Trent's travels still leading to one place: UW
Clarence Trent sees his future playing out before him and smiles. He’s sitting behind the University of Washington bench during the Huskies’ recent game against Morgan State, and his eyes remain focused on the court.
He’ll be playing on the Hec Edmundson Pavilion hardwood soon.
“It was good to be able to see what they do up close instead of on TV,” said Trent, who attended the Morgan State and Eastern Washington games while home for the holidays from The Patterson School, a prep school in North Carolina.
After finishing school thousands of miles away from home, the Tacoma native still plans to enroll at Washington this summer and play basketball for Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies.
It’s been a long, winding journey filled with bumps and turns in the road for the 19-year-old senior. However, Trent says he’s persevered and matured and now feels better for having gone through it.
“I’m very proud,” Trent said, “because I’ve seen a lot of people, a lot of guys who’ve been through what I’ve been through, and now when I come back home I see them doing the same thing on (the) corner, hanging out and doing a lot of nothing. So I look back and I appreciate it a lot.”
Talent has never been a question for the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Trent. He’s always been capable of jaw-dropping, spectacular plays. But at times his motivation and decision-making have been under question. Trent understands that, and he wants to change that perception.
He transferred to several schools during his high school career, beginning as a freshman at Lacey’s River Ridge, then moving on to Gig Harbor for his sophomore and junior seasons before transferring to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.
He recently moved again to The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C, a small town 68 miles northeast of Charlotte. Trent said he transferred to Patterson because Findlay Prep changed from a prep school to a regular high school, and as a fifth-year senior he wouldn’t have been eligible to play in all games.
Trent’s on track to graduate this summer, and he is averaging 10 points and six rebounds while playing a little over 20 minutes a game for the Bulldogs, who are 21-0 so far.
Chris Chaney, Trent’s coach at Patterson, did not return repeated calls seeking an interview. When asked in December by a reporter from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Trent’s progress, Chaney had this to say:
“Like a lot of our guys, he’s got a little to learn, stuff he didn’t know. He’s becoming more of a student of the game. He’s such a great athlete. He’s got that great physical body. We’re trying to get him to use those things better. He’s a great kid. He’s doing well in the classroom. We’re getting him ready for Washington, so he just doesn’t go there. We want him to succeed.”
Due to instability in his family environment, Trent has been living with his uncle, Trent Nettles, since he was 8. Nettles moved Trent and his own son, T.J. Nettles, to the Gig Harbor area so they could attend school. T.J. and Trent played together on the Tides team.
As a sophomore, Trent helped Gig Harbor place seventh at the Class 4A state tournament. With most of the starters returning, the Tides were expected to contend for a state title the following season, but they failed to advance to the tournament. Trent said his experience at Gig Harbor provided some good life lessons.
“Gig Harbor helped me a lot because a lot of the basketball that I played was a lot of pickup,” Trent said. “A lot of the people were just all fun, but when I got to Gig Harbor it was a lot more business-like, and the basketball was more slow-down basketball. But the atmosphere was good.
“It was real disappointing that we couldn’t get back to state the second year. There was a lot of hard work put in there.”
Tides head coach Lyle McIntosh said Trent was a good fit at Gig Harbor.
“There’s no doubt about his athletic ability and all of that,” McIntosh said. “But I think it did kind of give him a secure place to be. … He meshed well with everyone. In fact, everybody at school liked him. He had an outgoing personality and all that worked out pretty well.”
Nettles said every decision to change schools has been to better Trent’s education.
“It’s never been about basketball, and that’s what people don’t understand,” Nettles said. “A lot of people don’t understand Clarence’s whole life. And when I took him in at 8 years old, it was just one of those situations from a broken home. It was just one of those things.”
Trent said Nettles has been a father figure and that he appreciates everything his uncle has done for him.
“He helped me realize that it’s not all fun and games, and that there is a lot of work that you have to put into it to get to where you want to get to,” Trent said. “So that helps me a lot. Trent keeps me motivated.”
Even with all of the school changes, Trent remained a hot commodity in college coaching circles because of his athleticism and knack for the spectacular.
Trent said he took official visits to Washington and California and unofficial visits to Arkansas and Kentucky before committing to the Huskies in September.
“I always want to get out and go to college,” Trent said. “But the opportunity came where I was more mature. Before, I wasn’t as mature to stay home and deal with everything. But going to Findlay helped me grow up a lot and mature to where I could be able to stay home.”
Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar said he’s glad to have Trent in the fold.
“Whenever you get a local kid it’s good, but especially one as talented as he is,” Romar said. “He comes in from Day 1 as maybe our best athlete.”
Trent will join two other Tacoma natives when he arrives on Montlake this summer. UW freshman Isaiah Thomas already has made an impact with the Huskies. And Bellarmine Prep senior Abdul Gaddy, one of the top high school players in the country, withdrew his commitment to Arizona amid the turmoil over a coaching change in Tucson and picked Washington two months after Trent committed.
It’s the first time Tacoma has had a significant presence in Washington basketball since Wilson’s Curtis Allen and Mount Tahoma’s C.J. Massingale committed to the Huskies in 2000.
Trent and Thomas played together on a recreational team that Nettles coached in fifth and sixth grades. And Trent said he and Gaddy have played pickup ball together but never have been on the same team in organized basketball.
Thomas looks forward to the arrivals of Trent and Gaddy at UW.
“We make it clear if you’re from Seattle you’re from Seattle, if you’re from Tacoma you’re from Tacoma,” Thomas said “He (Trent) is so versatile, he can play the three (small forward) and the four (power forward).
“He’s a guy like (Jon) Brockman that finds the ball. He’s an energy guy. He gets rebounds, tip dunks, just stuff that an energy guy is going to get. He’s going to help us a lot.”
News Tribune staff writer Don Ruiz contributed to this report.