Not long after helping St. Augustine win its first state basketball title, junior Trey Kell (right) was offered a scholarship by San Diego State coach Steve Fisher.
The evening crowd at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic — jampacked into the bleachers with scouts, fans and players — awaits the National Division championship match between St. Augustine and Sacramento Sheldon.
During warm-ups, Saints guard Trey Kell feels a nudge on the shoulder.
“Look,” a teammate says while pointing upward at a gentleman with pepper-colored hair wearing glasses and sweats.
Perched in the stands above the basketball court is Steve Fisher, who is attending to business. The San Diego State coach is peering at the future of Aztecs basketball — Sheldon guards Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams — while simultaneously evaluating another potential addition, Kell.
“Mixed emotions,” recalled Kell, who received a scholarship offer from San Diego State last week.
“I was nervous because it was the coach of one of my favorite schools watching two of his players and me, a player he is interested in, and excited because this was an opportunity to show him what I am capable of doing on the basketball court against a great team.”
The scoreboard blares. The game is over.
A dejected Kell isolates himself on the bench, questioning his 10-point performance and the 64-47 rout by Sheldon.
“He was disgusted with himself, wouldn’t talk to anyone,” said Marshawn Cherry, Kell’s San Diego All-Stars travel basketball coach. “He felt he let his teammates down in the most important game of the tournament.”
Worse, an opportunity slipped from his grip.
“I felt like I had one of the worst games of my life,” Kell said.
“It seemed like nothing was falling for me the entire game. I turned the ball over continuously.”
A distant memory, now. Especially after March.
“It was probably one of the best months of my life,” Kell said.
It began with a San Diego Section Division III championship at Viejas Arena. Followed with a 30-point, 11-rebound performance — including three game-tying free throws with 2.9 seconds left to force overtime — that sealed St. Augustine’s state championship. And culminated with a scholarship offer.
During an unofficial visit at San Diego State, mere days after the Saints captured the first state basketball title in the 91-year history of the program, Kell said Fisher pulled the trigger and offered him a scholarship.
In addition to SDSU, Kell has offers from USD, UC Davis and UC Irvine.
“I’m proud of our guys and Trey for a lot of reasons,” Saints coach Mike Haupt said. “Any time a young man has an opportunity to play at a high level, after he leaves here, it’s exciting and I’m proud of that.”
The match against Sheldon was the turning point for Kell.
“He was in the gym at 7 a.m. the very next morning putting up shots, hitting the weight room and improving every facet of his game,” Cherry said.
Kell wanted to grow from the experience instead of dwelling on the negative.
“I could either let my performance in the championship game against Sheldon diminish my confidence moving forward or work to elevate my game to the next level,” Kell said. “I chose to use it as a motivator.”
The San Carlos resident capped the season averaging 19.8 points per game, earning him All-San Diego Section honors.
Travel ball consumes his time now. Kell and the All-Stars participated in the Pangos Showcase in Cerritos this past weekend. Scouts attended.
“Universities, specifically some Pac 12 schools, interested in him want to see that he can play man-to-man defense, locking up his guy, keeping him in a bubble for five seconds without letting them get to the rack,” Cherry said.
“They also want to see him continue to show his shooting touch and his ability to get to the basket while finishing in traffic with authority.”
His decision and options remain open. A commitment is expected to come after the summer.
“I had three other offers from great schools as well when I received my offer from San Diego State so I wanted to sit down with my family and discuss the pros and cons of each school before making a decision,” Kell said.
“I’ll let things play out this summer, see what happens and make a decision with my family then.”