EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first story in a series on the top local high school boys' basketball players of the past decade.
It wasn't often when something clicked inside of Trey Suttles on the basketball court. He can recall only two times when he felt like he was able to hit another gear in a game.
Not surprisingly, both of those games were memorable.
The first time was while the former Tyner standout — who at one point wasn't going to play in college — was a sophomore at Walters State, where he transferred after being named the Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association freshman of the year at Cleveland State in 2013. Suttles and the Senators were facing Southwest Tennessee Community College in a TJCCAA tournament semifinal in Memphis.
"They had beat us the two previous times, and I looked at my teammates and said, 'Look, we're not losing this game," Suttles said recently.
Suttles finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds while playing a team-high 38 minutes in Walters State's 76-67 win.
That same feeling came over him again two seasons later during his senior season at NAIA program Tennessee Wesleyan, when he scored 36 points in a 23-point loss to NCAA Division I foe Wofford. It was the most points scored by a visiting player against the Terriers since Steph Curry had 39 for Davidson in 2009.
Suttles was 12-of-22 from the field and added 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists. When he was subbed out with 5:08 remaining, the Bulldogs trailed 80-64 and Suttles received a standing ovation.
One of the biggest keys to his outburst that night came in the preceding offseason. Working with Dave Cothran and former McCallie standout Jorden "Juice" Williams, the 6-foot-5 Suttles had developed a 3-point shot, and he made three of five attempts against the Terriers.
He also credited basketball trainer Christoffer Collins with helping him learn about the game and develop better ball-handling skills, but his progress behind the arc was especially notable because a reliable 3-point shot was something he didn't have earlier. He didn't shoot it in high school, taking more of a workmanlike approach to games while at Tyner. As a freshman at Cleveland State, he attempted six 3s, making one. A year later at Walters State, he was 6-for-31.
As a senior at Tennessee Wesleyan, he made 77 3s at a 37% rate, averaging 16.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on his way to first-team all-conference honors. In four exhibition games that didn't count toward his regular-season stats — matchups with NCAA opponents Wofford and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga from Division I and Embry-Riddle and Trevecca Nazarene from Division II — Suttles averaged 20 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, shooting 48% from the field and 38% from 3-point range.
Everywhere Suttles played in college, including a 15-game stint with NCAA D-II member Armstrong Atlantic, he put up numbers. In 110 college games, Suttles scored 1,618 points and grabbed 772 rebounds for per-game averages of 14.7 and 7.0.
Not bad for a guy who wondered at one point after getting injured during his senior season with the Rams if he would get that chance at all.
Now he has worked to become the national postgraduate program head coach at Underrated Talent Union Prep School in the Los Angeles area, which aims to prepare "low-income, disadvantaged student-athletes for both academic and athletic success at the collegiate level."
"I'm just so blessed to have the game take care of me," Suttles said. "It's like I tell my kids now: When you put so much time and effort into something from the time you're like 7, 8, 9 years old, and once you're an adult it can still take care of you, it's such a fulfilling thing."
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