Dan Trist: a Leopard running wild in Spain

Dan Trist might not be the first name on the lips of Aussie hoop fans, however it's about time we stopped sleeping on the man from Wahroonga, NSW.

In speaking with The Pick and Roll, Dan explained that he was no different from any other young Australian kid growing up. He played every sport that he could, but when the choice had to be made, there was only ever going to be one answer.

"Seriously there was only basketball, but as with pretty much every kid growing up in Australia it's a little bit of everything," shared Trist. "It's a little cricket, little soccer, little swimming, little rugby, all that stuff until you figure out what you really want to do. At some point, around 14 or 15 (years old), it was basketball for me."

Life as a Leopard

For Trist, choosing basketball was the right choice, validated with a stint at the Australian Institute of Sport followed by a scholarship to play at NCAA Division I school Lafayette. Playing under long-term head coach Fran O'Hanlon, Trist spent the full 4 years at college and thrived in the environment.

Dan Trist: 2015 Patriot League Champion - Courtesy Lafayette Athletics

"Leaving early never crossed my mind, I always wanted to get my degree," explained Trist. "It was great. Lafayette was an amazing place to be and even when you took the basketball out of it, it was still a great place. It was a good community, the classes were worthwhile, the people there are nice, and I made some lifetime friends - people I'll be going back to see this summer."

"It was amazing. I wouldn't have changed it for anything, I wouldn't have gone anywhere else. I wouldn't have done anything else."

However Trist explained that it was a challenge being away from home, only able to spend very brief periods at a time in Australia with his family and friends.

"It's definitely tough," added Trist. "My family didn't get to come out to college until senior year...the toughest [time] would have been the first couple of years of college. Just because of the time difference really. It's not like you could wake up and call or send a text or anything like that, you have to wait until a certain time of day."

After so long, Trist has become used to overcoming the tyranny of distance, although he is very excited to be heading home this off-season.

"It's going to be really nice. "I haven't spent that much time at home in a couple of years."

After his career at Lafayette came to an end, Trist finished as the seventh all-time leading scorer at the school. He averaged 17.3 points per game while shooting an impressive 57.6% from the field as a senior, leading the Leopards to the Patriot League Tournament championship and a trip to the 2015 NCAA Tournament. His efficient scoring clip from the field had him ranked 17th in the nation. Although that was not the only accolade that he collected during his time at college, being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team in 2012 and the All-Conference First Team in 2015. He was also named the The Pick and Roll's Australian Player of the Year for his outstanding senior year.

First professional contract

Trist is currently playing for Oviedo Baloncesto who play in the Spanish second division (LEB Oro), last year signing a one-year deal - his first professional contract. It was a big decision, but Trist explained why he took his talents to Spain.

"The Spanish second division is a pretty great place to start, just in terms of opportunity," shared Trist. "You get a good chance to play meaningful minutes against good competition."

"There are a lot of guys from different leagues around Europe playing here; guys who have played in other places and also the ACB, the Spanish first division. It's a really good place to learn from people and to get an idea of what professional life in Europe is like."

Dan Trist | Credit: Oviedo Baloncesto

His side is currently featuring in the first round of the playoffs, and the 6'9 forward is a big reason as to why they are there. Featuring in every game so far this season, he has been delivering 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in just under 23 minutes per game.

When I asked, Trist explained how he had found the transition from not only college to playing as a pro, but from life in the US to Spain.

"It's definitely different in terms of the physicality and the rules as well (Spain applies FIBA rules which the NCAA does not)," Trist outlined. "It's little bit of a different game. But it's not completely unfamiliar to me, as I got to play in some FIBA games for the U19 Australian side. It's taken some adjusting, but it's not that different, college is pretty much professional from a lot of stand points."

The language barrier has not been much of a problem for the Aussie, with his assistant coach, and many of the players at Oviedo speaking relatively fluent English. Trist did suggest that perhaps his Spanish skills could be improved, under certain circumstances.

"If I'm playing in Spain next year hopefully it gets a little better," advised a laughing Trist.

Where to next?

Trist's contract with Oviedo will finish come the end of the season. Although where he will end up next has crossed his mind, considering his side is still playing it is something that isn't worrying him just yet.

The idea of playing back in Australia and in the NBL is attractive to Trist, however it is not the be-all and end-all for him.

"It's always something in the back of my mind, and something I'm thinking about," shared Trist. "It's just the question of the right team, and the right fit. There's no point in going back just for the sake of going back. I love Australia, I love living in Australia, and Australian basketball is seeing somewhat of a resurgence at the moment, but it's really just a question of timing."

When it comes to the international game, Trist has enjoyed some experience at the junior level and at the 2015 World University Games, however the green and gold of the Boomer's still remains the ultimate goal.

Australia at the 2015 World University Games | Credit: Basketball Australia

"It's something every person playing basketball in Australia wants to get to, and I'm no different in that respect, added Trist. "Looking forward there is a lot of work I have to do to get there, but I'm confident I can give it a shot somewhere down the line."

Trist is everything you'd expect from a lovable Aussie guy; friendly, up for a laugh, driven and an excellent role model and representative of his country. His basketball is just as good, and there is no doubt that his future is bright. So stop sleeping on Dan Trist.