After two seasons at VMI, guard Trey Bonham focusing on new team and routine at Florida
Competitive factors — playing time, usage, system, level of talent, facilities, etc. — often are the primary factors for a student-athlete deciding to enter the NCAA transfer portal and search for a new collegiate destination.
As for Florida men’s basketball guard Trey Bonham, who transferred after two seasons at Virginia Military Institute, coach Todd Golden’s offensive system is remarkably similar to the one Bonham ran at VMI. The Gators also frequently compete against the nation’s best, and the facilities, while not the best the Southeastern Conference has to offer, remain impressive.
When Bonham received an opportunity to transfer to Florida, he didn’t hesitate.
“Florida’s pitch was that (Golden) trusted in me, we ran a familiar offense, and the SEC,” Bonham said. “Going to high school in Mobile, Alabama, that’s been my dream to play in the SEC. There wasn’t much they had to do to get me. I was already in as soon as they called.”
The situation Bonham would be leaving also may have played a role in his decision.
Basketball was Trey Bonham's dream, not the military
With the Keydets, Bonham was more than just a college student with dreams of playing professional basketball — he was a soldier in training.
Having come from a military background — his grandfather served in the Air Force and his father served 20 years in the Navy before retiring — Bonham wasn’t dissuaded from joining VMI out of high school. Plus, the prospect of early playing time had significant appeal.
“I had a couple offers early on. I had, like, Tulane, a couple other schools, (but) coaches got fired, little stuff. And I didn't want to wait out to my senior year, just be hoping to get something,” Bonham recalled of his high school recruitment. “I had VMI, and I knew they had a reputation of when you're a freshman, you're gonna have a chance to play. So I took that.”
Although it may have been the only real scholarship offer Bonham had at the time, his family was elated that Bonham would develop discipline as well as his basketball acumen. Still, he was intent on being a basketball player, not a cadet or naval officer.
One might assume the guidelines wouldn’t be nearly as stringent for a student-athlete. But when he arrived in Lexington, Virginia, Bonham quickly found out how committed the entire university was when it came to following the rules of the regimen.
There's a demerit system for mistakes and undesirable behavior, in addition to a curfew of 11:30 p.m., though that wasn’t Bonham’s most significant dilemma.
“You can't put your backpack on your shoulders, you gotta carry it. That was my biggest problem,” he said. “I'm like ‘it’s a backpack, why can’t I put it on my shoulders?’ Silly stuff, like not having a shirt tucked in, little stuff like that. And if you get too many you’re marching outside with a rifle for hours. You don't want to do that.”
Many students get homesick upon transitioning to college, especially if they have crossed state lines and are no longer in close proximity to their families. But Bonham had lived in a variety of places growing up, including Japan, where his father had been stationed.
Homesickness wasn’t the issue, but by the end of the first week at VMI, Bonham was already weighing his future with the program. His father wasn’t willing to see him give up so easily, however.
“My dad was always on me because I know that first week, I was like, ‘I don’t even want to play basketball no more,’ like, ‘get me out here.’ But, he was just like, it's gonna be better for you. You're gonna learn a lot. So he was always in my ear trying to get my hopes up.”
Discipline will help Trey Bonham at Florida, too
During his first season at VMI, Bonham saw playing time was readily available for freshmen. He earned All-Freshman honors during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season after appearing in 24 games, including seven starts. Bonham started all 29 games for VMI during his sophomore season and averaged 13.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game — statistics that soon made him a desirable addition for high-major programs seeking a transfer.
It didn’t happen overnight, but Bonham listened to his father’s advice and stuck it out with the Keydets. He developed discipline in his diet, still adheres to an 11:30 curfew and is up before the sun rises — all qualities that should give him a strong chance of success at Florida.
Still, he’s grateful to have some normalcy return to his life.
“It's been great. I mean, coming from a military school, I had a lot of restrictions, so (I’m) living the free life right now. Just hooping, going to my room, it’s been great,” Bonham said. “I mean, it led me to learning discipline. That was the biggest thing I learned from the military school. So, I just kind of try to keep the same traditions: waking up early, getting in my bed by 11:30. So, the same stuff, just nobody’s yelling in my face now.”
Considering he’s entering his third year of collegiate action, Bonham may lack playing time compared with that of his new teammates in Gainesville. But when the season arrives, Golden and the Gators are hoping Bonham’s discipline translates to a detail-oriented level of play.
Until then, Bonham’s still adjusting to the freedom his new routine affords him.
“It's been kind of weird at first. I'm kind of getting used to things. I'm just trying to get in the gym and then go to my room. I'm not really doing too much. The biggest thing is I can leave and get something to eat when I want,” Bonham said. “I don't have to march to the cafeteria anymore.”