LAS VEGAS – Before every Arizona basketball game in Tucson, a pregame hype video plays on the McKale Center scoreboard. Former stars that once donned the navy blue and cardinal red come on the screen. One by one, they read off the program’s accomplishments.
“Eleven Elite Eights,” former Arizona guard and current Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon says.
Los Angeles Lakers coach and former Wildcat Luke Walton follows: “Four Final Fours.”
“One national championship,” Golden State Warriors coach, and former Arizona guard, Steve Kerr says.
Just a few weeks ago, former Arizona guards Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins each thought they were going to boost the first number of each of those videos: NBA draft picks.
Alkins was a second-round mainstay in most mock drafts and although many didn’t expect to hear Trier’s name called on draft night, his phone did in fact ring.
After they hosted him for a pre-draft workout, the New York Knicks had interest in him, Trier knew. Following that, the two parties remained in touch through draft night. There, he thought the Knicks were going to take him with pick No. 36. Instead, they opted for size and took center Mitchell Robinson.
But the former Arizona guard still had his mind set on the Big Apple, valuing the fit the Knicks offered over the achievement of being drafted.
“I had a chance to be picked from about 41 and on and they were all places that I didn’t think were great fits so I turned down pretty much everybody after that and decided that we were going to go with the Knicks because it was the best fit for me in the first place,” Trier said.
Alkins wasn’t able to exactly hand-pick his destination in the same respect. The projections that had him hovering around the mid-40s were wrong. Instead, he was thrown to the wolves that is undrafted free agency.
He signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Toronto Raptors, which in essence is just a training camp invite with possible contract incentives if he makes the team or gets a two-way contact. Not exactly his ideal situation.
“I guess you could say it’s a humbling experience,” Alkins said. “You know I really didn’t expect that but when it happened, it was onto the next step. You can’t really think about it throughout the process, you have to just keep moving forward.”
For Alkins and Trier, an NBA roster is not guaranteed. But at summer league last week, they had the chance to compete against NBA players in an NBA setting — making a first impression on their respective organizations.
Trier averaged 17 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Knicks’ four games, excelling alongside fellow rookie Kevin Knox. Those figures closely rival the 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard’s stats at Arizona, and he believes the NBA game suits him better.
“How much space there is,” Trier said when asked what the biggest change is from college. “It fits my game a lot better, allows me to have more room to operate. Also, the probably biggest change is the more physical it lets you be, on cutting and things like that, where in college it’s more freedom of movement”
Alkins, who averaged nine points and 4.7 rebounds in the Raptors’ six summer league games, feels the only difference between the NBA and college is the level of competition. Instead of trying to drive against an 18-year-old, he’s getting bodied up by guys with multiple years of professional experience.
But Alkins demeanor is admirable. His goal isn’t to try and make the Hall of Fame with his summer league performance, it’s to show what he can do, learn and live with the results.
“Expectations lead to disappointments,” he said. “So for me, I’m just going to stay even-keeled — never get too high, never get too low.”
When the Raptors called him on draft night, they told him the story of their guard Fred Van Vleet. After going undrafted in 2017, he led the Raptors in summer league scoring, averaging over 18 points a game, eventually signing a two-year, $18 million contract with the team just before this year’s summer league.
Alkins said Toronto looks at him like Van Vleet. Maybe the comparison is valid but regardless, the Raptors both gave them one thing: an opportunity.
Alkins and Trier still keep in constant contact. The text and exchange highlight videos with one another through a group chat many of their former Arizona teammates. But Alkins quickly dismissed the notion that his situation was subdued because his former teammate was going through the same thing.
“I never want to wish that upon any teammate,” he said.