Undrafted isn’t just a word, it’s a status that fuels the intensity and the brilliantly controlled rage of Allonzo Trier of the New York Knicks. During a summer where No. 9 pick Kevin Knox and second-round pick Mitchell Robinson seemed to get all the hype among the Knicks’ incoming rookies, Trier is showing that he’s the diamond in the rough.
Trier’s no-nonsense rugged style of play is something of a throwback to the ’90s. Just three games into his career, it might be premature to make any statement, but the 6-5 guard started to be revered by the fans with a passion that hasn’t been seen since John Starks wore a Knicks uniform, coincidentally another undrafted underdog.
“Going undrafted didn’t really change me. If I were drafted I would still be the same type of player, it doesn’t matter to me. I love the game and I love to compete at a high level,” says Trier, “I put a lot of time into my craft so I want to do great regardless. I always felt like I belong to be a part of this league, and I’m happy to be a part of this team.”
In Trier’s case, the talent was there in front of NBA evaluators, but many scouts were scared off of the Arizona product because of his positive test for a banned substance unknowingly given to him during his recovery from a car accident.
“I’m sure the suspension played a part with me not being drafted. I interviewed with several teams during the predraft process and they understand the situation. It was very clear what was going on” says Trier.
Not being selected in the draft can kill players self confidence, and it can affect the way they play in the proving grounds of the Summer League and during camp—that is, if they get an invite. Trier didn’t let draft disappointment modify his mindset when it came to basketball; it just put him in beast mode and made the passion that he plays with burn even hotter. His renewed focus and hard work paid off, earning him a two-way contract (a player can only spend a maximum 45 days with the NBA team and the rest with the G League affiliate).
Setbacks like this reveal a lot about a person’s character, and Trier has not only displayed that he deserved to be drafted but he can also hang with the best that the League has to offer. In his first week of NBA action, he has been matched up against the likes of Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, and fellow rookie Trae Young. Even in a substitute role, with a contract that will mean his Cinderella story will expire, Trier is showing the Knicks—and the rest of the League—that he has what it takes to stick in the NBA.
“I’m such a fan of the game; I love to go out and just compete, I love to watch different guys around the League and see how they’re playing, looking at things that I like about their game. I like to access things that I do similar and things that I can add,” says Trier. “I’m a fan of the game, period.”
Much like old-school NBA shooting guards and current dominant scoring guards in the mode of Russell Westbrook and Irving, a big part of Trier’s game is beating his man off the dribble en route to making things happen, earning him the nickname “Iso Zo.”
“I’m aggressive, I like to make plays with the basketball in my hand. I like to create for myself and my teammates, I’m a guy that plays really hard with a lot of energy and I’m the ultimate competitor.”
Trier has also gained the admiration of NBA legend Rod Strickland who played for the Knicks during the early ’90s and is coincidentally the godfather of Irving.
“He’s a very good player. At Arizona, he was able to get his own shot. In the NBA you always want a guy that can create his own offense. Currently, he’s forcing management to make a decision on his contract because he’s been playing well despite being on a two-way contract”, says Strickland. “It’s a possibility that he can be a consistent starter in the League, but it’s a long haul in the NBA and over the course of time he might not get the opportunity to start right away, but if he puts in the work it’ll pay off in the long run.”
Like many rookies, the adjustment to the NBA can be rough, which is why veteran presence in the locker room is important to guys like Trier. Battle-hardened guys like Lance Thomas knows what it’s like to fight through camp to secure a spot and eventually a role on a team. Like Trier, Thomas has clawed for his roster spot, having had brief stints in New Orleans, Oklahoma and even China, before finding a home in New York and is gracious in his role in serving as a mentor to Trier.
“Lance just told me things about staying with my routine and seeing that I follow it daily, taking care of my body off the court. He has taught me to be the first person in the gym working out and working out after practice. He’s showing me through his example that doing little things like that is the key to success in this league,” says Trier.
“He’s a young guy in this league, and I’m just trying to pass down the things that were taught to me when I first entered the League,” Thomas says.
For any young team in the NBA coming together as one and developing chemistry is one of the main proponent’s for long-term success. The Knicks are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and developing a framework to set up long standing prosperity is something that new head coach David Fizdale has been preaching from day one, a message that has not been lost on Trier.
“I just want our team to improve and get better. We have a relatively new team, we’re trying to come together. For the time we’ve been together, I think we’ve developed a good chemistry, but over time we’ll continue to get better, compete and win every single game that’s out in front of us.”
It doesn’t matter the role, whether if it’s a starter or off the bench Trier brings the same intensity like its Game 7 of The NBA Finals. That is something you can’t teach to young players, it’s ingrained into them early into their development. Trier impact on the game is something that he learned from players that came before him. Thus far some of his most exciting moments has been scoring 20 points in the first half of a preseason game against The Nets, and a hair-raising dunk against The Hawks on opening night.
“That dunk against The Hawks felt good and amazing. Madison Square Garden is amazing, and for me to have a play to bring the fans back into the game was exciting,” Trier says.
Going undrafted is something that his former teammate at Arizona, close friend, and current Chicago Bulls guard, Rawle Alkins is currently going through. Like Trier, Alkins is on a two-way contract and fighting to make a name for himself in the NBA. They both possess the same brute mind frame when it comes to basketball.
“One piece of advice I would give Rawle since we’re both in the same boat is continuing to work hard locked in and staying on the right path,” offers Trier. “Everything will line up when it’s supposed to, and just keep going and keep trying to knock down that door, everything will work out.”
Trier is clearly heeding his own advice.