Giving up football for basketball was wise decision for Trent Noah

Published 4:46 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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Dondi Noah admits he was always more of a “football guy” than basketball and coached football for almost 20 years before Harlan County schools consolidated.

His son, Trent, used to “travel everywhere” playing football when he was young.

“He started playing contact football at age 4. You were not supposed to start until you were 5 but he was bigger than most kids and we snuck him there, which was probably one of the silliest things I ever did,” Dondi said. “He played football and was a middle linebacker, quarterback or tailback up until the sixth grade and then told me he loved basketball more and would rather spend time in the gym getting better. It has been basketball ever since.”

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It was a wise decision. He scored 3,707 points, fifth most in state history, his five seasons at Harlan County and averaged 29.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game as a senior when he led Harlan County to the state championship game.

He originally signed with South Carolina — he was not offered a scholarship by then UK coach John Calipari — but after Mark Pope was hired at Kentucky, Trent Noah decommitted from the Gamecocks and a few days later signed with UK. He was the first UK basketball signee from Harlan County since Dick Parsons (1958-61) and only the fourth overall — Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones (1945-49), Rudy Yessin (1943-44), and Henry Farmer (1911-1913).

Dondi said it was impossible to put into words how stressful the 48 hours after his son’s decision to decommit from South Carolina were. Schools could not reach out to him until he had his release from South Carolina. However, once Pope and Kentucky reached out, Trent Noah quickly said yes to the offer.

“Obviously Kentucky could not contact us. We were on pins and needles after he made the decision (not to attend South Carolina). He walked out on a limb of faith and didn’t know what would happen,” Dondi said. “When the phone rang the first time (with a scholarship offer), it brought a lot of relief. It was not UK that called first but that gave us hope and then obviously the home run call came from UK.

“Coach Pope called Trent the first time in between a couple of speaking engagements. The next day all the UK coaches, me and his mom and him all got on a Zoom call together and it took Trent about a half-second to accept the scholarship offer.”

Dondi likely would have said yes just as quick based on his childhood.

“I was born in 1970 and was a coal miner’s son. There was a coal operator who lived here and about once a week he would tell six or seven of us kids who lived nearby that (UK All-

American) Kyle Macy would be at his house. He would fly players in on his helicopter and us kids would be screaming,” Dondi said. “The players would swim and play ball, load up and go back to Lexington.”

Former UK coach Joe B. Hall even visited Harlan County.

“I went through grade school thinking the B in his name stood for basketball because that’s what he would tell us and all us kids believed it,” Dondi said.

Trent wanted to believe he would get a chance to play at Kentucky when he emerged as one of the state’s best players. He was a four-star prospect with almost 20 offers and a top 100 player nationally.

How did not having an offer from Calipari impact him?

“That’s a good question. I think it made that chip a little bigger on his shoulder that he never heard from Calipari,” Dondi said. “To be honest, I think it motivated him a little bit more. He didn’t pout. He kept working and believing things would work out the way it should and it eventually did.”

The UK signee’s father thinks Pope’s offense suits his son perfectly but also believes he will show he’s more than just a prolific 3-point shooter.

“As a dad, I would probably say his basketball IQ and his leadership are sort of underrated,” Dondi, an assistant basketball coach at Harlan County the last two years, said. “When we were trying to get to Lexington (to play in the state tournament), Trent talked about getting everybody to buy in and contribute. He wanted to change the offense to get more people involved. He knew if he got 30 points and we did not get out of the region, he would not have accomplished anything.”

Trent never backed away from a challenge. His father said it was obvious early his eye-hand coordination was exceptional.

“Before he was 2 years old somebody in the family bought him a scooter for Christmas,” Dondi said. “My wife said put it up because she was afraid he would get hurt. He found it and even though he was not even 2 he could ride it. I said if he could do that he could ride a bicycle, so I got him one and he took off riding it everywhere when he was 2. That’s the same eye-hand coordination that helps him so much with his passing now.”