About an hour after the Seattle U men’s basketball team lost to New Mexico State on Feb. 21, there was just one person left in the Redhawk Center.
That was Seattle U point guard Darrion Trammell, firing up shot after shot.
“I felt like I missed a lot of shots that I was supposed to make, and it just didn’t feel right leaving the court like that,” Trammell said.
So away from the spotlight, Trammell went to work.
“That’s why he’s so good. Darrion has always been a worker,” said Seattle U coach Chris Victor. “He loves the game, he loves putting in the time and he works. He will outwork anybody. That is one of the main reasons he has got to where he is.”
The hard work helped make him a first-team All-WAC selection after leading Seattle U to a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship with New Mexico State and Stephen F. Austin.
The Redhawks (23-8, 14-4 WAC) earned the No. 2 seed in the WAC tournament in Las Vegas, giving them byes all the way to the semifinals Friday night, when they will play Abilene Christian, which beat Stephen F. Austin 76-62 in Thursday night’s quarterfinals.
Seattle U has reached 23 wins for the first time since the 1958-59 season, and Trammell has been a big reason for the success. The 5-foot-9 point guard from San Francisco City College is averaging a team-high 16.6 points and 5.1 assists per game, but perhaps just as important is his defense.
Trammell is No. 3 in the nation in steals at 2.6 per game and has often left opposing point guards looking flummoxed with his relentless on-the-ball pressure. Victor was happy that WAC coaches took notice, naming Trammell to the five-player all-WAC defensive team.
“He is the most important player for our defense,” Victor said. “He sets the tone and he’s the tip of the sphere on our defensive side. His performance on defense is very important to our team.”
Trammell said defense has always been a big deal to him.
“It’s very important, especially being my size,” Trammell said. “I feel like I have to do everything well, and defense is pretty much what got me to the next level. And I made sure it was still important to me when I got to the next level.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve had the quickness advantage, and I’ve always felt like if I could dominate someone on the defensive end and the offensive end that I am winning the matchup, and ultimately that can lead to winning the game.”
Trammell said he spends a lot of time watching film of his opponents so he can learn their tendencies and know when to strike with a steal attempt. He said he prefers a steal over a basket or an assist.
“It’s rewarding because I have watched a lot of film, and if I am in the right spot at the right time, and they give me the ball, it just shows that being prepared makes an impact,” Trammell said.
Trammell said he “trusts his instincts and I put myself in good positions.” But he said he takes fewer chances trying to make steals than he did in junior college.
“(Victor) called me a gambler, so I had to reduce my gambles a lot,” he said.
Said Victor: “Darrion is so skilled defensively that he doesn’t have to gamble to make an impact. But I can’t tell him not to gamble at times because he is successful at it.”
As far as guarding players taller than him, which is almost always the case, Trammell said the key is making them uncomfortable.
“I can’t let them be comfortable when they dribble up the court, so I pick them up (defensively) a little earlier and that wears out bigger players,” he said. “So when it gets late, they’re fatigued. I am pressuring them up and down the court and making them pay on defense as well, so I think it takes a toll.”
A celebration ensued after Seattle U defeated Chicago State on Saturday, but Trammell said it didn’t take long for the team to get focused on the task ahead. The Redhawks are just two wins from a WAC tournament title.
The prize for winning that is a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“It was fun (winning Saturday), but you have to recognize we have something bigger on the table,” Trammell said. “You can’t get lost in that moment of having success when we have two goals and we only knocked one down. We have to take ourselves back, get in the gym and start working.”
Trammell said the key to winning the WAC tournament will be the team’s defense.
“We’ve got to make our defense travel (to Las Vegas),” he said. “That’s one thing we can hang our hats on, and it’s what we can control. Just take care of that — our defense — and everything will take care of itself. We’ve put in the work, so we’ve just got to trust that.”