SDSU’s Darrion Trammell is short in stature, big in the game
High on the basketball player roster often reflects expectations more than reality, and at several stops along Darrion Trammell’s winding basketball journey, he’s offered to be listed at 6 feet, the aspirational standard size for anyone under him. He refused.
“I’m going to tell you right now, I’m definitely not 6 feet tall,” said the newest point guard and neglected achiever of the State of San Diego. “But I don’t want to change that and be something I’m not. That is not me.”
The Seattle transfer admits he’s 5-9 in bare feet, 5-10 in shoes.
“But I don’t walk around without shoes,” Trammell said, “so I go with 5-10.”
SDSU assistant coach JayDee Luster laughed and said, “5-10 with some Timberland shoes, maybe.”
Luster can make short jokes because he’s also 5-9 (probably), claiming Trammell only looks taller because he grew his hair out and Luster shaved it off. And because they share the kinship of being the little men in the giant game, the juniper bush in the redwood forest.
They understand what others cannot, seeing the world from under the forest canopy.
Luster led Hoover High to the CIF title, nearly broke the state prep assist record and played in New Mexico State and eventually Wyoming, where he was the defender of the year in Mountain West. When Trammell, who grew up in Marin City, entered the transfer portal last spring after averaging 18.7 points in two seasons in Seattle and Luster called to gauge his interest in SDSU, there was an unspoken instant connection.
Luster: “We are both small players, we both have chips on our shoulders. Everything I’ve been through as a player, he can relate to. As a little keeper, you always have to prove yourself. You are always fighting at a disadvantage. ”
Trammell: “He understands. He knows the odds are against us. Coming here, they support me more because he understands me better. That’s a big thing. I will never forget him saying that. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never walked in our shoes. He walks in my shoes.”
Lucky Luster. He went straight into Division I from high school.
He was 5-5 when he entered high school and started growing… and suddenly stopped at 5-9. He was an all-league player at Saint Ignatius High in San Francisco but had no Division I bid. “Zero,” he said firmly, almost proudly.
He played for the Oakland Soldiers travel team featuring James Akinjo (Georgetown, Arizona and Baylor) and eight other Divs. I prospect. Trammell sat at the end of the bench. Several tournaments, he never came down.
He spent the next year at a graduate school in Napa called Golden State Prep. No Divs. I offer.
He went to the City College of San Francisco instead, a JC.
“It was my last resort, the last route I could take,” Trammell said, “my last chance to show who I am and how good I am.”
CCSF went 33-1 and beat San Diego City College in the state final, landing Trammell, the half-time starter, and two bid teammates from Seattle from the Western Athletics Conference. He didn’t start there either.
It lasted five games. His first start came against Long Beach State, and he never came off the court. The line: 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists.
“When I got there, I knew it was just the first step,” said Trammell, who will start the next 49 games and reach double digits in 45 games. “I have bigger dreams. I have a lot to prove to the world. The folks back home know me well enough, I know I’m good enough, but, I mean, it’s bigger than that for me. I’m always in the gym, always working out, always watching movies, trying to be better, trying to be better.”
He was twice all-WAC selection in Seattle and last season was one of only seven players in the Div. I averaged at least 17 points and five assists. He also ranks among the nation’s leaders in steal rate per possession. He scored 39 points, 17 points from free throws, in his last game with the Redhawks.
Now he had a choice: SDSU, USC, Texas Tech, Cal and Mississippi State called, among others. He narrowed it down to SDSU, USC and Texas Tech, then to SDSU and USC, then picked the Aztecs on the night of the NCAA championship game. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
Glitter and the rest of the coaching staff are a big reason. A full list of ignored overachievers is another.
He fits. Everyone has the same story. Everyone was at the JAM Center’s training facility at 7 am to get injections.
“In the Bay Area, basketball cultures are very connected,” said senior forward Keshad Johnson, who hails from Oakland and wears the No. 0 because it resembles the first letter of the city. “We all know each other, we all support each other, because in the Bay Area we are all so neglected. I wasn’t recruited too much until my senior year of high school.
“I’ve always known the caliber of a player like him. Politics didn’t go his way, which led him to take the Juco route and then to Seattle and now he’s here. Wherever he is, he just works hard and we all end up in the same place. They will find you.”
During Trammell’s senior year, a friend with college contacts contacted Div. My coach asked why Trammell was not considered. The coach texted back, and Trammell’s friend sent him a screenshot of his response.
Trammell didn’t save it. No need. Words carved into his soul, fuel rods in a nuclear reactor.
“I’m not going to name him,” Trammell said, “but he said I was too small and he didn’t see how well I could get skills, just hit me. I will never forget that message. I will never forget it.
“I know it’s not the way for a lot of kids, but it’s Div. me or nothing for me. That is my mindset. It got to the point where even some in my family said, ‘Maybe you should take a look at Div. II or look elsewhere. It’s all about education.’ Obviously, it’s definitely about education. But I knew there was something bigger for me. So I plugged it in, grinded it. ”
Trammell says size doesn’t define it. It shaped him, though.
“That’s what drives him every day, why his work ethic is like that, why he’s in the gym three or four times a day,” Luster said. “He’s really the guy we should be telling, ‘Darrion, relax. You’re too much here.’ Part of that is because of the journey. Because when he was with the Oakland Army, he was the 10th person on the team. Because he had to go to junior college because he was recruited. Because in college, he got off the bench. He always has to prove himself, over and over again.”
One day, Luster and Trammell watched a movie together in a playful attempt to determine who was the better passer. Trammell gave Luster higher marks for art but claimed he was victorious in terms of versatility, showing four straight assists with his left hand. Luster couldn’t argue with that.
This is what first surprised the Aztec trainers when they saw a film about him. If you haven’t seen him shoot, you won’t know if he’s right-handed or left-handed, he’s also very good at it. He also fits into the program’s defensive ethos, noticing that opposing coaches are so afraid of Trammell’s full-court pressure on their point guards that they routinely have others dribble to the floor.
They noticed something else: That they didn’t notice Trammell was 5-10.
“I think a lot of teams and a lot of coaches ignore him because of his size,” Ryan Sypkens, his coach at Golden State Prep, said in 2018. “But, I mean, the guy plays like he’s 6-6, 6-8 – he’s 5-10. . … He finished in the ream against 7-1 men.”
SDSU coach Brian Dutcher had given him the keys to the team ranked No. 19 in the preseason Associated Press poll and told him to drive. In a closed match against No. 8 UCLA two weeks ago, he scored 24 points (from 8 of 15 shots), three assists and three steals in 31 minutes.
“Now winning games on the big stage,” says the 5-10 year old in Timberland boots. “I still have a lot to prove. In the end, I had a dream of playing in the NBA. My goal is to show that I belong there too. I think I’m quite skilled, I’m a good person, I’m not someone you should worry about. And I have a pro habit: I’m always in the gym, I take care of my body, I’m always trying to get better, I can train.
“I’m just a guy I feel you should want on your team.”
Johnson nodded. When he heard Trammell was at the transfer portal and considering moving south, he immediately called the coaches. He wants him on their team.
“That Bay Area blood, nothing like that,” Johnson said. “We all have a dog inside of us.”