It is a long way from Sydney, Australia, to Easton, Pennsylvania – roughly 10,000 miles. For Lafayette College senior forward Dan Trist, it has been a long, but very fun ride.
“It definitely isn’t where I imagined myself being when I was a kid, but it’s been an unforgettable experience that I would do all over again in a heartbeat,” said Trist in an unmistakably Australian accent.
Trist, a 6-foot-9 senior, joined Fran O’Hanlon’s squad in 2011 and earned playing time from the moment he stepped on campus. He had taken a far different route to the college hardwood than most of his teammates. While many parents have their children play sports from the moment they can run and jump with the hopes one day that they can earn a scholarship to play college sports somewhere, Trists path to Lafayette was a bit more unconventional.
It was not until he reached his early teenage years when he began to play the game, but after a short time, he was like any other boy around the world he had a huge crush, her name was basketball.
“I started playing competitively, around the sixth/seventh grade. It was kind of late compared to my friends and other people,” said Trist. “I played for a few years, found my feet and enjoyed it.”
As the years went on and Trist went through high school, he continued to grow, both in stature and on the court, earning him some recognition.
“Then people started to say look, maybe you can take this further,” said Trist.
In 2009, new opportunities arose and Trist’s began to see what basketball could really do for him. As a junior in high school he earned a place on the Nike All-Asia Team that played at the Nike Global Challenge in Portland, Oregon. That same year, Trist was one of five Australians who participated in the Nike Development Camp in Beijing, China.
“I said wow this is an amazing thing, I got the opportunity to travel with the team as well and I hadn’t really traveled much, and it opened my eyes to what opportunities there and I fell in love with the game,” said Trist.
It was through these opportunities that Trist made his way onto O’Hanlon’s radar. As expected with a recruitment process that spans the globe, Trists’ was a peculiar one.
“I played in a few tournaments for Australia, and Lafayette came into the fold pretty early,” said Trist.
During his time in high school the Secondary Sports Association recognized him for both his skill on the court and great ability in the classroom. And while Trist was in love with the game of basketball, his search for schools was not focused on just athletic prestige.
“I started talking to ‘Coach O’ (O’Hanlon) pretty early my junior year and right away it seemed like a good fit academically as well as athletically because me and my parents were definitely focused on trying to go to a good academic institution as well as a division-I strong program,” said Trist.
Despite how early it was in the recruitment process, Trist put his trust in O’Hanlon and those O’Hanlon spoke to in Australia and committed to play for the Leopards during his junior year, before ever visiting the campus.
Looking back, Trist appreciated the decision he made and feels that in the long run it benefited him not to be distracted by the prolonged recruitment process many players go through.
“Watching all of my peers go through it with all of the letters and all of the stress, it was almost like I was happy to not deal with all of that stuff and just work on my game,” said Trist.
Fast-forward to 2011 and Trist found himself in Easton, playing for O’Hanlon and able to make an impact right away. That season, Trist played in all 31 of Lafayette’s games, started in 20 and average 16.7 minutes over the course of the season and earned himself a spot on the Patriot League All-Rookie Team.
“I think my international experience definitely helps,” said Trist. “Playing in international tournaments before coming to Lafayette really gave me confidence and preparation by playing in big games and big arenas. It made it an easier process to come in and play right away freshman year.”
Since then, Trist has continued to work on his game to make himself one of the top players in the league. (Regular One-Bid Wonders fans will notice that he has spent the last few months on the Fab Five list in the Patriot League power rankings.)
“He’s got a strange accent,” said O’Hanlon jokingly about what sets Trist apart from other players in the league. After a few chuckles, O’Hanlon went on to discuss how Trist is among a select few that are the elite scorers when it comes to big men in the Patriot League.
This season, Trist is leading the Leopards both in points in rebounds, averaging 16.9 points (good for third in the Patriot League) and 6.5 boards (fourth in the PL) while shooting 55.8 percent from the floor (fourth in the league). His contributions have helped Lafayette become one of the top offenses in the country; their 47.8 field goal percentage has them ranked 30th in the nation, while their 75.9 points per game has them ranked 31st, and their 15.4 assists per game also rank 34th nationally.
Last season Trist had similar figures, but could have been much better if he stayed on the court.
“He’s been in foul trouble in his early years,” said O’Hanlon.
During the 2013-14 season, he averaged 13.1 points per game, in 22.5 minutes on the floor, but the 2.7 fouls per game, forced O’Hanlon to be creative on plenty of nights with his substitution strategy. At the same time, O’Hanlon was trying to win games without one of the team’s best players in Seth Hinrichs, who missed six weeks because of an injury.
“During that time [Dan] was playing 20 minutes a game, not from any design of mine, but because he was in foul trouble,” said O’Hanlon. “And with Seth being out, when he was in foul trouble that would put a burden on our team.”
As a senior, Trist has been able to stay on the floor. With Trist staying out of foul trouble, Hinrichs return to health, and several other weapons on the floor, the Leopards offense has been able to click on all cylinders during much of this season.
“He’s gotten much better at staying on the court,” said O’Hanlon. “We need him, that’s where has made an improvement.”
It may not have been the path he envisioned nearly a decade ago, but the game of basketball has made its mark on Dan Trist, and he has left his mark not only across the US during his time with the Leopards, but across the world. He and his Leopards currently sit tied for third place in the Patriot League with a 3-3 record in league play, but with plenty of basketball to play, Trist feels that the Leopards could make a run in his final season.
“Right now I’m just enjoying the ride, but I definitely think we have a chance to do some big things with the age and talent we have,” he said.