Trevelin Queen on journey from JuCo to the verge of NBA: 'I was homeless, kicked out, hungry'

Nathan J Fish/Sun-News-Imagn Content Services, LLC

Trevelin Queen on journey from JuCo to the verge of NBA: 'I was homeless, kicked out, hungry'

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Trevelin Queen on journey from JuCo to the verge of NBA: 'I was homeless, kicked out, hungry'

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New Mexico State Aggies senior wing Trevelin Queen shared his inspirational background as he prepares for the upcoming 2020 NBA draft.

Queen, who is 6-foot-6, averaged 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 2019-20 while leading his conference in defensive rating (89.1), box plus-minus (8.9) and Player Efficiency Rating (25.5).

The wing caught up with HoopsHype to tell us about what he would bring to a professional basketball team.

How have you been holding up during quarantine? 

Trevelin QueenI’ve been good, just hanging in there. I’m just at the crib in New Mexico. I’m just trying to keep a positive outlook on everything, hoping it will come to an end soon hopefully. I’m outside with a face mask, jogging and stuff. I’m out here doing yoga in the house and stuff like that. I’ve never done that before.

How did you take the news when you found out that the rest of the season was getting canceled?

TQ: It was devastating. But being a normal person, when I saw the NBA was postponed, it was obvious that collegiate players also weren’t getting to play. I was thinking about that in the back of my head. Once I got the meeting with the coaches, he confirmed and it hit me that my college career was just over.

What were some of the things that you appreciated most about your time in the NCAA?

(Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images)

TQ: I’d have to say the relationships. There are a lot of different people in this world. Everyone has their own story. You never know who you are going to meet and what they’ve been through and what type of bond you are going to get. If I didn’t build these relationships, I wouldn’t be in this situation. And I got an associate’s degree and I’m working on my bachelor’s now.

BACKGROUND STORY 

How did you first fall in love with basketball? What brought you to the game originally?

Nathan J Fish/Sun-News, Las Cruces Sun-News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TQ: Sheesh. I was probably 3 or 4 years old. I just love being around a ball. Basketball wasn’t even my best sport growing up. I was probably a lot better at baseball. Basketball, being in the garage, shooting in a little hoop my mom and dad bought me. We couldn’t get a ball so I would use socks or shooting trash in a trash can. Then when I got older and got to high school, I had a growth spurt and realized basketball could be my main sport. I fell in love with it again. I realized if I devoted myself to it then I could go far.

That’s awesome. What position did you play when you were playing baseball?

TQ: I was a shortstop and a pitcher. I was better at baseball than I was at basketball and football. I stopped playing sophomore year. My high school didn’t really have much of a baseball team. It was more of a hobby for them, and that took the love away from me. If I could get another chance, I would try. But no, it’s over with. But, yessir, if I stuck with baseball, I would for sure be a professional baseball player. Facts. Derek Jeter is my favorite player of all-time.

How did being a multi-sport athlete help you get to where you are today?

TQ: It helped a lot actually. If you play different sports, you know you have different drills and different exercises and different workouts. Some workouts I learned from baseball or football may have pushed my buttons more than I got from basketball. So being able to fight through those little challenges or those little tweaks or bumps or bruises, it kept giving me strength and helped me build it all up to now. Having played more than one sport, I just have that mindset where there are switches I can flip. I can get through this. I’ve been in this situation. I’ve felt this pain before.

How important is it for you to get your degree and become a college graduate?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

TQ: It’s a great feeling. I’m going to have two degrees. And no one in my family had been to college. Basketball isn’t guaranteed. You can get injured. So having a degree to fall back on is a great feeling. It’s also a great feeling for my family to realize it is never too late to get your’s. Anybody can do it. It’s just motivation for them to see me turn a negative into a positive and I know they love that.

Can you share what the “negative” was that you turned into a positive?

TQ: The negative was that growing up, I was in hard situations. There are always doubters. I was always getting in trouble. So to be able to turn my life around, get two degrees, have a chance at making my dreams come true is so amazing.

There are some amazing success stories of players going from playing at junior college to the NCAA to the NBA, like Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. What are some things you’ve done to be the next guy in that line?

