After years of flying under the radar, there’s nothing quiet about what Darrion Trammell is doing at San Diego State.
Underrecruited out of high school for his size and forced to prove himself every step of the way, Trammell, who prepped at St. Ignatius before moving on to City College of San Francisco and Seattle University, has found his way onto the national radar as a starting guard for the Aztecs, who are currently ranked 17th in the latest AP poll and are considered a Final Four hopeful.
“I have high expectations for us. We’re a really deep team,” said Trammell, who’s listed on SDSU’s official roster at 5-foot-10 but admits he’s 5-9 barefoot. “We’re a really good team, and we can make a really deep run in the tournament. I just want to prove that I can do well and that I deserve to be on the big stage.”
Over three years as a starter at St. Ignatius, Trammell’s teams went 58-28, and he showed his penchant for stepping up in big games with a 4-2 record against Sacred Heart Cathedral and perfect 6-0 mark against Riordan, constantly knocking down clutch free throws to close out tight wins. Perhaps his finest moment came in January of 2018, when he scored a game-high 23 points to lead his Wildcats to a 70-61 victory at Serra in the Jungle Game.
Still, those successes led to no college offers. He spent a post-grad year at Golden State Prep in Napa, then led CCSF to a state championship before joining two of his junior college teammates at Seattle, a program with heavy Bay Area ties throughout its roster.
“People saw me as a defensive liability, but I proved that I can guard,” he said. “I’ve gotten more confident in my defense. That’s what’s gotten me to the next level.”
After spending his first five games with the Redhawks as a bench player, he entered the starting lineup and never looked back, averaging 18.7 points per game and earning First-Team Western Athletic Conference (WAC) honors in each of his two seasons.
“I’m definitely grateful to be able to play at Seattle,” Trammell said. “That was one of my few offers coming out of junior college, and they had great confidence in me.”
While Seattle gave Trammell his first taste of Division I action, playing at SDSU comes with much more national attention. The Aztecs regularly fill all 12,414 seats at Viejas Arena, and they have a substantial following on the road as well, as the large SDSU contingent at Tuesday’s 74-62 win at Stanford proved.
“It gives us an advantage,” Trammell said of the support his team receives. “The fans bring it every night, and we like putting on a show for them. We’re not only winning for ourselves, we’re winning for San Diego State.”
The Aztecs, who are expected to compete with Wyoming for the Mountain West Conference title, are regularly on national television, as will be the case next week when they compete in the prestigious Maui Invitational, college basketball’s most esteemed Thanksgiving tournament. Playing in the Mountain West also offers far better chances to make the NCAA Tournament than Trammell ever had playing in the WAC, a conference which traditionally only sends its champion to the Big Dance. Seattle tied for first in the conference last year but lost in the WAC Tournament Semifinals to Abilene Christian. Conversely, four Mountain West teams reached the tournament, including SDSU.
“It’s definitely a step up for me,” Trammell said. “It’s gonna be a bigger challenge, but San Diego State has been running the conference for a really long time, and that’s something that we plan to keep on doing.”
While Trammell served as the primary point guard at Seattle, he shares the duties with Lamont Butler at his new home.
“My role’s a little bit different from Seattle. I play a little bit more off-ball,” he said. “Having two point guards on the floor has always been Coach (Brian) Dutcher’s thing, and Lamont and I play off each other.”
At no point was their chemistry more evident than in the final minutes of that win at Stanford, when Trammell sent a behind-the-back pass to Butler, who finished with a soaring one-handed dunk.
‘It’s definitely possible to achieve your dreams’
Though the names across his chest have constantly changed throughout his collegiate career, Trammell’s roots haven’t changed. He remains fiercely loyal to Marin City, a working-class community of just under 3,000 tucked into the North Bay.
“It’s really small. Everybody knows everybody,” he said of his hometown. “Most people are pretty much family, and they just show support.”
During the win at Stanford, Trammell and teammate Keshad Johnson, an Oakland native and San Leandro High grad, had the most fervent support at Maples Pavilion. Trammell’s number 12 was seen on sweatshirts and jerseys throughout the building, and a large group from the Play Marin youth organization that bussed to the game crowded around the court as the final seconds ticked off, serenading their hero with chants of “We love Darrion!”
“My goal is just to give hope back to the younger generation back home, and show that it’s definitely possible to achieve your dreams,” he said.
After emerging from the locker room, Trammell was the last Aztec to leave the building, with dozens of friends and family taking photos with him. Without a trip to San Jose State on the conference schedule this season, it was SDSU’s lone Bay Area appearance of the season. Their closest remaining trips are conference games at Nevada and Fresno State. Should the Aztecs reach the NCAA Tournament and get sent to Sacramento, Trammell, and all of Marin City, will surely be well-represented in the crowd.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]