You’re a college senior, a basketball standout, and you’re nearing the beginning of what will be your final season at school.
One night at approximately 3 a.m., you smell something burning. Your roommate has a little brother who loves to cook. So you figure, he’s probably just messing around in the kitchen burning stuff again.
Nah, this time, you have a fire in your apartment.
That’s what happened to Long Island Nets swingman Trahson Burrell over one year ago (along with former roommate and current Tiger guard Markel Crawford).
At the time, Lt. Wayne Cooke of the Memphis Fire Department estimated the damage at $40,000 to the structure, and another $10,000 for contents, putting the total at $50,000 as a result.
Translation, as Burrell, 24, told Netsdaily this week, ‘we lost everything.’
“We had an electrical fire like in the wiring or something – I don’t know, something just told me to wake up,” Burrell said. “I woke up and smelled something burning – we had a full blown fire in our kitchen. We had to stay in the hotel for like two or three weeks. I don’t want to say I’ve been through worst, but I’ve been through tough situations – not having stuff as a kid and things like that. It was more of a wakeup call…a ‘help me grind’ type of thing.”
“The good people down at the University of Memphis, they set up a GoFundMe for us and they got all of our stuff back and stuff like that,” a thankful Burrell continued, outlining the community assist for his eventual bounce back. “We lost everything…everything, bro…It definitely was a life changing experience, I’ve never been through a fire like that, so that’s kind of crazy.”
Fast forward to today.
That alarming blaze and other obstacles that wandered into Burrell’s life, he wears it, owns it. It’s molded the man you see. He’s been the surprise of the Long Island Nets season, averaging 13.7 points, a team leading 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 steals in 31.3 minutes per game for the D Leaguers. Is there a possible future beyond the developmental stage? He’s overcome more.
“I’ve been through a lot of things, bouncing around schools, had a hard time graduating high school, I think that made me who I am today,” Burrell said. “I think that’s why I’m so emotional when it comes to this, man…that’s one thing I said I need to work on with my character ... controlling my emotions. I try to do right. You know everybody tries to do right but we slip up sometimes. I try to lead in the right example all day every day. I give my all…everybody loves to win, so when we’re down it kills me inside…I try to do whatever to win.”
The phrase ‘Brooklyn Grit’ transcends beyond the NBA level in the Nets organization. It’s a slogan, a culture, that has worked its way down to the L.I. Nets, and throughout the organization as a whole.
So much so that Burrell, along with others on the L.I. Nets roster, are regularly at each other’s throats in competitive and lengthy scrimmages at the end of practice, like the one we witnessed this past Tuesday. It was like your typical afternoon at a New York City basketball court with all the scrappiness, desire and healthy jaw jackin’ one can imagine.
As Long Island head coach Ronald Nored tells it, the 6’7” Burrell is the man you want on your side when in one of those battles —or in any— for that matter.
“If there’s one guy you want in your corner on our team it’s him because he fights for what he believes in,” Nored said of Burrell. “He’s the one that gives us energy just by his effort defensively, offensive rebounding, in transition and things like that. He definitely has this infectious personality on the court and off the court.”
Nored described Burrell’s personality as “uplifting,” and as someone who “everyone needs in their locker room.” Burrell, affectionately and simply referred to as “TB,” has that uncanny nature about him, one that spreads throughout the L.I. crew from his game on the court, to his jokes off the court, to his use of his signature word everywhere.
“The funny story on TB is he says ‘bro’ before and after everything he says, like a ‘bro sandwich,’ coach Nored said with a laugh. “Because he says it, his personality and the way he affects other people, everyone on our team says ‘bro,’ all the time. He’s got a great personality, he’s fun to be around…he’s so real to the point that it’s funny. He’ll just be so real that it’s like ‘wow, he’s really the only one that would have the guts to say that,’ coach said before unleashing a wide-eyed smile. “And it’s funny, because he says it. He’s a great guy, we’re fortunate to have him.”
Taken in the second round of the 2016 D League draft, he has enjoyed himself to the fullest when the team wins, like their 110-103 earlier this week. Burrell recorded 16 points, 13 rebounds and dished out five assists. It was Burrell’s third straight double-double, fifth of the last six games, and eighth of the season. He’s had games of 24 and 15; 19 and 11; 14 and 15.
Here’s some video on two of them...
Burrell is a big fan of the unique relationship between the parent club and D-League team. The Brooklyn and L.I. Nets currently share, well, just about everything.
“In a way it kinds of makes you feel like you’re there already, like we’re just Long Island and they’re Brooklyn,” Burrell said. “We practice in the same place, play in the same place, we get to use the same hot tubs, the same tables – you feel like you’re there already, but you know you’re not really there so you have to work harder than them.”
Prior to joining the Nets organization, the Albany, New York product had a two-year run at Memphis where he averaged 9.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 23.9 minutes per game in 63 appearances (20 starts). The freakishly athletic guard/forward arrived at the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll after playing two seasons at Lee College in Texas, where he was a top junior college prospect, posting averages of 20.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.9 steals in 48 games over two seasons.
“One of the reasons we really liked him in the draft was because of his effort and energy that he played with,” coach Nored said of TB. “His production hasn’t really been a surprise to us because we knew how hard he played coming in. I think the things that have surprised us, number one, his growth in passing, and then his ability to shoot the ball. His (shooting) numbers aren’t great (50 percent overall, 30 percent from three) but he’s shot the ball pretty good, he’s sort of added that to his game.”
As far as his hoop dreams of playing professionally go, Burrell is closer than most, and helping his case on a literal daily basis, but both coach Nored and Burrell are in agreement that, while a call-up to Brooklyn would be nice, Burrell’s focus is on Long Island and developing his game prior to taking that next step.
“I think there’s still some growth that he needs to have – like he could guard anybody, there are times where he takes himself out of position because he knows he can guard anyone, and he may go for a play that guys could take advantage of if you make the wrong decision,” coach Nored said. “I think the sky’s the limit for TB. He’s got a great foundation, we’ve just got to continue to build it and build it and see where it goes from there.”
“That’s my goal (the next level), but as of right now I’m here and focused on winning with the Long Island Nets,” Burrell added. “If it happens, then it happens. That’s my goal; everybody here aspires to play in the NBA but while I’m here I’m focused on what I’ve got to do here.”
Then, again, anything can happen, bro.
You can follow Burrell and the Long Island Nets as they’ll take on the Westchester Knicks in their next contest on Monday, December 26 against the rival Westchester Knicks. The game is open to the public.