Black History Month Spotlight: Gary Trent

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Lindsey LaBelle
Web Editorial Assistant


Former Minnesota Timberwolves forward Gary Trent is the voice of reason, inspiration and hope for hundreds of young kids, but becoming a positive role model meant growing up without a one of his own.

Trent overcame a tough childhood to make it in the NBA. He played for nine years in the NBA, including three seasons with the Wolves from 2001-04, and now, he’s using his past experiences to connect with at-risk youth as a cultural intervention specialist at Dayton’s Bluff Elementary in St. Paul. Every day, he pushes them to achieve greatness and stay on the right life path.

“Ninety-five percent of the things children are going through today I’ve already experienced,” Trent said. “I’m able to pass that knowledge on and help steer them in the right direction, and if they’re already going in the right direction, to help propel them closer to your goals.”

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Trent didn’t have anybody to look up to aside from his family. Many of his relatives, including both of his parents, spent time in jail for drug possession or trafficking offenses. Trent followed suit and was allegedly involved with drug sales and briefly dropped out of high school. However, upon his return, a concerned coach helped him turn to basketball as an outlet.

After playing college ball at Ohio University, Trent was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, and was immediately traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in 1995. His NBA career was not without its share of dissent and accusations of violence. However, Trent is proof that it’s possible to overcome a dark past and twist negative experiences into positive outcomes.

Now, Trent tells his students to pick a positive role model; someone with longevity. And that doesn’t necessarily mean an athlete.

“Pick something that’s realistic, because one day, there will be no more air in your ball, no matter what sport you play” Trent said. “That’s the person that you’re going to have to live with. A lot of children idolize athletes, but you could be a doctor for 50 years, you could be a lawyer for 50 years. There are other levels of greatness you can achieve without sports.”

Trent applauded the Wolves organization and the NBA as a whole for their active community outreach, but now, he’s more concerned about influencing the next generation of athletes. He’s now coaching basketball with the Apple Valley High School classes of 2016 and 2017, and it’s clear that these kids will enter adulthood with the right mindset.

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