TQ: I never quit. If you go to JuCo, you have to understand that you are not the only person struggling. You are not the only person going through some situations. My goal was to never quit. If I can do it, anybody can do it. I went to three different junior colleges. All three were different in every single way possible. I kept going, kept going. It gets better if you really love what you do.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the path you took to get here? 

TQ: My sophomore year of high school, I got moved up to varsity basketball for the last playoff game. Then, I moved to Florida as a junior but I didn’t get to play because I transferred too late. So I missed a whole year. I came back to my old high school as a senior in Maryland. We had a new coach. But then I played only nine games under him. I continued to work out in the summer. I didn’t have any real offers so I went to play at the community college where my AAU coach was coaching. I got a little better out there. Then I went out to California, where I was in the third-richest county in America, Marin. It was like, a burger and fries were $20. I can’t afford that. That was a struggle. I ended up going to military school. Lord knows how I ended up there. My uncle emphasized it. But it turned out it was a good school for education and for basketball. It was the hardest 10 months of my life, though. It definitely taught me a lot of lessons. After that, I committed to Western Kentucky. But something happened with their coach. Then I got an offer from New Mexico State. It was one of the first offers I ever got out of JuCo, they all came and watched me. Even the head coach came out to watch me play at a military school in the middle of nowhere.

Your story is absolutely wild! If you’ve made it this far with all of those challenges…

TQ: That isn’t even half of it. I didn’t even get into the details. I was homeless, kicked out, hungry. I didn’t know what was next. When I was in California, there were 15 of us from rougher areas in Detroit, Baltimore and Chicago. We were in a retirement home and it was so small that if I farted, the neighbors could hear it. We had two bedrooms and nine air mattresses. We all got kicked out. Three teammates and I – and I had just met these kids two or three weeks prior – moved to East Oakland in a 1982 Delta on Bancroff Avenue. We were all like 6-foot-2, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. We had all our clothes in the backseat. You put us in there and the gasoline starts to leak and to get to our school was 45 minutes. And gas in California isn’t cheap. Every time gas started to leak, we had to pull over on the side of the road and fill it back up manually. The first week, we were living in the Delta. My teammate didn’t know that he had some family in East Oakland. His mom told him to go there. We were living in the car three streets down from his mom. So us four went there and they already had like eight people living in there. We had to shower with slides on. No towels, nothing to eat. There were shootouts every day. I was living on an air mattress with a hole in it. But that gave me so much strength, too. I went through all that. This was before Cash App or Venmo, so I went to the Western Union to get money but I was damn near scared to walk by myself. It was so hard. I was always questioning myself, but I stayed positive.

After all of that… to win MVP of your conference tournament in 2019. 

TQ: Damn. I got chills just thinking about it. You know I came halfway through the season that year. I was naked. Everything felt Chinese to me. New system, new coaching staff. New players and everything like that. I wasn’t even a starter. I was a role player off the bench. They rotated like 12 or 13 players. So to have that impact in the tournament when it was needed was such a great feeling. If you watch the film, every time I scored, I looked at my family. I pointed to them. Like I’m really here, and you’re the reason why I do this. Every time I saw them, I blacked out. Everything felt like a dream. None of the pictures of us holding the trophies, I don’t remember any of it. I was just crying. I couldn’t believe it was real. Dreams came true.

I also love the picture of you with your nephew holding the trophy. What is it like being an influence on him?

(Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images)

TQ: When I was growing up, I didn’t have any motivation like that, that had accolades. I wish I did. My older brothers were into cars. But to give him a positive impact that can take a different route will be good for him. At such a young age, for him to see the bright lights and the tears and mixed emotion… I just want to give him options. Knowing I’m getting closer to the NBA, to put myself in that situation to be able to provide for my family, I’m always going to be there for them whether it’s basketball or not. But to have basketball is an even better feeling. I just love basketball. I could see myself loving it for the rest of my life. So to use my platform to motivate them is a great feeling every day.

How was your family as helpful motivators during this whole process?

TQ: Parents for sure. Plus, my immediate family. If you ask anybody about me, all I talk about is my family. That is why I do what I do. I want to be able to take care of them. I want to show them that anything is possible. They tell me to keep a close corner and not to let anybody in who is there just because you are doing what you are doing. Always make sure that everyone is there to look out for you. There is this Bible quote my grandma gave me and I live by it. Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So no matter what you’re going through, you can get through it. I live by that every day.

