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Encouraging words have helped Hugo's Trey Johnson cope

But for all of the pinch-me moments that Johnson had ... he would've rather been anywhere else under the circumstances.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 11, 2013

The next morning brought little reprieve. Even though he got calls and texts from his coach, a couple teammates and some family members, he didn't talk to many people. He didn't want to.

But then the unexpected calls started coming.

Derek Harper, the former NBA guard, reached out to Trey. During his rookie season in Dallas, Harper made a blunder at the end of a tied playoff game, thinking instead that the Mavs led and dribbling out the clock.

“He told me, ‘That's part of basketball,'” Trey said. “Don't let that bring me down. Keep my head up.”

That message was echoed by the Thunder.

The team called on Friday and extended an offer to attend Sunday's game against Boston. Joined by buddy and Hugo point guard Nick Brown, Trey sat on the edge of his seat the entire game. He was only a few feet from the court and the Thunder bench.

“We got to see most of what the players were saying,” Trey said. “It was a great opportunity. It was a great time.”

And he left with an arm load of mementos. An autographed shoe from Kevin Durant. A towel like the players use on the bench. Wristbands. T-shirts. Russell Westbrook even took the shoes he was wearing in the game right off his feet and gave them to Trey.

The stuff was nice, but what the players had to say stuck with him most. Almost every player offered him words of encouragement before the game.

“Don't let this get you down,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks told him after the game. “Just keep moving forward.”

That's exactly what Trey plans to do.

Next week, he'll start baseball and track at Hugo. He plays outfield on the baseball team and runs the 100- and 200-meters on the track team. Add football in the fall and basketball in the winter, and Trey is a four-sport athlete.

He plans to be an even better one after what happened last week.

“I'm ready to start over and go harder,” he said.

Still, he can't help but think about Thursday night and his wrong-way basket. Chances are good it will stick with him for a long time to come.

And yet, when he thinks of it now, he will also be reminded of what has come after. The Thunder game. The Derek Harper conversation. The encouragement from perfect strangers.

“It would've been harder” without that support, he said, “but at the same time, I wouldn't let it bring me down. I'm a strong individual.”

He paused.

“Stuff like that is hard, though. I was hurt bad.”

You can tell the wounds are still fresh. But see Trey Johnson at the Thunder game Sunday, then listen to him on Monday, and you know the healing has begun.

Support has been a salve.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at, follow her at or view her personality page at

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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