To say that Travis Trice Jr’s sudden verbal commitment to Michigan State’s Tom Izzo over the summer was unexpected would seem an extreme understatement. Even for those who follow Spartan basketball recruiting the most, this kid seemingly came out of nowhere. For most, the sudden news sent them scrambling to find out just who the heck this young man is, and what his story might be.
But, any true Spartan worth his salt should hold at least one incontrovertible truth dear: trust Izzo.
And if the truth be told, Trice essentially came out of nowhere for Mr. Izzo as well. Izzo in attendance for the recruitment of star prospect Branden Dawson (signed LOI with MSU), found himself asking not infrequently, “where the heck did that pass to Dawson come from?”
Enter: Travis Trice Jr.
The 6 foot, 170 pound point guard verballed to Izzo and MSU soon after his official visit to East Lansing. The thing about the Huber Heights Ohio native is that he is in fact, a package deal. I’m not talking about his friendship or parallel recruitment with Dawson, I’m talking about his close knit family structure and intimate faith. Listening to Trice JR for any amount of time, you almost immediately come under the impression that he, his family, and his God, are essentially inseparable in their daily lives. A true package deal. And there’s no greater joy for us at Spartan Nation then to hear such words as his unabashedly intimated.
“My God and my family, those are the two main things; those are two first things…then comes basketball.” Trice recently said in an interview with Spartan Nation.
One hardly needs to mention that today’s recruits are often entirely too much about the flashy, gaudy– “it’s all ME” toxic mindset. Not Trice Jr. He almost personifies the antithesis of that errant self-serving attitude. And it’s not just lip service for him. In our recent Spartan Nation interview with him, he told us his self-described poor play at the beginning of the summer was a direct result of him… well, injecting too much “ME” into the equation, and not enough faith.
“I played bad, and He (God) did it on purpose. I came back the next weekend, me and my dad were really convicted that we were going about this the wrong way. We went to church and just felt it, that’s when He worked on me and said ‘just give it to me,’ and I just gave it to Him and that’s when everything started going well.”
That type of faith and unselfish attitude is something that is sorely lacking in many youngsters today, that’s too blindingly obvious. But, that attitude and mind-set translates into unselfish play on the basketball court as well, and that– translates well into Izzo’s program at Michigan State. Izzo has a long standing history of taking a collection of unselfish undervalued “program guys,” and coaching them up into a tough TEAM. A perennial National Powerhouse TEAM, in fact.
Trice Jr is future cog in Izzo’s Green Machine. He takes the moniker “blue collar,” as a compliment. On the court, he often demonstrates notable toughness and strong vocal leadership. He attributes that to the circumstances of his youth. “Growning up I was living in Springfield where everyone is known for being tough and rough and that really helped me. Then I come over to a school like Wayne and it’s real diverse, and I’ve got a different group of guys I’ve got to learn how to relate to. And then going up and playing with Branden Dawson and those guys, I just learned how to read people differently. What buttons to push, what not to push. What to say to them, when to encourage them, what guys you need to yell at, stuff like that. So it’s really helped me over the years.”
When pressed on the subject, and asked to describe himself as if he were a member of the Sports media, he had this to say of his own personal attributes, “He’s a leader, he’s a team first guy, he puts himself to the side. I just want to make my teammates better and get the win that night. Stats are good and stuff like that, and rankings are good, but all I care about at the end of the night is winning and making my teammates better.”
Those, ladies and gentlemen, are prime ingredients for a great future Spartan point guard. But, there’s also another ingredient that adds to Trice Jr’s green mystique.
Enter: Trice Sr.
Jud Heathcote told Izzo long ago, “always go for the coaches kid.” Well Izzo got him in Trice Jr. Travis Trice Sr, aside from being a loving father, spiritual advisor, friend, and disciplinarian, is Trice Jr’s High School basketball coach at Wayne High School in Ohio.
Trice Sr has more than a working knowledge of basketball too, as a former guard for the Butler Bulldogs. He’s instilled in his son a great “feel” and cerebral, not just instinctual, understanding of the game. In Izzo’s program, “coachability” is of the utmost importance and is often the rate-limiting step in both the team’s and the player’s development each season. MSU’s program is widely touted as among the most cerebral and offensive-set rich, in college basketball. And Trice Sr has worked hard in preparing his son for his future in the only colors.
