Arizona’s Allonzo Trier sat and waited at the start of last season after dealing with an NCAA suspension that limited his time on the court to just 18 games. Upon his return, Trier still managed to play at a high level, and in a shocking move, the 6'5" wing from Seattle opted to return to Tucson for his junior season.
Trier opens up about what it was like to sit on the sidelines last season, his views on coach Sean Miller’s sweating issue and why he decided to come back to school instead of declaring for the NBA Draft.
What arena is your favorite place to play in the Pac-12 besides Arizona’s McKale Center?
Utah is a great environment. We didn’t play there my sophomore year, but we played there freshman year. That was one of the best crowds, best experiences and toughest places to play I have ever been in.
Who is the best player you have guarded in college?
There wasn’t a guy I didn’t want to see, but there have been a few guys that were tough to guard. I did have to go up against Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball [last] year, and Jaylen Brown [in 2015-16], so there’s a few guys. I don’t know who was the toughest, though.
Who is the coach in the league you would want to play for not named Sean Miller?
It was Coach [Lorenzo] Romar, and I’m glad he was able to join us at Arizona on the staff.
What’s your relationship with him, and how did that play into your decision to come back?
It made my decision easier. It’s something I talked with Coach Miller about since we knew we had to fill a coaching spot. I wanted to know who it was going be, and that if it was Romar I would definitely be at more ease with my decision. Romar is a guy who has known me since I was a young kid growing up playing basketball and going to his camps and team camps. Our relationship is close. He has seen me grow up, almost like a father figure.
What’s your best memory from last season?
Definitely winning the Pac-12 conference tourney and regular-season title. I think those two things are great feats for our team, especially the way we started out with injuries. We didn’t know how our season was going to go. I was just proud of the way we finished and I was able to finish up strong.
What was the low point of last season?
My whole situation of not playing in the beginning, kind of being helpless and out of control of the whole situation. That was really tough, but after all I went through to end up winning the conference and getting tournament [MOP] was great. We had a great run, and even though it didn’t end going to the Final Four, there were some great things for the team.
How did you deal with sitting out and the rumors and not being able to play? (Editor’s note: Trier was suspended for failing a PED test. He missed the first 19 games.)
It was different. I was kind of sitting in a glass house with everybody looking in. A high-profile college athlete in a college town like Tucson, everywhere I go I’m getting questioned or even if I’m walking around campus, I’m going to grab something to eat or just walking anywhere, you know there’s a lot of speculation, and no one knows what’s really going on in the inside. It was frustrating, but I just worked on my game and stayed committed to my teammates.
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Most were shocked when you decided to come back to school, largely due to the NCAA suspension earlier in the season. Why did you come back?
Absolutely that had a lot to do with it. I think we all know that if I played the whole year I wouldn’t be here right now, but you know that’s the way things break, stuff happens. If I didn’t break my hand freshman year, I could have been gone — but everything happens for a reason. It was my decision to come back, it really was between my family and Coach Miller and my desire to be able to win here and help this program accomplish something great.
How much are you driven to win the national championship?
It’s a burden of mine for me to win as a player for this program and to help Coach Miller achieve something that people give him flak for because he hasn’t gotten to the Final Four yet, so I think we both use that as motivation together to fuel the team, and hopefully it leads to something big in the upcoming year.
How do you describe Miller as a coach?
Passionate for sure, intense. I think one of the best things about him is his work ethic and how he dedicates himself in trying to make our team better every single day. He works tirelessly, and I am about that process as well.
How much crap do you give Miller about how much he sweats? Do you see him sweating through his shirts on a regular basis?
I didn’t even notice it in the game until I saw pictures, because we were in the heat of the battle and everything. Every now and then when he’s very active and involved on the sidelines we’ll see he gets very sweaty when he takes his jacket off. It’s interesting, that’s for sure.
Your mom says that you’re all about basketball. If you’re not playing you’re watching.
Yeah, I’m a junkie. It’s pretty much all I do.
What do you watch when you’re not in the gym? Old games? Your own games?
I really watch everything — old games, games now, my college and high school games to see how much I have transformed since I have been here and what I’m doing differently. I’m very much about observing. It’s very desirable to me watching and being engaged all the time. I feel like I can’t get enough.
Who was your favorite old-school player?
Tracy McGrady was that guy for me growing up. I thought he was just an unbelievable talent and he was great. I wanted to be just like him and Kobe. I thought they were elite level, and I try and do a lot of the things they did in the way they played.
Describe your relationship with Kevin Durant.
Our relationship started when I was in high school. We had a lot of similarities. He happened to get drafted out to Seattle, and then he and the franchise moved to OKC. I happened to move out [to Seattle] as well so he kind of heard about me and knew who I was and he wanted to reach out and be a mentor. I actually ended up going to prep school because I wanted to compete at the highest level of high school. I went to Montrose [Christian School in Maryland] my junior year, and that happened to be where he went to high school. Our relationship has gone all the way through — even until now. We text, talk and keep in touch all the time. He’s my role model, and if I need anything, I can talk to him, and not just about basketball, but about life or anything that going on. During my period of not playing we were very much in touch almost every day talking just about life.
In middle school you were on the cover of New York Times Magazine. What did that do for you?
It gave me an early taste of how to deal with the media and how to deal with the hype. I think that one thing I learned was to not be complacent. I am proud about it that I’m still playing ball at a high level today. And that I stayed the course through a tough road in high school. I think I have accomplished a lot of great things.
What’s the difference between you a year ago and you in this upcoming season?
I hope to be more hands-on and in control of things like I haven’t had in the previous two years. Being confident and setting the tone early.
You have a reputation as being guarded. Have you come out of your shell?
When you have conversations with me, you know who I am and about me. I think it is just a perception thing because I don’t really open up to anyone about me.
You have dyslexia. When did you know you had it and how have you dealt with it?
In grade school. I have grown out of it now. It was not much of a barrier growing up and still today.
What do you want to do after basketball?
I want to be involved in the game. I
haven’t chosen a major yet, so I’m still deciding my path.
If you are the head of the NCAA, what rule are you changing?
Players should be paid other than just scholarships, money not just stipends. It’s not enough for the revenue we bring in, and for what we bring to the program.