Trey Blue’s long and winding basketball odyssey has been a long and winding road, wrought with obstacles and tragedy, but he has finally found peace as a fifth-year senior at Vermont (Photo by Sam Perkins).
Special Submission to One Bid Wonders
By: Kyle Barry
If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.
- Winston Churchill
It wasn’t the senior day he had imagined (or could have ever predicted), but there he was, standing at center court, holding his framed Vermont jersey in one hand and his infant son in the other, posing for pictures while the Patrick Gym crowd gave him a standing ovation. The crowd was the usual greying bunch—members of the Burlington community who, while undyingly supportive, are rarely raucous, and who usually prefer to sit on Patrick Gym’s unforgiving wooden roll-out bleachers rather than stand and cheer for any length of time. But this was UVM’s annual celebration of its senior class, and, before tip-off against visiting Hartford, it was Trey Blue’s turn to be honored.
It was a long time coming.
For basketball purposes, Horace “Trey” Blue III is a one-year transfer and fifth-year senior, though technically he’s neither—he isn’t a “senior,” he’s a graduate student, and he didn’t “transfer,” he graduated from Illinois State and then enrolled, this past fall, at UVM. Trey took a rather unorthodox route to campus, first spending a year at Fordham University in the Bronx before transferring to Illinois State, where, after paying his own tuition during his transfer year, he played for two seasons and obtained his undergraduate degree. He also has an extraordinary basketball pedigree, having come of age within the City of Chicago’s ocean-deep talent pool of future NBA draft picks and college superstars. (By the time he was twelve-years-old, Trey was traveling around the country playing AAU basketball alongside future NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose. For four years, Trey and Rose played in the same backcourt, with Rose drawing defenders and feeding Trey for open jump shots, and Trey lobbing alley-oop passes to Rose.)
In his single season at Vermont, Trey has been a crucial offensive threat on a team that has twenty-one victories and is one win away from the NCAA Tournament. He’s played in all thirty-one games, scoring 8.5 points per contest, answering every call – either as energy off the bench, a glue guy holding the team together, or a shooter in the starting lineup.
In the last ten games (including two in the conference tournament), Trey started while shooting guard Candon Rusin played reduced minutes with a toe injury. During that stretch, Trey increased his scoring output to over ten points a game, and emerged as a more versatile and aggressive combo-guard—a player who will not only hit open shots but who can dependably handle the ball and attack the rim. In a non-conference game against Canisius, for example, he scored seventeen points on 6-9 shooting (2-4 from three), and picked up four assists working adroitly with freshman forward Ethan O’Day on the pick-and-roll. And late in the regular season finale against Hartford, Trey asserted himself in crunch time, getting to the rim off a quick crossover dribble and setting up a tip-in that tied the game with thirty-four seconds to play (the Cats would lose on a buzzer beater).
For the fans at Patrick Gym, it was this single season of achievement for which they stood and applauded on senior day. But for Trey the moment was about much more; it was the culmination of all he had been through, both good and bad, on his long journey from feted, sure-thing recruit to father and impact college player—and it could hardly have come at a more symbolically significant time.
One week earlier, Trey’s son Carter had turned one year-old. Two weeks before that, and after years of delay, the man who brutally murdered Carter’s aunt and baby cousin was convicted, finally, of two counts of first degree murder.
These milestones, inextricably intertwined with Trey’s trajectory as a college basketball player, reminded Trey of how fragile youthful hoop dreams can be (pedigree be damned), and how grateful he was to be there, in that moment, standing between those roll-out bleachers and waving to the standing Vermont crowd. (more…)