Though a Pitt fan at heart, coach Greg Donahue is okay with the fact that he's going to be watching a lot more Penn State in the near future.
The head coach of 19 years at Community School of Naples (Naples, Fl.), who is originally from the Pittsburgh area, has been overseeing the development of the latest Penn State basketball commitment, Trent Buttrick, for the past two years. We spoke with Coach Donahue about the stretch-four's future with Pat Chambers' team, what his strengths and weaknesses are, his development, his on-court demeanor and so much more. Thank you to Coach Donahue for taking time out of his day to speak with Roar Lions Roar.
Roar Lions Roar: What are Trent's strengths as a player?
Coach Donahue: "For someone his size, if he can get a guy to reach on defense at all, he's got a really good crossover and he can get by those guys. In transition, if you can get him with a head of steam by about the three point line, he's going to score or get fouled. He's really good in transition. His mid-range and his pull-up is really good. I would say he's not a back to the basket post up guy. He does do that some when we need him to, because he's a lot bigger than some of the guys, but he'd rather turn and face the basket.
Defensively, he does a great job for us clogging up the lane. He used to go for more shot blocks - he had more last year - but it would take him off the court and out of position. So we told him this year we want him to just wall up and challenge, hold your ground and get the rebound, so he's been great. Defensively, he guards anywhere from a 1 to a 5, we switch every ball screen, so he has to guard everybody. Which is unbelievable at his size, and it works really well for us."
RLR: Where are the areas in which he can still grow?
Donahue: "He's improved more than any player I've had in my 19 years. I think he's going to keep improving in every area. I think maybe taking less dribbles, and just deciding to rip and go would be one, because you're not going to get that many dribbles in college. It's one or two and then you better have done something with it. He might want to cut down on some turnovers, as well."
RLR: Where has be grown most in the past 2 years, physically and skill-wise?
Donahue: "Physically, his weight. He came to us at like 185, and he's up to 215. He's been in the weight room a ton.
Skill-wise, I'd say it's more mentality-wise. He came to us as an AAU player, and we stress fundamentals every day. Our program's usually top-10 in the state, we're 22-5 this year and top-ten again. He didn't understand more of a team basketball game. Now he really understands scoring in the flow and playing in the flow of a game...boxing out, now every time a shot goes up he finds a body instead of just looking for the ball. At the next level, he's not just going to be bigger than everyone and be able to go get it. So he does a really good job of finding the body and then going to get the ball."
He's improved more than any player I've had in my 19 years.
RLR: Does he get the chance to face competition at his height and skill level?
Donahue: "I scheduled a team called Sagemont down here. They have four D-I kids and their best player, Tyler Polley, is going to Connecticut. He's about a 6'8 wing, so it was perfect. I told him, 'Trent, you have this kid.' In the first quarter, we were up 8 points on them, and they were having trouble stopping Trent and our team. Then they went into this Syracuse-style extended zone, and Trent guarded him all game with no problem. We switched on everybody else.
That coach then called up five different college coaches that he knew [to discuss Buttrick], and they started recruiting him. He said 'Hey, that kid can play. You're just in Naples, nobody knows about him, where's he going? I'm gonna call some people.' I forget all the coaches he called, but there were like five of them that then started calling and looking at his tape and wanting to come see him.
In our district, we have a seven footer that he plays against. When he faces the bigger kids, they can't handle his quickness, and the smaller kids he just shoots over them or sticks them in the hoop.
RLR: Have you ever seen a recruitment play out this quickly?
Donahue: "I had one kid who was a D-I player who wanted to sign right away, so I called Rollins down here...they gave him a scholarship without ever even seeing him. Other than that, I've never seen something as quick as this for a high D-I team."
RLR: Did you talk much with Penn State's coaches before Trent's commitment?
Donahue: "Coach Anderson told me he wanted to come down and see Trent and see some highlights of him. That's how impressive he is. He's one of those kids who's not going to be rated, and he'll just come out of nowhere and coaches will ask where this kid came from. He's going to have a nice chip on his shoulder and he'll keep outworking everybody."
RLR: Did he talk with you about Penn State? Did you know it was his dream school?
Donahue: "We talked about it extensively. He told me, 'Look, that's my dream school. My brothers are from up there, if I could get there, that would be fantastic.' I knew that if he got that offer, he was pretty much going to take it.
He took a gamble on himself. He had some offers at the beginning of the season like The Citadel and Air Force. And I told him, 'Man, you wait, and suddenly these scholarship offers are gone.' So he said he'd bet on himself having a good season and that the right people would see him. And I told him 'Okay, God bless you man, good for you.' He bet on himself and won. That's impressive for a high school kid."
I knew that if he got that offer, he was pretty much going to take it.
RLR: What was the process like to get him to your school? Was it a tough sell?
Donahue: "They had visited before. I know Coach [Bryan Hudson, Buttrick's cousin] had played some basketball with him before, I know he's got five older brothers that all played. He told me 'Hey, he's not really getting it at his high school. He's not getting any coaching, his AAU team is terrible and he's not developing at all. They think it might be best if he's down here in our program.' I said yeah, 6'8 kid? I'm available."
RLR: Have you heard anything more from the Penn State coaches since his commtiment?
Donahue: "No, I talked to Coach Anderson...[he was] congratulating me and talking about when Signing Day is and all that. I talked to Coach Chambers for a good while about Trent. He mainly asked more character questions which is great; Trent's a high character kid so it was easy. They came three times to see him in total.
I was very impressed with them. They were in constant contact with me about his grades, and how he played in his games, and how does he do in this situation and this situation. They were very thorough."
RLR: Trent is an unbelievably polite and humble kid off the court, but what is his demeanor like when he gets into a game situation?
Donahue: "I would say the kindness and humbleness goes away. He's not like that on the court. I would say he has a respect for everybody, but he thinks and acts and plays like he's the best player out there, and you really shouldn't be on the court with him. He goes after their best player right away to let them know that he's the better player. And he has no problem mixing it up. He does not shy away from any physicality. He'll initiate it, he's not backing down for anybody."