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Undrafted Trey Jemison scratching his way to meaningful minutes with the Summer Suns

The UAB big man had a solid opener in Vegas and brings a physical presence.

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Milwaukee Bucks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Summer League is a chance for young players to get their reps in, to showcase their talents, and to develop their skillset against other competitors attempting to do the same. Iron sharpens iron, as they say. For 23-year old big man Trey Jemison, he is using this opportunity to show the NBA that his size, motor, defensive versatility, and physicality is transferrable to the league.

Jemison is a 7’0” undrafted big from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He played 151 games collegiately, spending two years at Clemson before transferring to his hometown university in 2020. His strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, as the 260-pound center is a magnet for blocks and rebounds.

He can throw it down a little bit, too.

Jemison set the UAB record for most rebounds in a season, snagging 329 boards for the Blazers last season. He’s a two-time All-Conference USA defensive team selection and was named to the All Conference USA Third Team in 2023.

Trey was an vital piece in their run to the 2023 NIT Final, where they lost to North Texas, 68-61. He averaged 10.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in the tournament.

Suns head coach Frank Vogel has noticed the Summer Suns’ starting center. “That guy plays so hard,” Vogel noted. “I’m so impressed with his motor and his rebounding.”

In his Summer League debut, Trey had his fingerprints all over the 84-75 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He played 27 minutes for Phoenix, scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds, and had 2 blocks.

He also had one scratch up with former Pinnacle High School product and University of Arizona point guard Nico Mannion. Literally.

“I was trying to get a jump ball and he said I cut him with my nails,” Jemison told reporters after the game, “but we were just messing around. All love.”

There is plenty of fight in this dog. Trey had a significant knee injury his senior year in 2018 at Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama, which cost him numerous offers at major universities. Clemson and Georgia Tech provided the four-star prospect an opportunity, and he chose Clemson. He put weight on in his freshman season, but didn’t have the opportunity to break out.

He saw the floor with Clemson, but it didn’t transfer to the success Trey desired. He was still battling the return from his knee injury. “Freshman year at Clemson, I should have red-shirted,” Jemison recalled in an interview on the No Ceilings NBA Draft Podcast. “I encouraged coach to let me play which was a young mistake I made. I was never fully healthy. I was never in rhythm”.

He transferred back to his home state of Alabama, where he found the game reps needed to gain his rhythm and timing. With that opportunity, he excelled as a versatile defender, both in drop coverage and on the perimeter.

“Playing for [UAB head basketball coach] Andy Kennedy is a challenge,” Trey explained. “Andy Kennedy changes defenses so quick. 1-3-1, to 2-3, to man-to-man, all in one possession. Doing that for three years, I’ve adapted. I have to guard every body. I can’t just guard the 6’10” kid down in the paint, I have to guard the guards.”

Jemison’s impact comes on the defensive end, and while there isn’t much room on the championship-or-bust Suns, his skillset is transferrable and something that can make an impact in the league.

He’s more than a drop coverage defender. Having two quick and athletic guards at UAB in Eric Gaines and Jordan ‘Jelly’ Walker, Jemison had to sharpen his perimeter defense. “If I sit in drop coverage all day, guys are great shooters.”

We witnessed in the first game of the Vegas Summer League how physical Trey can be. “It’s hard guarding me. Even if I don’t get that ball, I’m pushing on you. I’m banging on you. Now you’re so sore. I might not touch the ball, but you’re having to box me out, you’re having to guard me on that ball screen. Dang, it’s rough.”

We’ll continue to watch Trey Jemison through the Vegas Summer League, noting his timing on defense and his willingness to set screens for his teammates and play physical. He knows his role and embraces it.

“I come from a team where I wasn't the star,” Trey said. “I’m the best role player in college basketball because I'm going to go set every screen, ‘m going to try to get every rebound, I’m going to talk on defense. Same thing for the NBA. I’m going to be a great rebounder, an even better screener, a shot blocker, and just continue to be elite at those things. To be the best role player possible.”

Trey Jemison is the starting center fort he Summer Suns. And he’s a guy we will route for, this summer in Vegas, and beyond.

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