At 6’5” and 209 pounds, Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. is up for the challenge of sliding over to play more minutes at small forward.
In 53 games playing backup shooting guard this season, the 21-year-old averaged 7.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in just his second year in the league while averaging 20 minutes per game.
There’s no doubt that Trent took a big leap from his rookie season to his sophomore year.
He's had some extra guidance this season too.
When the Blazers brought in future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony back in November, Melo not only helped the Blazers with their play on the court because of his own performance, but, no surprise here, Melo has also become a very impactful mentor for the young players like Trent.
It’s not just because GTJ is going to be playing more of the three that Melo is working with Trent, but Melo has seen a lot in the young gun since the start of the season.
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It also helps that Anthony already had a good relationship with Gary Trent Sr.
“From day one since he got here, he’s took me under his wing,” Trent Jr. said of Melo after Tuesday’s practice. “He knew my father who obviously played, so to see me now as a connection that’s just the type of guy Melo is. He’s always going to look out. For example, just the other day, I went into the market, he bought me a sandwich. Just little stuff like that -- making sure you’re always good, making sure you’re always taken care of. That’s just who he is.”
This season, confidence along with Trent’s ability and willingness to improve on the defensive end, earned him more playing time. Yes, injuries played a factor as well in his increased role this season, but there’s no denying that Trent took his opportunity and ran with it.
Over the past two weeks as Portland transitioned from individual to team workouts, Melo has been extremely complimentary of Trent’s work ethic and his drive to want to get better.
Somebody like Gary, the way he works and how hard he works when he’s on the court, the little things that he do – it’s very beneficial for him and for us as a team. The way he scraps, the way he cuts, the way he moves, the way he defends, the way he wants to learn – I think most important part is his willingness to learn and how to get better, want to know how to get better. – Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony on Gary Trent Jr.
During the 2019-20 season, Trent's teammates raved about his confidence at both ends, and Trent knows that’s where it all starts -- believing in yourself.
I’m confident. I’m ready to play any position I can on the floor to help this team -- defending, scoring, I can knock down open shots. I’m just here to do my job. -- Gary Trent Jr.
But how does he feel about guarding bigger guys at the 3?
He’s good with it. No hesitation on this one.
“Most definitely, that’s fine,” Trent said on defending bigger players as he has been doing in practice while guarding both Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja.
Trent has also spent time guarding Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum during the team's scrimmages. There’s no doubt that his versatility on that end of the floor will go a long way in the Blazers’ restart.
After Tuesday’s practice, McCollum guaranteed that once the Trail Blazers tip-off the resumption of the 2019-20 season next week, people are going to take notice of Trent even more so than they already have this year.
Gary has looked great. He’s got NBA DNA. He works hard. He wants to be good and he listens, so I think he’ll be an impact player for a long time. He’ll definitely help us, not only in the immediate future, in the present with these eight games, but I think you guys will like what you see from him. He’s definitely a special player. -- CJ McCollum
NBA DNA and Melo as a mentor is certainly helpful.
We’ll soon find out what Trent Jr. and the rest of the Blazers are going to bring to the table when Portland's return to the court tips off on July 31 against the Memphis Grizzlies on NBCSNW.