They may be fierce opponents on the court or field, but many times coaches and players reach across both cultural and competitive lines to help one another.
Such was the case with Wind River star basketball player Jayin Trumbull and Rocky Mountain assistant basketball coach Jerry Bellmyer.
The story begins about a year ago when Trumbull was a dominant force for the Cougars as a senior and led his team to the 2A West Regional title and a second-place finish at State, a year after leading his team to the state championship in 2017.
Trumbull could do it all for Wind River: handle the ball, score and rebound. In fact, he is the top rebounder in Wyoming boys basketball history, according to available records. As a senior he averaged 21.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
Following his graduation in May, Trumbull expressed some frustration to a Facebook friend, Taylor Winland of the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies, that he wasn’t getting any offers to play college basketball, which had been his dream, even though he was listed by USA Today as one of the top five players in Wyoming.
Taylor told his father, Rocky head coach Pat Winland, who then mentioned Trumbull’s predicament to Bellmyer, knowing that Bellmyer had contacts in the college ranks.
Bellmyer, an assistant basketball and track coach at RHMS and the school’s resource teacher and transition coordinator for the special education department, has more than 30 years of basketball coaching experience, most of it in the Quad Cities area of western Illinois/eastern Iowa about 140 miles west of Chicago.
During his career he was an assistant for legendary Illinois high school coach Jerry Leggett at Moline High School, scouting opposing teams and their players to learn plays, offensive and defensive sets personnel and more. He learned to spot talent and what to look for in a player including body language, how players move without the ball, footwork, positioning, basketball IQ and the like.
He also worked many college camps during the summer and later was head coach at Rockridge High School in Illinois. Suffice it to say, Bellmyer knows how to evaluate basketball talent.
“With this experience (in his past), it was easy to see that Jayin Trumbull was a player,” Bellmyer said. “He had the skills to freelance from Wind River’s motion offense, especially moving without the ball. He was also very fundamental and was able to find weaknesses and find where teams’ fundamentals were exposed. He flat out knew how to play.
“Jayin was always a player with great body language. He was always into the game.”
Bellmyer knew Trumbull could be successful playing college basketball.
“So many colleges run the motion offense, and to run
the motion offense you need players who can freelance,” he said. “You have to be talented as a player to be that effective as a player. And Jayin was unstoppable. We’d play a great game, but he’d be unstoppable. He’s hard to guard and plays at both ends of the floor. With his basketball IQ and understanding of the game, considering all the players I’ve scouted over the years, he was giving me the wow factor.”
Bellmyer said he was also impressed with Trumbull’s character.
“When we’d go through the line and shake hands after the game he would go out of his way to initiate conversation with our guys, especially if we beat them, being complimentary about their play and kindhearted. That really stuck out. I could tell he was a really great kid. He was fierce on the basketball court as a competitor but would go out of his way to be ultra-friendly (after the game). That impressed me a lot.”
Pat Winland reported in early June that, via Taylor’s online conversations with Trumbull, that the Wind River graduate was heartbroken because, while he had a couple of bites, most college coaches weren’t reaching out to him and he hadn’t found the right fit.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding! That’s unbelievable. He’s a great player,’” Bellmyer said he told Coach Winland. “I immediately thought of Quad Cities and Black Hawk Junior College.”
Bellmyer reached out to an old friend, Darren Bizarri, the 11-year head coach at Black Hawk College, a two-year community college in Moline, Ill.
“There’s this kid. He’s from an Indian reservation. He has a lot of talent and he’s not getting a lot of attention,” Bellmyer told Bizarri. “Look into it and give me your impressions on how good you think he is. In my mind he’s outstanding.”
Bizarri went to work, looking at all the video he could find from Hudl to Google.
“He’s a player,” Bizarri reported to Bellmyer. “He knows how to do all of the little things, especially without the ball. I can tell he has a high basketball IQ.”
Bizarri reached out to Wind River Coach Justin Walker, and Bellmyer contacted Jayin’s mother Hattie through Facebook. They were told Trumbull was a good student and was sincere about playing college basketball and being a college student. The coaches knew he would be a great fit, and Bizarri signed him to a letter of intent.
There’s an old line of thinking that Native students have a difficult time making the transition to a non-Indian college, but Bellmyer believed from the start that Trumbull would do well in Moline.
“The Quad Cities is about as diversified an area as there is,” he said. “No matter what your background or race is, it’s an easy place to fit in.”
And reports are that Trumbull is doing well, succeeding in school and playing good basketball as an occasional starter as a 6-4 freshman. Through 18 games, seven as a starter, Trumbull was averaging 3.7 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game (fourth on the team) and was shooting 40.7 percent from the field and 63 percent from the foul line.
Bellmyer said Bizarri has been impressed with “how great a kid he is and wants to learn and is excited about the different types of kids he’s friends with.” The big city kids tell him about life in Chicago, and Jayin tells his new friends about life in rural Wyoming – students from vastly different backgrounds coming together.
And now a bond has been formed. Trumbull attended the Rocky Mountain-Wind River game in Pavillion in December, and he approached Bellmyer during the evening.
“He was really appreciative, and his mom was appreciative,” he said. “Jayin was so sincere in thanking me. He said over and over how he’s loving it there.”
Since he’s been at Rocky Mountain, Bellmyer said he’s heard many great stories about the rivalry between Rocky Mountain and Lovell vs. Wyoming Indian and Wind River – the stories “from Ralph (Winland) when he was coaching and Rod, Pat and Tim Winland as players and coaches.” And he added, “When they talk about those games, they still tell the stories with excitement in their voices and twinkle in their eye. But more importantly, they have a true heartfelt admiration and respect for all those years of competition.”
That respect and admiration, which comes from competition in sports, can make a difference in lives, Bellmyer said.
“That’s where the game of basketball and sports in general is great,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background or your religion is, when you’re a team, you’re a team. Sports sometimes gets a bad rap, but that side of sports is something to be proud of. That’s awesome. That’s great.”
Just ask Jayin Trumbull, who is living his dream thanks to a rival coach from a small town in Wyoming who reached out to help.
By David Peck