BASKETBALL SKILLS 

How would you describe your game to someone in an NBA front office who has never seen you play?

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

TQ: I would say I’m an all-around player. I’m a two-way. I want to be the best on the offensive end and the defensive end. I like to get my teammates involved in any way possible. If I’m on the bench, then I’m giving motivation and words of encouragement or helping them with the scouting report and to just keep their heads in the game. I know whatever role they have me playing, I’m going to play 100 percent. Whether it’s coming in and getting the steal or getting the charge or getting a bucket, my role is going to be on both ends of the court. I’m going to be on both ends of the court. I want to be able to score and then defend the best player if I have to. I want to be a great two-way player. I’m also an emotional player. You can always see it on the court. I’m willing to put any amount effort into everything. I’d fully be willing to run a thousand miles for a team to play at the highest level. This is my dream.

You are a strong defender with a very high steal percentage. Tell me a bit about your defensive mentality. 

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

TQ: It is to beat my man to the spot and dictate the possession. Where do I want him to go? Whether it’s off-ball or on-ball, I want to make sure I am in the right spot. I want to be ahead of the offense. Days before the game, I will watch film on who my matchup will most likely be. I try to find his weakness and get him to the weak spot that they don’t like and get them uncomfortable. Especially if I see my matchup is tired, I like to get up in him even more. But I know when I’m tired, I can play some of my best basketball because I will get so locked in so that is an advantage for me.

I think you are especially good at defending the pick-and-roll. How did you get so good at making those reads as a defender?

TQ: I have to give all credit to head coach Chris Jans. He gave us the right foot angles with the big, what part of the court you want to use. Coming into JuCo, I didn’t learn the basic textbook pick-and-roll game. But then at New Mexico State, I learned whether I should go under, force and lift, bring them back to the screen, stuff like that. He opened that door for me wide open.

What is your confidence level in your jump shot right now?

© Nathan J Fish/Sun-News, Las Cruces Sun-News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TQ: My confidence with my jumper is really good right now. But if anybody knows that has watched me play basketball, I had a minor UCL tear so last year there was a hitch in my shot. My jump shot was not 100 percent last year for that reason. It feels really good sometimes, though, when some of the muscle memory comes back during pregame. When you watch my film, some shots I elevate higher based on the situation.

You were one of the best in the country unguarded coming off the catch, shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range on these looks. What are some of the ways you can capitalize on that in the NBA?

Trevelin Queen, Unguarded off the Catch (via Synergy Sports)

TQ: Coach used to always get on me talking about not dribbling so much. He said I didn’t have to always dribble every time I caught it. So my mindset for just a week straight ended up being to catch it, shoot it. Catch it, shoot it. I realized that my catch and shoot is really gold. I don’t think about it. I heard Steve Kerr say that a shooter is always ready before they get the ball. When I shoot it, I always am ready to catch it. Shoot it. So I keep that in the back of my head because I know if I get on a team that allows me to be a catch-and-shoot option, I’m going to be a great asset for them.

You were one of the most efficient players in the open court, especially when you were a ballhandler, shooting 12-for-13 on these opportunities. How will that translate to the NBA? 

TQ: I just feel like I’m effective in transition because, especially if I’ve got numbers in any situation, I feel like my athleticism can make me take over and get above the rim. I have the passing ability so if I have a teammate with me or he is trailing, I’ll be able to make the available pass whether it is giving it up or getting it back or just creating an open spot for my shooters or whatever. I just feel like in transition, I make the right reads and play off the defender. It depends on what situation I’m in — if we got numbers matched up or anything like that. I feel like in transition, I’m really good at downhill situations.

You’re also fantastic at cutting to the basket. How did you develop the confidence to be so effective on those plays?

TQ: Sometimes, on the scouting report, it might say “offensive threat” or something like that. I don’t want people to think of me as an offensive threat with the ball in my hand. I can set a screen, slip, set a screen, pop. But my favorite thing is the cut. It’s the backdoor cut or the 45 cut or whatever it is. Because I tend to, on defense, watch the help defender that’s guarding me kind of … They can’t really scout because they don’t know when it’s coming or when I’m going to do it, stuff like that. So it’s just like an advantage for me on the offensive end.

