Rutgers Prep (N.J.) star forward Trey Patterson had an assignment to assume a leadership role in his junior season.
He could hold a gym at attention with his highlight plays and dunks, but the Somerset County Tournament Finals proved that Patterson could also command a team through his play. Rutgers Prep entered with a 24-1 record, while Watchung Hills (N.J.) sported a 22-3 record. There was very little room for error if Rutgers Prep sought to win their first county tournament title in 37 years.
Watchung Hills strategically tried to make Patterson uncomfortable by sending multiple defenders his way throughout the game. The Edison, N.J. native wasn’t fazed by the pressure and contributed in many areas. Patterson only took six shots in his team’s 71-57 victory, as a result of significant defensive attention, but he had a sizable imprint on the outcome. Patterson shot a perfect 6-for-6 to finish with 13 points, also hauling in a team-high 14 rebounds, with three assists and three steals.
“I affect the game in many ways outside of just scoring,” Patterson said. “The scoring was pretty balanced that game. I was just focused on trying to get the win and doing anything that I could to do that, whether it was rebounding, playing defense, (and) blocking shots. The scoring will come. I think I didn’t miss a shot so it was a pretty efficient game.”
Patterson averaged 19.7 points per game last season and could’ve scored more if he tried to shoot his way through Watchung Hills’ pressure. A testament to his leadership, Patterson instead located teammates for better scoring opportunities.
Patterson hoisted the championship trophy beside his teammates, clearing a hurdle that plagued him and Rutgers Prep over the past two seasons—as the Argonauts fell short in previous trips. Rutgers Prep head coach Matt Bloom lauded Patterson’s performance, calling the then-16-year old’s determination to win “phenomenal.”
“He did everything possible to win that game, not necessarily to score,” Bloom, 38, said about Patterson. “To do that as a junior, with another year, it’s unbelievable.”
Rutgers Prep finished with an impressive 27-2 record, falling in the NJSIAA sectional title game to Wildwood Catholic (N.J.), but Patterson has another year to claim the crown.
After guiding the Argonauts throughout the season, and picking up second-team all-state honors, Patterson made his college commitment on June 18 — his 17th birthday.
The four-star, consensus top 50-ranked forward received a bevy of high-major Division I school offers over the course of his high school career and he trimmed his list of prospective schools to Florida, Indiana and Villanova days before making his announcement.
Family, friends and teammates packed the Patterson household in anticipation for his big decision. Courtesy of a live stream from The Front Office, viewers saw basketball themed decorations that complemented the occasion. Accompanying him behind a table with a microphone placed upon it were his parents, Antoine Patterson and Shamona Marable.
Both Antoine and Marable played D-I basketball, respectively attending St. Francis (Pa.) and Seton Hall, and were high school coaches. They’ve been integral people in Trey’s growth as a person and a player.
“They’re my main supporting cast,” Patterson said of his parents. “They’re the ones that introduced me to basketball and they’re the ones that are always pushing me to help me get better in the classroom and on the court.”
They mentioned stories of Trey growing up and sharing their feelings about their son was a heartfelt experience. Bloom and his Team Rio AAU coach, Mike Rice, praised Patterson in their speeches before Patterson’s reveal.
When the moment arrived, Patterson took off his jacket and became the newest addition to Villanova’s roster. Elation spread across Patterson’s face, as his family, friends, coaches, teammates and supporters cheered for him.
Patterson developed a strong rapport with Villanova’s coaching staff prior to his commitment and he focused on two selling points: Villanova’s on-court status and their academics. Patterson earned a 3.8 GPA this past year and sees himself having some role in business when his basketball career concludes. Interestingly enough, Bloom also taught Patterson in history during his sophomore year at Rutgers Prep.
Bloom distinguished how Patterson’s peers perceive Trey while highlighting his player and former student’s gifts off the court.
“They’re looking at him as a really good student in the class who’s going to add value to the conversations, who’s going to do all of his work and then some, and go above and beyond,” Bloom said. “Trey’s going to change the world. He’s not just there to kind of get by. I think that’s what makes him special because it’s real; it’s genuine. He’s intellectually curious and he’s going to do big things.”