Having been through the recruiting process himself as a High Schooler, Trice Sr was able to structure the process well for his son, and keep them from any potential pratfalls. Though he was intimately involved the whole way –with offers from: Minnesota, Penn State, Creighton, Northern Iowa, Dayton, Richmond and Toledo heading their way before Izzo came calling– he’s guided, but never dictated or forced his will into his son’s decision making. He wanted this to be about his son, taking care not to attempt to re-experience the process vicariously.
“The one thing that I’ve always realized is that I’ve had my time. I had a great time, I had a great college career in my eyes, it wasn’t one that led to an NBA contract or whatever the case might be, but, I enjoyed my college days and my college time. And I tried to explain to Travis that there’s so much more out there. And I only want it, if he want’s it.”
But Trice Sr reiterated frequently, just as his son did, that God and Faith comes first. Their own desire’s clearly taking a back seat.
Trice Sr said that’s something that his own parents instilled in him long ago and he is simply passing it on. “God has been the focal point, and the focus of our family. And it’s something that Travis (Jr) understands. It’s something that Julie and I, my wife, have really tried to instill in him, you know where his strength comes from and without God, you know none of this is possible. Travis has known that he’s realized it, he’s tried to live the right way. He’s been a great ambassador of Christ, and I’ll tell you it never came any more true than this summer.”
And he went on to us at Spartan Nation exactly what he meant.
“There was a situation this summer where he worked his tail off, and I can honestly say that I haven’t been around a lot people that have worked as hard as he did. And he got to play the beginning of summer, the beginning of the July period– and I saw him in the first week really just press. And as he was pressing he just really didn’t play well. He did ok, he did some good things, some coaches took notice and he got some extra offers out of it, but it wasn’t what he had been used to. We came home after that and he realized, and I realized with him that he was trying to do too much, he was trying to do it by himself, and he said ‘Dad, I’m just gonna let God have this entire thing. That’s what I’ve forgotten.’ And I’ll tell you, it was about the best three weeks of my life as a parent, not so much that he played great basketball, but to realize that I could see what God was doing in his life… It’s unbelievable; it’s everything you could want.”
When listening to the Trices’ speak so openly and boldly about their faith and the love they have for one another, it’s nearly impossible to not be thankful such strong family values still exist in this sometimes sordid arena of sporting life.
And family-values positively exude from the Trice family. Trice Jr has been taught to give advice and foster positive opportunity for each of his two younger brothers and two younger sisters. The idea Trice Sr said, is to give what you had or better to the younger one. “That’s the way we stair-step it. It’s not about the one that’s ahead of us, it’s about the one behind us.” It’s a rather brilliant notion really.
And as close as Trice Jr is to his father, he takes no offense to being called a Momma’s Boy. “Aw… yeah. I love my Mom man, she means the world to me.”
When asked specifically what traits he lauds most in his mother, Trice Jr responded, “consistency.”
“The thing I like about her most is she’s always honest with me, she’ll be the first one to tell me when I’m wrong. I mean, she’ll still love me, and she’ll still be there for me, but she’s the first one to tell me when I’m wrong. And she always tells me what I need to hear.”
Trice’s mother is always there to encourage her son to do the right thing. And she is quite the encourager too, she sends Izzo text messages of encouragement almost daily.
We here at Spartan Nation have zero doubt that the package deal that comes to East Lansing when Travis Trice Jr arrives, will certainly make us Spartans incredibly proud. That package is Faith, Family, and Dedication to leadership and hard work. Let there be no mistaking it, this is truly a young man you can feel immense pride in supporting. And I think Trice Jr’s father said it best, “One thing I just told him, (Travis Jr) that I’m here to support him in whatever way he wants, if it meant basketball great, if it meant tiddlywinks great, if it meant checkers…we’ll work at it.”
And don’t worry Mom and Dad, we here at Spartan Nation will have his back as well. Thanks for the great package deal.
Blessings and Go Green!