POWDER SPRINGS, GA. -- McEachern
had just grabbed a defensive rebound, and quickly hustled the ball up-floor for
what looked to be a 3-on-3 fast break. Seeing his star sophomore trailing the
pack, Nick Chaykowsky yelled for his team to slow
Upon crossing mid-court, Trae
Golden received the pass, blew past a Murray County defender and easily
converted a lay-up for two of his 23 points on the evening.
Chaykowsky, the second-year McEachern coach of his Powder Springs, Ga. Protégé
applauded the sequence. Turns out, when Chaykowsky
calls for “patience,” his team interprets that as a sign to find
“I think as a team, we have confidence and when you
have confidence, I think you play with confidence,” Chaykowsky
said after watching his team cruise to a 30-point victory Friday, “and I
think that’s a good thing.”
Golden, a 6-1 combo guard is the go-to guy for Chaykowksy’s team, now 11-2 on the season. He
averaged 15.1 points and three assists per game last year as just a freshman,
and is off to a torrid pace in 2007-08 scoring 23.5 a game heading into Friday’s
Ordinarily, one may be fooled by the pressure attached to
carrying a team. Not this kid.
This one is something different. You may say he’s the
Golden boy of McEachern basketball.
Basketball is in his blood. It’s in his roots. It’s
in his entire family.
“Tray has played organized basketball since he was
four years old,” said his father Robert. “From that point forward,
from my background and taste for basketball, I thought that he had an
opportunity to be a different kind of player than just a regular player.
“He’s sixteen now,” Robert added. “He
can be a special player.”
Since age four, Golden has only gotten better. In third
grade, he was elevated to play against sixth –graders to compensate for
his advanced skills. In junior high school, Golden was already competing
against high school players.
Ranked as the No. 9-overall player in the nation by
ScoutHoops.com, Golden is one of the most talented players in Cobb County in
recent memory. That’s saying a lot for a location that’s produced (Sac
ramento Kings’ star) Shareef
Abdur-Rahim, (Alabama forward) Jermareo
Davidson and (Utah center) Luke Nevill to name a few.
“It’s kind of easy (for him), I guess,” Chaykowsky said. “He knows the game so well. He
understands the game so well. He’s so mature for his age things come easy
Home of the Indians
Despite some heavy notoriety being made for himself Golden
is far from the first rising star to attend John McEachern
High School, a campus-style public school nestled in the Southwestern portion
of Cobb County.
In addition to Abdur-Rahim, current
Atlanta Hawks’ sensation Josh Smith played three seasons at McEachern before transferring to powerhouse Oak Hill
Academy as a senior. Smith was a two-time All-Georgia selection, averaging 20.6
points his junior year.
Smith also played with another NBA player at McEachern.
Morris Almond, a 6-6 guard from Rice was the first-round
pick of the Utah Jazz this past season. He was the twenty-fifth pick of the
Jazz after scoring 26.4 points per game and finishing fourth all-time in
scoring at Rice.
However, Golden shares more than just the same high school
as the former standout.
He’s also first cousin of Almond.
“It means a lot – even though he’s my
cousin he’s like a best friend to me,” Golden said of his
relationship with Almond. “You hear that saying that only a couple of
people make it to the NBA, but you see someone in your family do it, and you’re
like, “well I can do it too.”
Almond is the nephew of Golden’s mother Carolyn.
Basketball really is in Trae’s blood.
His father Robert played high school basketball in Toledo in
the 1970’s, before attending Ohio State where he graduated. Trae’s sister Ryan also was a McEachern
star, becoming a 1,000-point scorer before graduating in 2004 for the girl’s
While Robert stakes his usual seat in the far, upper corner
of the gymnasium watching his son intently each and every game, Carolyn is busy
as the McEachern scorekeeper tracking her baby’s
“We love basketball,” she says. “I don’t
think his dad has missed a game since he was four or five years old.”
According to Carolyn, Trae is sure
to call or email his cousin whenever he’s got something to talk about
that is above and beyond what he would ordinarily discuss with parents.
“Morris has a level head and he kind of makes sense of
things,” she added.
Once a Buckeye,
Always a Buckeye
Having his pick of the litter, Golden faced a tough
decision. With the who’s who of college basketball programs knocking down
his door hoping to secure a verbal commitment, Golden had to decide where he
was going to attend school after his high school eligibility expired.
Kentucky, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Clemson were
just a few of many scholarship offers for the rising star. But it took only one
weekend for everything to come to a head.
“We were at an AAU tournament and the Buckeyes found
out about him,” Robert recalled from this past July. “They found
out about Trae and we heard from (Thad) Matta after that.”
Being an Ohio State alum Robert said Trae
was excited in the interest from the Buckeyes, even though his own pops had
lived in Georgia for the past 30 years.
“He knew about Ohio State from the time he knew about
colleges and collegiate sports,” Robert said. “He knew about Thad.”
