By Eugene McIntosh @stayhumble
Trayvon Palmer (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Pistons/Motor City Cruise)
If this isn't a true example of staying the course then I don't know what is.
Tonight in Detroit versus the New York Knicks, Milwaukee native Trayvon Palmer will make his NBA debut as the first player in Chicago State University history to make it on a regular season NBA roster.
His road to the NBA was unconventional to say the least. After playing in 92 games and starting 70 in 3 seasons at CSU (2014-17) where he averaged 11 points per game, he went undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft making him an unrestricted free agent. He spent the 2017-18 season in the British Basketball League with the Worcester Wolves in Worcester England. He did well putting up 15 points and grabbing 6 boards per game in 36 games.
His next stop was the NBA G-League, where played for the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Northern Arizona Suns. He didn't play at all last year and the Suns relocated to Detroit after being purchased by the Pistons, also this year. He did well in camp and on Oct 25, 2021 the Pistons signed him to the Motor City Cruise. As a starter he played 30 minutes per game and averaged 11.1 points.
Now, with COVID-19 currently running rampant through the NBA, it was the right time and right place for Tray to get his shot. It took him 4 years to get here but his path to the league is more proof that there are more avenues to reach the goal of making it to the NBA than ever before.
Tray spoke to The Bigs after his first practice as a Piston. He was still taking in the moment from his hotel in Detroit.
Gene- Congratulations brother!
Tray- "Thank you thank you. It's been a long time, a long process man but it feels good to just finally get that moment under my belt"
Gene- "No doubt...it's your time. You're the first player in Chicago State University history to be on a regular season NBA roster. Some folks would say you just opened another door for not only aspiring basketball players but athletes in general by showing there are many different paths to get to your destination. What does that mean to you and your journey?
Tray- "First of all it's just an extreme blessing. I'm at a loss for words for one but it's definitely just a blessing to make it this far to this point. Not only just in general but also coming from Chicago State I feel like it means a lot more you know. Not one of the biggest or most well known schools or having the best resources but for me to make it to this point and just show other people I guess following in those same footsteps and same paths to just let them know that there will always be doors of opportunity. Don't stop at the first door or the second door and a lot of times not the third, fourth or fifth door. If you set your mind to something and put your heart on something, just continue to strive man. Don't take no for an answer. If you hear no one place you know try again in different places and keep pushing. Like I said man I'm extremely blessed. It's exciting for me that I can kinda be this pillar and a person that people can look up to as a resource and a reference as somebody that went through the hard times and never gave up man. I kept my foot on the gas and kept the faith first and anything is possible if you do it like that."
Gene- "Was there ever a moment where you felt like the NBA just wasn't your calling and it was time to find another lane? If so what made you grind it out and how did you feel when you got the news?"
Tray- "I don't think giving up was ever a part of the vocabulary or part of the plan. Things did get tough. Coming out of college I didn't have any workouts with any NBA teams at all even though I felt like I played well my senior year. So I took the overseas route for my first year. Came back to play here in the states and didn't have any looks anywhere so I went to the open G-League tryouts out in Chicago with like 200-250 kids out there. From that small window of opportunity man I was able to get invited to training camp with the Santa Cruz Warriors where I made my first very small stint...probably like 2 games. I was waived after those two games and that was pretty tough mentally but I had some words from people in the organization. Kinda the same thing you hear all the time...it might sound cliche but it's like keep going man, keep your head up and keep pushing. You're doing the right thing. So I got another opportunity after that point. I went to the Suns (G-League) for a while but I feel like the hardest point for me was once COVID hit. It shook things up for me. The Suns didn't go to the G-League bubble so at that point I was with no team and I didn't play at all last year. I didn't play for any team...no overseas or nothing. That part was kinda challenging man had me thinking like am I done man, is this it? Do I have to start putting my degree to use and sharpening up my resume? But something told me...my support told me...Eddie Denard who coached me at Chicago State who I give a lot of credit to and he's like a big brother to me kind of just reassured me on the faith side to keep pushing and something is gonna happen. It took a lot of things to go right honestly. I don't think there's any luck involved or accidents or mistakes but it took for me to keep pushing forward to even be in the position to get this opportunity."
