Davis says Trimble’s on-the-ball defense best he’s seen since joining UNC staff

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — Sometimes, it takes freshmen a while to learn the importance of playing good defense, and turning that realization into action in games takes even longer.

You could check off both those boxes for freshman guard Seth Trimble before he even arrived on Carolina’s campus earlier this year, and he only turned 18 in August.

The four-star point guard, ranked No. 46 in the Class of 2022, has earned high praise from UNC coach Hubert Davis even before his first career game, which comes Monday at 9:05 p.m. against UNCW (ACC Network).

“Seth is gifted on the ball,” Davis said. “His athleticism, his strength, his ability to guard the ball one-on-one full court is rare. And it’s something that I haven’t seen since I’ve been here as a coach, whether it’s been an assistant coach or head coach. He’s been so gifted athletically that he can do more things.”

Since Davis joined Coach Roy Williams’ staff in 2012, he’s coached plenty of good defenders. Knowing that he’s seen Reggie Bullock, Marcus Paige, Theo Pinson, Joel Berry, Coby White and Leaky Black in the program should make his assessment of Trimble get everybody’s attention.

That talent was immediately apparent in UNC’s 101–40 exhibition victory on Oct. 28 over Johnson C. Smith. He collected 11 points, five assists, two rebounds, a block and a steal, going 5 of 6 from the floor in 23 minutes.

Beyond the numbers, his quickness and jumping ability made an impression. And the numbers don’t convey his passion and skill on the defensive end.

“I think with me, it all just comes with the mentality,” Trimble said. “First of all, my athletic ability really helps me be able to be the kind of defender I am.”

He comes into every game determined to shut down the opposing point guard.

“You want to outperform the point guard and you want to do everything you can just shut down your opponent,” he said. “It’s huge, and that’s a mentality I go in with every game.”

Another good defender Davis has coached is Trimble’s brother J.P. Tokoto, a Carolina player for three seasons from 2012 to 2015. But Trimble said he’s never talked about defense much with his brother and the skill came naturally.

He’s much more than a lock-down defender, though, with the flair to likely make plenty of highlight reels. He was Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin last season, averaging 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.3 steals, leading Menomonee Falls High School to a 24–4 record and the Division I sectional final.

There was a stretch of his senior season, though, when he struggled to find his rhythm and couldn’t shake out of a funk. His personal trainer convinced him to try pregame meditation. That was so successful that did it before every game, and he continued that before the exhibition game.

While he said it felt amazing playing a game for Carolina, which he said was always his dream school, he wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment, thanks to that routine.

“It just helps me focus in on what I need to do to play my best or how to help the team best. And it helps me just block out the crowd,” Trimble said. “I couldn’t tell you how it looked, how many people were there, how packed the crowd look, because just that meditation part is huge and really helps. It takes away those nerves, too. So I was calm. I was poised. Preparation-wise, it felt like a high school game.”

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Trimble finds a quiet space and does deep breathing exercises while closing his eyes. He goes through steps in his mind about how to envision success. Trimble “activates” his mind about what he’s about to go through.

Trimble says his biggest adjustment from high school to college, besides the conditioning aspect, has been getting comfortable.

“I think that was a huge part, trusting the flow of the game,” Trimble said. “I think when I first got here, maybe I was trying to play at one pace or maybe I was not trusting the flow. But once you get comfortable, you settle down, you play at your pace. I think playing at a pace is huge. You try and play at any other pace and somebody else’s pace, it never really works out well. So I think just the stress and the flow of it was my biggest adjustment.”

Trimble knows he’s joining a team full of talent, considering that four starters return from last season’s Final Four, so he’s just trying to find his role in the system.

“When you come to such a high-level school was other high-level teammates, you want to do your best to play with them and fit in with them,” Trimble said. “How I approach it, I try my best to make them better. And I think just finding my role for the first couple of weeks for some months was a bit of a challenge, but I think it was just finding it and going with it.”

Unlike the freshman situations for White, Cole Anthony, RJ Davis and Caleb Love, Trimble has the luxury of experienced older point guards to lean on and help him with his craft. He said he continuously looks up to Davis and Love.

“You’ve seen their recent success, and I’ve seen them continue to get better every single day on and off as a person,” Trimble said. “They’ve been huge role models for me.”

He should also be able to help reduce the number of minutes they have to play this season.

Opposing point guards may not be all that happy when they realize the sort of defender they will face. But, after quiet moments before each game, Trimble undoubtedly will come off the bench with plenty of energy.

DateMonth/dayTime/scoreOpponent/event
(current ranking)
LocationRecord
October
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
November
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
Portland5–1
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
Consolation:
No. 1 Alabama
Portland5–2
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
December
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
January
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
February
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
March
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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