When a skinny, 6-foot-2 freshman named Trevon Chislom showed up for McFarland’s basketball tryouts in fall 2015, few could have seen him developing into one of the best prep players in the state.
Even McFarland basketball coach Jeff Meinholdt had his doubts.
“That's something that Tre and I joke about, even us as coaches, we joke about,” said Meinholdt. “Coming in as a freshman, if you looked at Tre, you kind of thought 'I don't know if he's got a chance to do some things in our program and make an impact in our program.'”
Four years later, the Spartans’ head coach is the first to talk about just how large an impact that skinny freshman wound up making on McFarland basketball.
Chislom's breakout senior season earned him honorable mention all-state accolades and, to top it off, an invitation to compete in Saturday's Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Games at JustAGame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells.
“Off the court he's just a great, great student-athlete,” Meinholdt said. “He's a positive role model for our younger kids in our program coming up. He wants to do everything he can to make his teammates better, and he's a truly caring person about everyone around him.”
Chislom has grown on the court as well, filling out his now 6-foot, 6-inch frame to become a dominant post presence against his foes in the Rock Valley Conference. A first-team all-conference selection as a junior, he took another leap forward this past season, boosting his averages to 23 points and 10 rebounds per game.
For a player who entered high school without accolades or attention, even the simple fact of recognition is significant.
“It means a lot, it's showing that they know who I am, they know that I'm a good basketball player,” Chislom said. “It feels good to be recognized as one of the top players in the state.”
Chislom’s transformation from undersized freshman to physical force kicked into gear midway through his sophomore year, when his dominance against junior varsity opponents earned him a promotion to the varsity. The first time he got significant minutes, a conference matchup with powerhouse East Troy, he scored 14 points.
“He grew into his body, he hit the weight room, worked on his overall game, his inside-outside game, and really came on midway through his sophomore year,” said Meinholdt. “That year, he made a huge push and helped us win a conference championship.”
Chislom’s development in those first two years required improvement of more than just his post-up game. He failed a math class freshman year, which forced him to sit out the second half of the basketball season and reconsider his commitment to academics.
“Through middle school, I really didn't like school all that much,” said Chislom. “My freshman year, when I failed, it was devastating to sit on the bench and watch my team play. But it helped me do better in the classroom all four years. That was the only time I had to sit out for academics.”
With those obstacles removed, Chislom’s past three years have shown steady improvement, from a supporting role as a sophomore to top billing on the scouting report as a senior.
“I still think he hasn't hit his full potential yet. He's someone that's going to only get better as he ages. Just continuously working on his game," Meinholdt said. “(With) his overall presence on the floor, in the last couple years teams are like 'well, they have Chislom, we have to deal with that.'”
That improvement has carried over to the spring AAU season, where Chislom said he’s played the best basketball of his life. Listed as a potential breakout candidate by PrepHoops.com entering his senior year, Chislom holds college offers from multiple NCAA Division II schools in Georgia, and recently attracted attention from UW-Platteville and UW-Stevens Point, Meinholdt said.
While other players might be using Saturday's all-star games as a chance to get one more taste of high school, Chislom is approaching it as a chance to show any college coaches watching that his steady improvement hasn’t stopped.
The senior forward and his coach both know that at the next level, he’ll have to establish himself as a threat from the perimeter as well as from the post in order to be successful.
“I'm using it as a way to show college coaches that I'm still there, and I still want to compete. I want them to see what I can do,” Chislom said. “Ever since my sophomore year, (Meinholdt) has been telling me to work on my jump shot.”
Whether or not those jumpers fall could go a long way to determining where Chislom gets a chance to continue his basketball career.