It tore at your heart watching him leave the arena Thursday night in tears, leaning on his father, preparing for a longer than normal four-hour drive back to Hugo.
As we tried to wrap our heads around what the 16-year-old was going through, we wondered if anything like this had happened in Oklahoma high school history. Nothing came to mind. We had to look outside the state borders and beyond the high school realm to find similar circumstances.
There was Chris Webber in the 1993 Final Four. Michigan had the ball with 19 seconds left, trailing North Carolina by two, when Webber called a timeout that the Wolverines didn't have. Webber was called for a technical, depriving Michigan of an attempt at a game-tying or winning shot. North Carolina hit four straight free throws, two from the technical, to clinch the title.
There was Derek Harper in Game 4 of the 1984 Western Conference semifinals. He was a rookie playing for the Dallas Mavericks, who found themselves tied with the Los Angeles Lakers in the final seconds. Instead of attempting a game winning shot, Harper dribbled out the clock, thinking that the Mavs had a lead.
The Lakers won in overtime, then closed out the series two nights later.
“It was an honest mistake,” Harper said via telephone.
Now the color analyst for Mavs' television broadcasts, Harper was in Detroit where Dallas was set to play Friday night. When he heard that a reporter from Oklahoma wanted to interview him about that nearly 30-year-old playoff mistake, he didn't ignore the request.
He says people are often surprised about how open he is about that blunder.
“You can run and hide if you want after a mistake, but at the end of the day, it's always going to be there,” he said. “I've always had a firm belief that we all make mistakes. It's not if. It's when.”
Harper not only accepted the mistake that he made in that playoff game but also decided to use it as fuel. It drove him in offseason workouts. It sparked him through 16 seasons in the league.
And in the process, that mistake didn't define him.
“You've got to be confident in yourself,” he said. “You can get through it.”
That, Harper said, is what he wanted to tell Trey, and through our connections, we were able to help with that.
Yes, Thursday afternoon Trey Johnson got a call and some words of encouragement from Derek Harper.
That wasn't the only call that he received. Thunder general manager Sam Presti heard about Trey and wanted to talk to him. The Thunder also extended a special invitation to attend Sunday's game vs. Boston.
Everyone wanted to wrap their arms around Trey.
From now on, we're going to be pulling for him. He is still a junior at Hugo, so he has more basketball and baseball and football to come. Keep up his grades in the classroom and continue to excel on the field, and who knows? College sports might be in his future. How could we not hope for that?
How could we not cheer for Trey?
A day ago, we had never heard of Trey Johnson. He was just another player on another team in the high school state basketball tournament.
Then, we woke up and heard his story. We know that sports teaches all sorts of wonderful lessons, but sometimes, the means to that end are harsh. Sometimes, they are down right dreadful.
We had a man down.
We put a hand down.