Blast from the past: Leon Trimmingham

In the last ‘Blast from the past’ for the heritage round, i tried to track down one of the most popular players of all time, Leon Trimmingham. And.. of course i managed to find the man, the myth, the legend! He was one of the most exciting players to ever wear a NBL jersey in the early 90s. His dunks were just.. insane!

Many people don’t realise just how good Leon was when he played in the NBL. He made the All NBL First team in 1994, NBL All Star, Dunk Comp (should of been winner). His best season would of been in 1995 when he averaged over 28ppg, 11rpg, 2.2bpg & 2.0spg! And even though he only played 2 years in Sydney, he is still talked about by Kings fans to this day.

After 1995 Leon signed with the Adelaide 36ers where he teamed up with Rick Brunson & Brett Maher on one of the most stacked Adelaide teams ever. His stats did drop a little when he was a 36er but still managed to score close to 20ppg and 8-9rpg.

In this interview we talk about his favorite memories as a player, where he went after the NBL and much more. So read it and enjoy.

Q: Many NBL fans are not aware of where you played before coming to the Kings in 1994.. where did your professional career actually start?

LT: My career actually began with Sydney. That’s why The Kings will always be close to my heart. Mike Wrubleski, Lorraine Landon and Bob Turner took a chance on 23 year old kid just out of college to help them move on from the previous year. I came to Sydney straight from Briar Cliff University, where I was scouted by Washington Wizards (Bullets at the time), Los Angeles Lakers, and Seattle Supersonics. They wanted me to go to camp but my agent convinced me that coming from a small college would be long shot to make and that he had this opportunity for me in Sydney, Australia. Back in the 1993, the NBA was not big on small school players as they are now.

Q: How did coming to the Sydney Kings/NBL come about?

LT: When I graduated from college, I hired an agent who had contact with Bob Turner. Turner came to the US looking for two new imports to replace the two imports they had the year before (McClain and McClary). A tryout was set up and Mario Donaldson and myself both impressed Turner to the point that he wanted us to play for him in Sydney.

Q: You were known as one of the NBLs best dunkers of all time (if not THE best), everyone seemed to forget you were a good defender, you averaged over 2 blocks and over 2 steals per game in 1995. Did that bother you at all?

LT: In actuality, I was a good weak side help defender with my jumping ability and timing.  My quickness helped me to get a lot of steals at my position. My defense was average as I didn’t focus on it as much as I did later in my career. It doesn’t bother me because dunks and points are what the fans will remember. I am just happy that I was able to give the fans what they paid for in terms of entertainment and intensity.

Q: Speaking of dunks.. what is your most memorable dunk during your time inthe NBL?

LT: Wow! Hard to choose. It’s a tie between the free throw line dunk I did in the Slam Dunk competition, although a particular judge thought it was cute to give the title to Rainbow. The fans knew I won so the trophy didn’t mean much to me. The next one would have to be when I switched hands in mid-air and dunked over Chris Monk left handed and was fouled. He was hyped up being this ex-NBA player who would man-handled the league and was talking trash throughout the game. After the dunk, he never said another word to me and actually congratulated me after the game. That was my way of shutting people up.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment during your time in Australia?

LT: Most memorable moment in Australia was filming the commercial for Thins Potato Chips with my “little brother” Paul Patano. We had a ball on the set and we are still stay in touch to this day.

Q: Who did you hate to guard whilst playing in the NBL?

LT: That’s easy. I would be restless the night before we played Perth. Not only did they have great players in Ricky Grace, Scott Fisher, James Crawford, but they had my nemesis Andrew Vlahov. I hated to guard him because his strength, high basketball IQ, and warrior mentality, gave me fits every time I played Perth. To be honest, guarding Vlahov made it easier for me to guard every other player in the league because I believed if I can hold him to his season average or below, I can guard any other power forward.. He pushed me to keep improving on defense and to get stronger.

Q: What was it like to be a Sydney King in the mid 90s?

LT: It was an amazing time. To drive and see my picture on a huge billboard all over the city. The friends I made while I was there that have lasted to this day. The city itself embraced me and I embraced them. It was a beautiful time, one of the best of my 14 year career.

Q: Even though you only played two seasons for the Kings, many fans still rate you as one of the greatest of all time. Some even saying your jersey should be retired.. Would you welcome that?

LT: To have my jersey retired would be an honor. When my jersey was retired in college, it brought tears to my eyes and no doubt, a similar event in Sydney would be of a greater magnitude and definitely a moment that would I never forget. I will forever be linked with Sydney when it comes to the NBL. In truth, I am a Sydney King, more so than an Adelaide 36er.

Q: In 1996 you joined the 36ers. On that team you played with Rick Brunson, Brett Maher, Mark Davis, John Rillie & Martin Cattalini.. What was it like playing with those guys?

LT: To play with those guys was fun. It was a change and a chance to learn more from veteran players that have influenced my career in a positive way.

Q: Do you still talk to any old team mates or coaches?

LT: I still keep in touch with Bob Turner, my first ever coach at the professional level. He definitely was a father figure to me while I was there and taught me so much about the game. I talk every now and then to Keogh. I recently got back in contact with “The General” Phil Smyth as we are planning on doing something special in Australia together.

Q: You played with some NBL legends during your time, who would you say wasyour favorite team mate?

LT: My favorite teammate? That’s hard. In terms of life off the basketball court, I would say Mark Davis. In terms of life on the basketball court, it is a tie between Dean Utoff, Phil Smyth and Mark Dalton, because those three were very influential in my first two seasons in Sydney and taught me more about the game than any other teammate. Phil was a character; we had a ball in my second year.  Can’t forget Keogh as well.

Q: Where did you play after leaving Australia in 1997?

LT: When I left Australia, I played in Venezuela with Coach Jim Calvin and my Sydney Kings teammate, Mario Donaldson and we won the championship there. Calvin said he wanted me on his team after having to go against me when he coached Geelong. I spent the majority of my career in Europe and Asia afterwards.

Q: You came back to Australia a few years ago, have you been back since? Or do you have plans to come back?

LT: Wish I could’ve come back on a happier note, but I had to pay my respects to the man who took a huge chance on a skinny, unproven kid fresh out of college. Mike Wrubleski was definitely the King of the Kings. I am currently in the process of bringing out a project in Australia and the United States and will more than likely be back the early part of 2012. I have two of the legends of Australian basketball on board with me and I believe we will positively change lives in Australia.