Dan Labosky and Patrick Sexton
Wisconsin sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice sat down with WSUM’s Dan Labosky and Patrick Sexton a couple of weeks ago in a wide ranging Q & A featuring a preview for the upcoming season, his leadership role, which NBA player he models his game around, and his strong bond with his brother Travis. (Note: Some questions have been shortened for brevity.)
WSUM: Senior Bronson Koenig started at point guard for you guys last year when you were a true freshman. What did you learn from him on and off the court?
Trice: He helped me tremendously in a bunch of different aspects, whether that be in a leadership role that he brought to the game, or when it was guys looking to him to provide big shots and big opportunities. He always came through in clutch moments and I think he passed that on to me pretty well. Off the court, he was always someone I could talk to, and I still talk to him now whether its problems I’m having with the coaches or the players, how to handle certain situations, I could always just go to him and talk to him about it.
WSUM: You mentioned the big shots he made, including the one against Xavier in the NCAA tournament, does he give you any tips on technique specifically with shooting?
Trice: Pretty much just learning whatever I can from him. We never really sat down and talked about shooting at all, but I just learned a lot about when to take the right shot, when not to shoot, and then just getting the right rotation on the ball. I would just watch him and see how he progressed so I can say I learned a little bit from him.
WSUM: Your older brother Travis was a 1000-point scorer at Michigan State, what kind of impact has he had on you?
Trice: Me and Travis are as close as brothers can get. We talk every day even though he is over in Australia right now with a huge time difference, but we still talk a lot. I think that I wouldn’t be where I am today without him and I have learned so much from him. We would probably be here all day if I told you guys everything that I have learned from him but I definitely tip my hat to him for everything he’s taught me, not only about leadership roles, but also how to be tough because both of us aren’t the biggest or strongest guy out there. We always proved that we belong in certain situations.
WSUM: Now that the four seniors from last year have graduated, do you take on a bigger leadership role and how will your mentality change from last year to this year?
Trice: The leadership role is definitely open and I believe I have taken the right steps to becoming that vocal leader on the team. I think that I have earned the respect of the players and coaches around me and they will listen to what I have to say and try their best to get it done. Over the summer I went to some Athletes in Action camps where we got to talk to some really great leaders like Aaron Kraft, Kevin Durant, and others. I took my teammate Aleem [Ford] with me when I was back at home and I just learned a lot being around other Division I top-level players and just tried to learn as much as I can about leadership.
WSUM: Why did you choose Wisconsin? Did you feel any pressure to follow in your brother’s footsteps to Michigan State?
Trice: I wouldn’t say I felt any pressure; my family did a great job with me and had my back wherever I wanted to go. They never pushed me to Michigan State, but they never pushed me away from it as well. They kind of wanted me to start my own legacy. In the back of my mind I was thinking, I would rather not follow in my brothers’ footsteps but take my own path and start my own legacy. But at the end of the day, when I choose to play here it was between here, Ohio State, and Vanderbilt. I believe that Wisconsin was the best opportunity and best choice for me and my family.
WSUM: Before Wisconsin, you played High School basketball in Ohio, but you were also a Quarterback. Has that helped you with basketball and do you still have it from your Quarterbacking days?
Trice: I definitely believe I still have it and I am the best quarterback on the basketball team. Some of my teammates will disagree but I personally feel that I am the best quarterback on the team. I think that football can translate to basketball in many ways whether it’s the physicality of it or being a leader as the quarterback. Coach Gard would always say if I could control a ten-man huddle, I could do it with four other guys on the court so I think it has translated well to basketball.
WSUM: How has it been playing for Coach Gard and what does he mean to you?
Trice: He’s really like a father figure to me; sometimes he can yell at you but I always listen what he’s saying not how he’s saying it. But he has been a great coach and guy for this only being his second full year so I can definitely see him going down in the history books and the hall of fame.
WSUM: Former Associate Head Coach Lamont Paris recently departed to be the Head Coach for Chattanooga. Has he or any of the other assistant coaches helped you?
Trice: They have all done their role; Coach Lamont was the one that recruited me so I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for him. He told Coach Gard about me, and they both came to one of my practices at IMG Academy. They offered me a scholarship then so I definitely wouldn’t be here without him. I have learned so much even from Coach [Dean] Oliver who played in the pros and has helped me in a lot of different ways that will improve my game. All of the coaches really talk to me and are there for me.
