the second round at No. 53 overall by the Boston Celtics. Undrafted UA guard Kobi Simmons signed a two-way contract with the Grizzlies earlier this month.