At 7 feet tall and 230 pounds, one of his size-17 sneakers is more than enough to fill the deck of his Razor scooter. Trever Irish has as good of a reason as any to zip past others while zooming across campus.
Traveling from his Parkside College Dormitory room to classes on upper campus and practice at the Walter Pyramid, the Long Beach State sophomore center has smoothly transitioned to his new home—a process he’s been accustomed to after growing up in foster care.
“Initially when I got picked up, I was in second grade,” Irish said. “I thought it was one of my sisters, and then it was some random lady. She was a social worker, so I was really confused. I was 7 years old, so I didn’t know all the details.”
Moving around and not being home became the norm for the Lewiston, Maine, native, but other aspects of the living arrangement were tougher to adjust to.
“One of the difficult parts was having to explain why I don’t live with my family,” Irish said. “Like, ‘I live with people that I don’t call mom or dad.’ That was until I was in eighth grade, so it was other kids I have to explain that to.”
After completing middle school, Irish left the foster system in the New England area to attend Valley Prep Academy in Arizona. However, changing area codes and scenery would be the least of Irish’s new growing pains.
Prior to his freshman year of prep school, Irish grew from 6-foot to 6 foot 5 inches tall over the summer, only noticing after his doctor showed him his growth chart.
“There was a senior when I was a freshman who was like, ‘All the freshmen are getting smaller,’ and he was like [5 foot 7 inches],” Irish said. “I was standing behind him and one of his friends tapped on his shoulder and pointed and he was like ‘Oh crap.’ Throughout all of high school, I was the tallest kid.”
From the ages of 11 to 17, Irish’s shoe size increased annually. From 14 years old onward, it was “ridiculous to find shoes,” and he had to take out the insoles of smaller pairs to make them fit.
By the time he was a senior at Valley Prep, Irish stood nearly 7 feet tall before his growth spurt began to slow. Finally able to adapt to his center of gravity and understand the factors that change with a growing body, Irish played his first year of organized basketball.
As a raw prospect, Irish showed flashes of the skill and toughness required to play at the collegiate level. Despite receiving minimal scouting, in part due to being an academic risk, Irish was offered to play at the junior college level by a teacher at his high school who was also an assistant coach at the neighboring Central Arizona College.
As a freshman for the Vaqueros, Irish impressed scouts while averaging nearly a double-double with 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and over two blocks in 30 games.
“The best thing that I said to Trev’ when I first saw him was his ability to run up and down the floor,” Long Beach State assistant coach Senque Carey said. “The game that I saw him play, he didn’t score that many points, but he had 16 rebounds which was all I needed to see at the time.”
Shortly after verbally committing to be the Beach’s first 7-footer since Mike Vantrimpont in the 2011-12 season, Irish’s career appeared to take a downswing. With Long Beach’s coaching staff’s approval, he decided to redshirt and return for one more year at Central Arizona, but was only able to play in three games before missing the rest of the season with a back injury.
This past summer, Irish’s initial arrival at the Beach threatened to extend his year-long absence from basketball.
“Trever’s biggest issue is that he has not played in two years,” head coach Dan Monson said before the start of the season. “He did not play because of a bad back all last season. Then this summer with Costa Rica, he was still in summer school, and as soon as he got here he pulled a hamstring. We gotta get Trever healthy and then up to speed.”
Irish said he’s learned to “control the controllables,” and be patient after his new coaches redemonstrated their trust in him and his road to recovery.
“You only have a small percentage of your life to play basketball,” Irish said, “so I want to get the most out of it, especially at a high collegiate level. Honestly, I could have gone and made it worse and still be out now or not even be able to play anymore. It tested my patience, but at the same time it made me realize there’s more.”
Staying committed in practices on the sideline with non-contact drills, stationary bicycles and more during the rest of the offseason, Irish has worked his way into playing in all nine games for the Beach thus far.
“Big-time work ethic,” Carey said of Irish. “[He] wants to be the best he can. He’s a perfectionist. His best basketball is ahead of him. He’s only been playing organized ball three years, so I just try to get him in a comfortable zone to allow him to play his skill level, get him to be more aggressive, get him to play more speed of the game, but it’s coming.”
Off the court, Irish’s newfound love for UFC and friendly suitemates have helped his transition in class and around campus as a consumer affairs major and first-time dorm resident.
“If you’re hungry or something, they’ll be like, ‘Hey, I got food,’” Irish said. “It works with everyone. They’re not just like, ‘We gotta kiss up to a basketball player.’ No, they’re like that with everybody. They’re pretty cool. Shoutout Q Building.”