What are some things that you can do to improve your finishing as the ballhandler in pick-and-roll sets?

TQ: I can come off more patient with my head up. I always tell myself this. Because I always come off predetermined with what I want the defense to do based on what happens in their reaction, I can read and react. So I need to just come off lower and patient with my head up.

What are some of your goals in your life as a basketball player?

TQ: Of course, I want to win a championship. But I also want to just touch an NBA floor. I want to put a jersey on and compete against the best in the world. I have so many nights picturing myself in a Celtics jersey, because I’m a fan, getting my first bucket. I’ve already pictured myself in any situation against whoever. And to get paid to do what I love to do is crazy.

Interesting. How did you become a fan of the Boston Celtics?

TQ: It’s because Ray Allen is my favorite player of all-time. When he first got traded to them, I just picked them. I’ve always liked his demeanor and attitude. I also always used to find four-leaf clovers when I played baseball. It was so weird! I like clovers. So my mom got me Paul Pierce jerseys, Ray Allen jerseys. I got them in green, white, all colors.

So how would it feel, then, to maybe get drafted by the Boston Celtics?

TQ: I don’t even know how to put that into words. That’s some in-the-moment stuff.  [Deep breath] That would be so emotional. When stuff happens in your life sometimes, you just have to ask, “Is this real?” So it probably would be like that type of moment.

LIFE OUTSIDE OF BASKETBALL

What are some of your goals besides playing in the NBA?

TQ: Oh, I’ve been waiting for this question. My goal is first to take care of my family. I want to put them in a situation where they never have to worry about anything. After that, I want to invest in a homeless shelter or a shelter for those who are less fortunate so I can help people that don’t have a lot so they can get back on their feet. You only get one chance at life. If you see someone walking on the street and they look homeless, you are about to go home and they are not. I always have this feeling that I have to give more. It is hard to talk about it. Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to do something like this. Give them a restart at life. Everybody makes mistakes. There is no reason for anybody to have to be homeless. You should be able to eat and to shower. I’ve been there. That’s the only thing in life I want to do.

I noticed you have a pretty expansive tattoo sleeve on your arm. Would you tell me a little about what it is?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

TQ: It is a stairway to heaven because my grandma had recently passed away. It has Jesus’ hands with a rosary hanging from heaven and there is a basketball. I just know she is up there holding the basketball with me and praying for me and watching me. I know that one day, we will meet again. She loved watching me play basketball. Most of my tattoos are spiritual. That is who I am. I am an emotional, spiritual person for real. Everything I do has a message behind it.

Anything else that you think would be cool to add for a story like this one?

TQ: Sure, I’ll go rapid fire. I play NBA 2K. I play Call of Duty a little bit. I’ve got two dogs. I just got a new one. It is an Alaskan Saint. Her name is GiGi, a girl dog who is younger than Kobe. I have another dog that is a pit boxer border collie. His name is Kobe and I’ve had him since before the tragedy. Rest in Peace. I got chills talking about it. My whole body got chills. I’ve got a girlfriend. I have four brothers. I have four sisters now. Oh my God. My favorite color is orange. My favorite artists of all-time are Meek Mill, Lil Wayne and Jadakiss. My favorite food is any type of Alfredo. My favorite ice cream is strawberry shortcake, easily. That’s about it, my guy. That’s all of my favorite stuff right there.

What do you do when you play NBA 2K? Are you playing in MyPark?

TQ: Oh, yeah. I’m a superstar. I’ve got two builds. I have a 3-and-D wing, he is kind of like me in real life. Then, I have an all-around two-way. Those are my two builds right there. Elite company. Everyone wants to join me. I’m on X-Box. My ID is @Trevupnow.

Are you excited to potentially play as yourself in NBA 2K next year?

TQ: Oh my God! Listen here, listen here, listen here. If I play with myself on NBA 2K next year, I will not even buy the game. It will not feel real. I would not be able to play as myself because I wouldn’t be able to breathe regularly. Just knowing I’m in a video game now? I don’t have to make my MyPlayer anymore? I have my real ratings? Even though I’ll boost them up a little bit, obviously. But just to be able to do that without having to create it, that’s definitely it right there. I’ve been creating myself since I can remember. I’ve just been a gamer my whole life.

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