By LARRY VAUGHT
PADUCAH — Gary Trent Jr. knows plenty about Kentucky basketball fans. He took an unofficial visit to UK for Big Blue Madness and Kentucky was one of his final five schools before he opted to sign with Duke.
He’s playing in the McCracken County Mustang Madness — part of The Grind Session — here this weekend. He was at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in early December.
So what has that been like for a Duke signee?
“To me it is just another state, another tournament. Kentucky was in my top five, but wasn’t the best situation for me and my family. That’s why I decided to go to Duke. But it is cool. I love the state. Always has great tournaments, great venues to play in. I can’t complain,” he said after his team’s win Friday night.
If anything, fans have embraced him. He’s one of the nation’s top 10 seniors and a likely future NBA first-round pick because of his size, strength and skills for a guard.
“It is kind of funny. There were more Duke fans than I thought there would be in Kentucky. Everybody loves Big Blue here, and should. It’s good to see that Duke’s brand is here in a state with such a strong basketball base. It’s just a testament to Duke and how large and how big the brand is,” Trent said.
He patiently signed autographs and took pictures with fans at Marshall County and did the same here Friday night after Prolific Prep’s easy win. He’ll do the same again tonight after his team plays again.
“This is everything you ask for. You work hard for fans asking you for autographs and pictures and people asking you for interviews. This is everything you wanted but it does get tiring. But at the end of the day I love the grind, I love going to tournaments, I love flying different places and seeing different atmospheres and tasting different foods,” Trent said.
“It’s great to see a different side of life and take you out of your comfort zone. The Grind Session provides great competition, great games and we get to play all over the country, and even in the Bahamas. What’s not to like?”