Gene - "You had a pretty good season with the Suns averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds in 32 games (24 starts) while shooting 48% from the field and 38% from three. Why do you think you didn't get an opportunity?"
Tray - "I feel like I played well but I was able to make some good relationships with the people there. They knew who I was and my style of play. It wasn't enough I guess to get called up at that time but I was able to slowly start to leave an impression on people in my organization around the league about the type of guy I was and the type of player I was and the things I bring to the table on a nightly basis. So I feel like with me man just being in the league enough and for people being able to see me on a consistent basis I feel like people started to kind of appreciate what I bring to that table man and slowly but surely it worked out in my favor."
Gene - "Rich Gray (Trayvon's agent) noticed you playing extremely well against his former client Kendrick Nunn in the G-League and said he saw IT in you. He said "I knew if we got him in the right situation he'd have a chance. He was chiseled, defending at a high level, not out there hunting for shots and I knew he'd make the most of an opportunity if given one." How did you meet Rich?
Tray - "I met Rich thru Eddie Denard. He coached me at Chicago State my sophomore year. He kinda like got me started on training. I used to come back to Chicago for the summers and work out with him and it really developed into a big brother role. He always kept me positive and always made sure I was sharp on the basketball court but was really harder on me than anybody else. I lost my representation when COVID happened. My agent ended up going a different route so I had no team and no agent so I kinda told Eddie about it like man it's getting kinda difficult out here. He's like nah I got you man. I'm gonna throw your name to somebody man and something good is gonna happen for you. He connected me with Rich and that's also a big part of how I got here too man Rich has been doing a phenomenal job man. He bought into the dream that I had and helped me believe and reassure me that something good was gonna happen. Told me to continue to focus on my own race and don't worry about what anybody else is doing and worry about anybody else's path because everybody's path is unique and he was right. So I just continued to trust in him and let him lead in his area while I try to take care of everything on the court and let the chips fall where they may."
Trayvon Palmer's junior season at CSU (Photo courtesy of Chicago State University)
Gene- "I know you're a Milwaukee guy but you know once you set foot on Chicago basketball soil you are officially part of the community."
Tray - "Fasho...Chicago is my second home man they know that. I got a lot of love out in Chicago man. I got a chance to go to Chicago State this past summer and work with some of the guys and workout at the school. I've still got a relationship with some of the guys there so this is big. Not only for myself but Chicago State University and the city of Chicago in general."
Gene- "What type of role do you see yourself playing? More of a 3 and D type?"
Tray - "That's what some people try to label me as but I just try to do whatever it takes to help the team get the win. I'm gonna go out there and be kind of a glue guy I guess that's what people call it. Whatever it takes to get us the win man. Some days it might be going out there and rebounding. Other days it might be locking up the best player or it may be making threes so whatever it takes to get a win man at the end of the day. This is a wins based profession and results matter so that's in the wins column."
Eddie Danard, one of Trayvon's coaches at Chicago State told us that doubting him would be a mistake.
"Tray Palmer is one of those guys that won't take someone telling him he can't do something as an answer. He is going to prove you wrong if you doubt him. That's the type of confidence he possesses. His work ethic and passion to be great is second to none and it's been like that going far back to his college days.He always had the drive to be great. I saw it in him. When I was coaching him at CSU, he would always want to put the extra work in and now all the behind scene work is paying off. This opportunity couldn't have happened to a better person. I love this dude, he is my real little brother. Detroit is not only getting a player but they are getting a person that will represent what that city is about Greatly!"
The Pistons play the Knicks at home tonight and Trayvon is expected to be active.