Trent Salo Making His Mark In First Year in a Calvin Uniform
Sunday, January 11, 2009
By Chaz Amidon
At 5-foot-9, Trent Salo is, more often than not, the shortest player on the court.
It’s the kind of height discrepancy that makes opponents salivate. The kind that elicits a quip or two from visiting student sections.
But throughout his collegiate career, Salo has illustrated how an undersized point guard can thrive in a game of giants. Bottling up ballhandlers, intercepting skip passes and chasing down loose balls are as good as points, rebound and assists for the sophomore, who values hustle over headlines. Because hustle, he would say, can’t be measured in feet or inches.
“That’s how I survive,” said Salo. “I have to be the hardest worker out there. It has made me work harder, being at a disadvantage, having people doubt me.”
A sophomore transfer from Northwood Institute – a Division II program in the GLIAC – Salo doesn’t lead the Knights in any statistical categories, nor has he reached double digits in scoring so far during the 2008-09 season.
He’s the type that prefers to stay under the radar, unnoticed by a cursory glance at a box score. And it’s just the way Calvin coach Kevin Vande Streek prefers him to be, too.
“He’s enthusiastic, tough, scrappy, all those intangible things,” said Vande Streek. “It didn’t take me long to fall in love with all of that stuff.”
Though Salo excelled during his freshman year at Northwood – he started a handful of games and led the team in free throw percentage (81 percent) – he decided to sit out the 2007-08 season and concentrate on his classes. A noble thing to do, especially in an era where “student-athlete” is more of a misnomer than ever.
Then came withdrawal. Salo’s love for the game continually tugged at his heartstrings, causing the boy who once starred at Rudyard High School to pore over his choice to hang up his shoes, to ignore his skills perfectly engineered for the hardwood.
“It was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in my life by deciding not to play my sophomore year, but I did what I needed to do,” said Salo. “In the back of my mind I knew I would play again, whether it was at Northwood or somewhere else. I knew I still had that desire and fire.”
Salo visited Calvin in the spring of 2008, and it was on that lone visit when he opted for change once more: he would come to play for Vande Streek’s prestigious Division III program in a brand new, 5,000-seat Van Noord Arena.
For newcomers to the Knights’ highly complex offensive system, whether they are incoming freshmen or veteran transfers, the transition is never easy. It can take more than a year in some cases, Vande Streek insists. As for Salo, who has always been ahead of his peers both on the court and in the classroom, the adjustment has seemed like a cakewalk.
“I would say that Trent has picked it up as quick – or quicker – than anyone we’ve had,” said Vande Streek.
Salo impressed the thirteen-year head coach so much that he earned a starting gig as Calvin’s floor general to begin the 2008-09 season, and even buried the Knights’ first basket of the year by sinking a deep 3-pointer against Grace Bible College in the season opener.
He recorded a season-high eight points in a loss to Aquinas on Dec. 10 and has connected on at least two 3-pointers in three different games. But his forte, he says, is not rooted in turnaround jumpers or acrobatic lay-ins. Instead, he focuses his performance on the other end of the floor.
“I pride myself on being a lockdown defender,” said Salo. “Obviously, I have to lockdown because I’m disadvantaged height-wise.”
Though he has since been relegated to a reserve role, Salo has burrowed his way into the core of Calvin’s leadership – despite the fact that the Knights boast an experienced roster of six seniors.
He has two more years of eligibility on a team that will lose a variety of keystone guards like Caleb Veldhouse and Dustin Smith after the 2008-09 campaign. And it couldn’t make Vande Streek any happier
“Trent’s best asset is his heart,” said Vande Streek. “He comes and plays really hard. He loves to play the game.”