The Main Line is Patterson’s next destination in his basketball timeline, which started in fifth grade after he directed his focus towards the game. The No. 1 New Jersey recruit in 2021 alluded to Villanova head coach Jay Wright’s history developing forwards during his commitment video, which included: Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman and Saddiq Bey. Patterson anticipates Wright’s tutelage.
“I’m just fortunate to be a part of his program, to develop my game, develop me as a person as well and to win some more, too,” Patterson said.
Patterson is 6-foot-8 and 214 pounds, with a 6-11 wingspan. His physical profile most resembles Bey’s, but Patterson’s skill set revolves around his two-way versatility. Patterson primarily worked on ball handling, defense and shooting when he performed drills growing up. Those three areas are instrumental for excelling in modern basketball.
Patterson touched on shooting and ball handling when discussing his individual workouts, which are vital for his success, and Patterson felt those were the two areas that he improved the most on from sophomore to junior year.
Patterson can shoot over smaller defenders. He’ll be a nice target for guards that can attract defenders with dribble penetration and teammates who can swing the ball with accuracy. Patterson’s smooth touch in the post and around the basket provided Bloom with another interior presence the coach could rely upon.
Patterson is the offensive focal point, but he’s also a talented pace-pusher after he snags defensive rebounds. He works hard on the glass, raking in 10.1 rebounds per game this past season.
“Yeah, I thrive in that situation,” Patterson said. “I like to get the rebound off the rim, push the fast break, see who’s ahead of me and give it up. If not, just keep it and attack the basket or make a play.”
We could potentially see some coast-to-coast plays from Patterson during his Villanova tenure.
On the defensive end, Patterson also provides Rutgers Prep with versatility. Rutgers Prep likes to switch on pick-and-rolls, and Patterson would switch onto guards. Patterson’s switch-ability fits snugly in Villanova’s switch-happy defense and his athleticism benefits his game both on and off-ball. Combine his talent with his 6-foot-11 wingspan, and we’ll likely see some marvelous plays.
“I think his two best traits that translate to defense are versatility and his motor, which has a lot to do with his body and conditioning and his mindset to keep ‘going and going and going,’” Bloom said. “There was one play, I think it was in the Trenton Catholic State [Tournament] game this year, where he pinned a shot against the backboard and actually grabbed it all in one motion.”
Pinning a shot while on defense sounds reminiscent of whom he idolized growing up, LeBron James.
Patterson is one of the headliners on a talented 2021 recruiting class for the ‘Cats. He will come to Villanova alongside other four-star talents, Nnanna Njoku (Hockessin, Del/Sanford School) and Jordan Longino (Doylestown, Pa./Germantown Academy), as well as three-star guard, Angelo Brizzi (Warrenton, Va./Highland).
Villanova’s 2021 Recruiting Class:— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) July 27, 2020
4-star small forward Trey Patterson
4-star center Nnanna Njoku
4-star shooting guard Jordan Longino
3-star point guard Angelo Brizzi
Wildcats on track to have the best class in the Big East, Top-5 in all of college basketball.
Unfortunately for Patterson and other high school seniors next season, there hasn’t been an AAU slate and the 2020-21 season is in flux due to COVID-19. Zoom strength and conditioning workouts have replaced games. Patterson continues grinding, despite being devoid of team basketball for a prolonged period.
“Right now I’m just focused on still improving my game and getting better and stronger,” Patterson said. “Whatever the future holds with this season, I’m just taking it day by day and hopefully we’ll have a season next year. That’s really how I’m approaching it.”
Patterson only takes “a couple of weeks off” each year to re-energize, devoting significant time towards development. That hustle and motivation for his craft is another puzzle piece in solving why Patterson has become highly successful.
Between his work ethic, both on and off the floor, and leadership, Patterson can immediately benefit Villanova’s culture. Factor in his potential to impact the game on both ends and the Wildcats have a balanced talent in Patterson.