Golden’s interest in the Buckeyes remained sizzling
hot until mid-October. Many people knew Ohio State was in good shape for Golden,
but no one realized just how much – even his parents.
The family returned home from an unofficial visit one
weekend in October, and Trae dropped a bombshell on
“He told us he wanted to commit,” Carolyn
remembered. “He surprised me – I didn’t think he would make a
decision that soon.
“Most college coaches, they’re so convincing,”
she added. “They’ll be talking about things and then they’ll
have you sold on something. Don’t get me wrong – Thad Matta was real good. But I think Trae
was beyond that – he was sold on the program.”
No matter how persuasive other coaches were going to be in
grilling Golden’s decision, the bigger test was in his own house.
He had to convince his mother that going 550 miles away for
college was the best choice. Not just that, but that it was a choice he was
able to make so quickly.
“I thought he was joking at first – I was like, ‘Oh
get out of here with that, you can’t be serious’,” she said
with a laugh. “He kept on. I asked him before we even really considered, “well
why them? What’s wrong with this school?
“He said, ‘mom, I know I can go there or there.
But I really, really want to go to Ohio State’,” she said.
Robert was thrilled, but also apprehensive.
“I did not have an inkling (a commitment was about to
happen). Personally, I just wanted him to wait around and go through the
process,” he said. “Then we went to Ohio State and he decided he
wanted to do it.
“Being an Ohio State graduate, I couldn’t very
well deny him that,” Robert noted. “There’s a strong loyalty,
commitment to be true to the Buckeye program.”
Relishing the opportunity to play for the Buckeyes, Golden
hopes to follow his father’s footsteps to Ohio State and one day, his
cousin’s to the professional ranks.
But it started with Matta and Ohio
State assistant John Groce, who Trae
said won him over immediately.
“They’re great people,” he said. “DeShaun (Thomas), Jared (Sullinger),
all of them – we’re real close. It’s like one big family.”
Growing up a Buckeye, Sullinger
already understands the tradition and passion. The 6-8 sophomore lives in
Columbus and watched his brother J.J. play his final three seasons for Ohio
Meanwhile, Thomas is or isn’t committed to the program
from Ft. Wayne, Ind. Depending on who you ask. However, the 6-7 forward is
already penciled in by Golden.
“We want to win a National Championship together,”
The Next Step
Two and a half years are a long time to wait for anyone. For
Golden, it may seem like an eternity.
He’ll spend that time trying to win a Class 5A
championship in Georgia. He’ll play the summer circuit with the Atlanta
Celtics, a renowned AAU program. He’ll go to the camps. He’ll
continue to watch Ohio State on television, and occasionally in person until
the time comes he can arrive on campus.
When he does finally get there, he figures to play as a
combo getting time at both the point guard and shooting guard positions.
“They (Ohio State) will space the floor out and they
want me to do a lot of scoring and also running the offense,” Golden
explained of his future role.
In the interim, Golden will continue to work on the skills
that are necessary to get him there.
While Golden stresses his defense needing work, his coach is
worried about teams turning a positive into a negative.
“I think he just needs to learn, something that he’s
learned quickly, is that people are going to try to stop him,” Chaykowsky said. “Because of that, teams are going to
play box-and-one, more aggressive man and deny him the basketball. He’s
got to be able to learn how to play without the ball.”
While 6-feet-1 right now, Golden may grow a few more inches.
His father is 6-4, and his cousins, including Almond, are over 6-5. By the time
Golden arrives at Ohio State, he may grow to 6-4.
Having never missed one of his games, his father may
continue that trend even upon arriving in Columbus.
According to Carolyn, she and her husband are contemplating
retirement in two years so they can relocate to Columbus for Trae’s Ohio State career.
“I don’t think permanently, but just long enough
to support it,” she said. “After we get there, we’ll
Half-jokingly, she adds that they’ve taken some heat
over that choice.
“We’ve had some people say, “ya’ll
are really going to follow him to college?” Carolyn said. “We’re
not really following him to college. We don’t want to go on to campus and
interact with his friends and all that. That’s his life. We just like the
basketball part of it.
“Even if we didn’t go to Ohio, we’d make
attending his games a priority,” she concluded.
In the long wait until that happens, Golden will continue to
do what he does best – play basketball. It’s been all he’s
known since being a kid.
With an aggressive scoring streak, and a passer’s
instinct that would make John Stockton proud, Golden plays loose and intense
whenever stepping on the floor.
He and his teammates enjoy making fancy no-look passes, lobs
and backdoor cuts. It’s like a playground for them.
“We have fun,” Golden said. “There’s
competitiveness but we all try hard to work together to beat the other team.
That’s the best competitiveness you can have.”
When Chaykowsky isn’t seeing
the competitive spirit he likes, he’ll call for patience and ask them to
slow things down.
And for Golden, that’s usually his signal.