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Basketball Player Trey Jenifer Grateful to Coaches for Helping Him Push for Another Paralympics

Trevon “Trey” Jenifer is thankful for all his coaches, the positive and challenging ones. 

He can’t imagine being the man he is today without any of them.

“I am coached by committee,” Jenifer says. “I think that every coach I have had has given me something, to mold me into the player I am today.”

A passion is ignited

Because of congenital amputation, Trey was born without his lower extremities. But by age 4, his stepfather Eric stoked Trey’s interest and passion in sports, starting with track and basketball. 

In those early years, Trey traveled the country to compete in events, but he experienced a sports drought during his early teenage years when his parents had a falling out with the club he was with.

“Sports were a great outlet for me,” Trey says. “I am a very competitive person. You start to question certain things and what your next outlet is going to be.

“Maybe as a child, you feel it’s unfair. But reflecting back, things happen for a reason, and if that didn’t happen, I might not be where I am today.”

His stepfather had been a wrestler growing up, and he steered Trey toward that sport in high school. Competing against able-bodied athletes, Trey shined and was even ranked No. 1 heading into a tournament. During his senior year, at the Maryland state tournament, Trey finished third in his weight class.

But the seeds to one of Trey’s biggest breaks was planted years earlier when he was still playing basketball. A coach named Jim Glatch was struck by Trey’s smile and his athleticism.

“When I first met him, he always had a smile on his face, and he was always engaged in whatever he was doing,” Glatch recalls.

When Trey was a senior, Glatch read a feature story on the remarkable young athlete in the Washington Post. Glatch reached out to Trey’s family through Huntington High School, but he didn’t hear anything for weeks.

Trey’s high school wrestling coach was stunned by Glatch’s thoughts.

Glatch was the head basketball coach of Edinboro University’s men’s wheelchair basketball team, and he was interested in Trey potentially joining his team. And he had scholarship money available. 

Trey couldn’t believe it — and Glatch almost immediately wondered if he’d make a mistake during Trey’s tryout. 

“He showed up, and he wanted to be the best,” Glatch says, “but he was probably the worst.”

But Glatch believed one of Trey’s greatest assets was his work ethic. Trey attended every practice and workout possible, and he’d visit with his coach after practice virtually every day to watch film and seek wisdom.

Olympic Obstacles

Trey acknowledges that Glatch had a command of the Xs and Os of basketball. But Trey says there were other keys to Glatch’s “playbook” that went beyond the court, like not just settling to be an athlete but a student-athlete. 

“I was in his office every day, just learning basketball and non-basketball things,” Trey says. “He taught me the importance of being a good man and a father. 

“That relationship will never waver.”

Glatch insisted all of his players learn to become goal setters, and Trey followed suit. There were team goals and individual goals. At the top of Trey’s goal pyramid — which was posted next to his bed — was winning a gold medal for Team USA.

"To accomplish the big goals,” Trey says, “you had to accomplish the small goals first.”

Trey developed into a two-time All-American. He was the youngest member of the U.S.’s wheelchair basketball team at the 2012 London Paralympics, which won the bronze medal. 

But the following year, a new coach, Ron Likens, took over the national team, and he promptly cut Trey.

Known as a defensive specialist, Trey needed to diversify his game and strengthen other key aspects, such as shooting. 

“After being cut, I was like, ‘I don’t want to have that feeling again.’ I had to hone my abilities,” Trey says. “You start to work on yourself, off the court, as much as your abilities on the court.”

Before the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Likens brought Trey back onto the team. That U.S. team won a gold medal. Currently, Trey has made the list of the 16 players still being considered for the team that will defend its Paralympic title in Tokyo next year.

Unmatched mental strength

Like Glatch, Likens taught Trey an invaluable lesson that served in sport and life. 

“Understanding the importance of mental toughness,” Trey says of Likens’ lesson. “His motto is, ‘You’re 0 for 0, no matter what you do. Turnover, or made or missed shot. You can’t allow those things to affect you. Focus on the things that you can control.’ ”

But Trey doesn’t have the luxury to focus only on sports. In fact, he has a full-time job, working for the federal government. 

“The word proud is used a lot. But obviously, I’m proud. He’s like a son,” Glatch says of Trey, now 32 years old. “To watch him grow up in front of my eyes has been awesome. I mean, I’m holding back tears right now. 

"I’m proud of his progress, but the fact that he’s still that same humble person, who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth, with a big smile on his face. I know his basketball career will end at some point, but I can’t wait to see what the next chapter is.”