WSUM: How did your post-graduate year at IMG Academy help your game?
Trice: IMG helped me so much; it definitely got me ready for college because I was not ready out of high school. I was weighing at 158, and I was a small guy and I didn’t have the tools I needed to play at the level I knew I could play at. That year, I focused on school and was able to get 12 college credits coming out of there before I even started my freshman year. IMG is amazing and really prepared me for everything I am learning here.
WSUM: Having lost those four seniors, what is your guys’ outlook on this season?
Trice: We lost a lot last year; I think we lost about 99% of the minutes and 97% of the scoring so it’s definitely going to be a different year. But with the kind of guys that we have and what [the coaches] have recruited, I think we have a really special group and we are going to shock a lot of people. We have internal goals that will always be different than what people think on the outside. Whether it’s supposed to be a rebuilding year or were not supposed to make it to the tournament, we always know if we stick to what the coaches say, we’ll be fine.
WSUM: Who is one of your biggest rivals in the Big Ten and who are some of the toughest teams to play against?
Trice: For me, it would have to be either Ohio State, Michigan State, or Michigan. Those three schools really interchange with me and how I have been. Being from Ohio, those three teams have always been around me and they are always big games that are circled on my calendar.
WSUM: What are some personal goals for this upcoming season?
Trice: Right now it is more team oriented, I haven’t really sat down with myself and thought about what I want to accomplish but I definitely focus on the team goals and leadership things that I really want to improve on. I want to become a better leader and get the team where we need to be and at the right moment. Right now I have just been focusing on my leadership skills and knocking down open shots.
WSUM: Do you have any superstitions?
Trice: I’d say the only thing that really stays in my routine would be before every time I get ready to play whether it’ a game, practice, or scrimmage, I FaceTime my dad. No matter where he is, we always pray before the game so we always have our pregame prayer, and I sit down with myself before the game and pray too.
WSUM: Who do you think will make it to the NBA Finals this season and who is your favorite player?
Trice: I always love watching [Russell] Westbrook because he is so exciting to watch and he is so explosive. To say who will make it to the Finals this year is tough because there are so many good teams. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night but Golden State will probably be there, but other teams are really good, including the Rockets and Bucks. There are good teams coming out of that West but I definitely think D-Wade, LeBron, and D-Rose will be coming out of the East.
WSUM: Being from Ohio, are you a Cavs fan?
Trice: I don’t really have a favorite team, but I would say that I am a LeBron fan.
WSUM: Is there any NBA player you try to model your game around?
Trice: I would definitely say Westbrook and specifically his pull-up game I try to translate to my game. I definitely don’t have his athleticism but then again, who does? I try to take his explosiveness and the way he can get to his pull-up whenever he wants and translate it to my game.
WSUM: What sorts of things are you involved in off the court?
Trice: I still participate in Badgers Give Back and try to do some food and pantry stuff as well. Last year I loved reading to the kids with Aleem Ford and for this year I like supporting other teams around campus whether it’s to hockey or volleyball games, it’s fun to go out there and interact with other people and watch other teams compete.
WSUM: You have mentioned Aleem Ford a couple times, talk about your relationship with him.
Trice: Back at IMG we met the first day we got there and from then on we have been best friends. He is also the one that I am living with now so I would say our bond is like no other and I feel like we can argue and yell at each other but be cool at the end of the day so it’s just something like an unbreakable brotherly bond.
WSUM: Your team raised about $20,000 for cancer research during “Swish for a cure”, how was that event and what did that mean to you?
Trice: For me it meant a lot just to have all of those people come out. They are just there thinking about the basketball part and to make the shot, but it was for a much bigger cause and I think Coach Gard is the one to thank for that. Him building this into what it is today has definitely helped a great cause. I want to say thank you to all of the supporters and fans that came out and shot.
WSUM: You guys added an exhibition game against UNI, how are you guys feeling about the season getting underway?
Trice: As any athlete, I think you are always excited to play another game and add another game to your schedule. I think it just another day you don’t have to practice so we’re definitely excited. We finally get to play in front of our home crowd, a lot of people should be there, so it should be exciting and it’s pretty much the start of our season.
Trice is averaging 12.0 points per game with 3.0 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game as the Badgers are 2-1 with wins over South Carolina State and Yale and a loss to #15 Xavier at home Thursday. The Badgers head to Kansas City to face off with #25 Baylor Monday.