Even though the men’s basketball team won the SLIAC tournament last season, the Gorloks figure…
VIDEO: Basketball star Willie Trimble to skip upcoming season
Willie Trimble had to make one of the toughest decisions of his life: family or basketball?
Trimble could stay home in southern California to assist Kader Thomas, his grandmother who had just undergone surgery. Or, Trimble could travel to St. Louis to play his senior season of basketball at Webster University.
Trimble elected to put family first. He knew Thomas would need help carrying out common tasks like paying bills and cleaning her house because of her Aug. 23 knee surgery.
Trimble and Thomas are close friends, and Trimble said the two lived together this past summer. Trimble’s parents got divorced when he was 4 years old, and Trimble spent a lot of time at Thomas’ home throughout his life. But that didn’t make Trimble’s decision between family and basketball any easier.
“It was really rough,” Trimble said. “I never planned on not playing this year; I thought I was going to play.”
Trimble returned to Webster on Oct. 22 and is enrolled in Fall II classes, as Thomas is doing better. Because Trimble missed Fall I, he was ineligible to play for the Gorloks until the team’s Jan. 4 game against Blackburn College.
But Trimble didn’t want to play only half the season. Instead, he decided to skip the entire 2011-2012 season and will play the 2012-2013 season in full.
“It was really, really, really tough,” Trimble said. “But I talked to coach, we mapped out things and we saw I had another year that I could actually play … I guess it worked out for the best since I have another year I have to stay here and go to school anyway.”
Coach Chris Bunch said he did not try to sway Trimble to play this year. Bunch said the only guidance he gave Trimble was to talk with his parents and decide what the best move would be.
“For your last year, you’d much rather play 25 or 27 games as opposed to 15,” Bunch said. “I’m totally on board with it. It’s the best move for him. If that’s what he wants to do, I’m behind it 100 percent.”
Bunch will have to work around not having his All-Conference first team point guard. Trimble started 25 games last season and averaged a team-high 15.2 points per game. Trimble also recorded 4 assists and rebounds per game and 2.9 steals per game.
Trimble led Webster to a 20-7 overall record last season and a 13-3 mark in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. The Gorloks won the SLIAC tournament, which advanced them to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Junior guard Cody Bradfisch will be one of several players who must step up their game to replace the void Trimble leaves. Bradfisch said even though the Gorloks are young, he thinks the pieces are in place for a solid season.
“When it came time for August and we started our strength program, I just knew then that, Willie here or not, we’ve got to move on,” Bradfisch said. “If he comes back, if he doesn’t come back, it’s great either way. Just try to make the best of what we have here right now.”
Sophomore point guard Hollis Edwards played in all 27 of the Gorloks’ game last season, but did not start any of them. Edwards is one of the top candidates to take over the starting point guard spot this year. Like many of the men’s basketball players, Edwards was surprised to hear Trimble wouldn’t be playing this season.
“It was shocking when I heard Willie wasn’t coming back,” Edwards said. “I was like, I’ve got big shoes to fill. It just made me work harder this year … I looked up to Willie as a big brother.”
Bunch thinks he has a player in junior guard Dietrick Sooter, a transfer from St. Louis Community College-Meramec, who will put up big numbers for the Gorloks. Sooter averaged 12 points, 5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game for Meramec last year.
“It’s going to be a different look, and yet at the same time, when the smoke clears, I think the result is going to be good,” Bunch said. “It will look radically different than what it looked last year. We’ve still got Hollis, (sophomore center) Jarrod (Huskey), Cody and (sophomore forward) Stefan (Whittingham).
“When you talk about replacing Willie, I’m not saying one time to Dietrick, ‘You’ve got to replace his points.’ He’s an exceptional scorer. I think he’ll be one of the best guards in the conference. But he’ll be different than what Willie was. When you talk about replacing him, I think the points are going to be there. It’s just going to come in different ways than maybe it came with Willie.”
Trimble has attended a handful of the Gorloks’ practices, and he has the itch to help his teammates from the sideline.
“It’s been hard because there are things I see out there that I don’t know if they see,” Trimble said. “I’m supposed to be a senior now, so I have a lot of experience playing ball. There are a lot of things I see that I just try to point out to them, and hopefully they see it when it happens again.”
Trimble said he is going to try to be a “player’s coach” during the season. If Bunch lets him, Trimble will sit on the bench during games and point things out to the Webster players.
“Last year, I was pretty much an extension of coach Bunch,” Trimble said. “I’m pretty confident I know what he wants out there. So I’ll pull them to the side and instead of them hearing it from coach Bunch, they can hear it from one of their peers. That might get them to see it more so than they would if Bunch was to tell them.”
The Gorloks tip off the upcoming season with a home game against Bluffton University on Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. at Grant Gymnasium. As the season draws nearer, Trimble knows there are things he will miss about playing basketball.
“It’s going to be just joking with the guys in the locker room,” Trimble said. “Just getting out there, playing and going to war with 14 other guys.”