Where do you start with Trevon Bluiett and his impact on the Xavier program?
You could start at the very beginning. He was a UCLA commit and a consensus top 40 player when he decided he wanted to play closer to his Indiana home. Xavier swooped in an beat regional powers Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan as well as hometown team Butler to Bluiett’s signature. It looked like a coup then and even more so now.
You could talk about how quickly it blossomed from there: Trevon dropped 18 on 6-8 shooting in his collegiate debut, albeit against Northern Arizona at home. His first two top 60 opponents came later in his first month; he fed them 35 points in 58 minutes, shooting 13-20/7-10/3-4 in the process.
Tre was one of the most important players on the team the moment he stepped on campus. After that first season, though, he moved to being the unquestioned lynchpin of the roster. In terms of raw usage, nobody else was being allowed to gobble down possessions at the clip that Tre was. In return, he gave the team 15.9 PPG on his career on an EFG% of 52.7%.
You could talk about what went into making Tre so effective. You’d have to start with a combination of his borderline obscene footwork and blindingly quick release that made him a threat to shoot almost literally as soon as he touched the ball. Teams tried to deny him the catch because you couldn’t be close enough to him to keep him from getting a shot off once the ball was in his hands. His stroke and Xavier’s offensive actions were a match made in heaven.
Further complicating the issue for opponents was his in-the-gym range. Tre somehow played like a guy for whom the three point arc simultaneously was 25 feet from the rim and also didn’t exist. He’d dribble into rhythm jumpers from 20’6” just as shamelessly as he would shoot a layup or sprint to a spot 28’ out on a fast break. He only had eyes for the bucket, and the results he got more often than not validated his process.
No conversation about Tre is complete without touching on his swagger. He had it in bushels. He walked into the gym with a certain business-like calm to him, but when it came to game time, he was all about that action. JP may have gotten plenty of press as the ultimate antagonist, but Tre wasn’t afraid to tell you about it, either. When the jumpers started splashing, suddenly he was walking them off with three fingers in the air, or backpedaling down the court with his tongue wagging, or staring down the Wisconsin student section before shushing the entire gym.
All this came together into one of the most remarkable careers Xavier basketball has ever witnessed. He poured home 2,261 points, more than anyone other than Byron Larkin in Xavier history. He made 319 threes, more than anyone else who has ever appeared for the program. He went 3-1 in the Shootout, dropping 40 as he dragged his team to victory in his only loss.
Past all the obvious talents and production that endeared Trevon to the Xavier faithful over the past four years is the seldom-mentioned fact that Tre was an absolute warrior. I can’t prove it because detailed records are difficult to come by, but I’m fairly confident in saying that Tre played more career minutes than anyone in the history of the program. Chris Mack threw a saddle on him in November of 2014, and it never came off.
For a guy whose game depended on having the legs to hit long jumpers, carrying such a huge burden of minutes was a brutal ask, but Tre never made excuses in the media. When his production faded down the stretch as a freshman, he doubled down on his conditioning, changing the shape of his body over the course of his career to better handle the challenges of playing most of every game. Through it all, he only missed two games through injury in his entire career.
Never was Tre mental toughness more on display than down the stretch of his junior year. With the team reeling after Ed Sumner’s season-ending knee injury, Trevon went down with a badly injured ankle on February 11th against Nova. Robbed of their two most talented offensive players, Xavier lost the Nova game, then lost two more with Trevon out.
Tre came back at Seton Hall, visibly bothered by the ankle. He played 38 minutes that game and 77 more in the next two, averaging almost 17 a game as Xavier continued to lose while Tre did his best to find his footing. A season that had looked incredibly promising was suddenly on the precipice of the NIT.
Road and then neutral victories against DePaul put Xavier up against Butler in the Big East tournament, needing a win to put themselves into the NCAA tournament. Tre battled the whole game, sometimes visibly limping on his bad ankle. With 20 seconds left, Tre already had 21, but the game was tied and Xavier needed one more moment of magic from him.
High on the left point at Madison Square Garden, guarded by Andrew Chrabascz, with Gus Johnson on the call, Tre put it all on display. “They want it in his hands...” Tre took a half jab step left to open up room for a hard dribble to his right. “Bluiett, drives...” Tre got a bounce past the elbow with his defender draped on him like a bad suit. “Stops, fades...” There’s that footwork. Chrabascz, intent on beating Tre to cut off his angle to the rim was suddenly alone; a quick gather dribble from Trevon accompanied by a resetting of his feet had him in a window of space at the elbow.
It wasn’t much room; Chrabascz recovered quickly and Kelan Martin - perhaps sensing that Tre wasn’t kicking this one out, had closed out hard as Tre stepped back. “PURE!” It didn’t matter. Bluiett’s lightning release had the ball out of his hands just before both Butler players collapsed all over him. By the time their feet hit the ground, Trevon had broken the game’s final tie and sent Xavier to the NCAA tournament.
That March belonged to Trevon. He hit 5 threes and dropped 21 on 6 seed Maryland to advance out of the first round. He went 8-14/3-5/10-14 against a heavily-favored Florida State team to put Xavier in the second weekend. He dropped 25/2/2 on Arizona in the Sweet 16, capping a virtuoso performance with one of the biggest assists in Xavier history to give the team a win over its former coach and send the Muskies to the Elite 8.
When the machine finally ran out of steam, Tre still summoned 10 and 7 against a Gonzaga team that finished #1 in the KenPom and dispatched X on the brink of the Final Four. When Tre walked off the court for the last time that year - and when he walked off the court for the last time ever as a Muskie just three weeks ago - he did so having poured out every last iota of strength, energy, and will for the good of the team. It was his ability to score the ball from all over that made him a huge part of the team’s success over the past four years; it was his warrior’s heart that made him a Xavier legend.