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Allonzo Trier

© Lauren Greenfield

A sixth grade basketball phenom in Federal Way, Wash. (outside Seattle), Allonzo Trier, 13, is nationally ranked #1 in his age division. He demonstrates according tenacity and discipline, and has already captured the attention of the N.C.A.A. He trains rigorously seven days a week - with, alternately, a private coach, several teams, and his mother - and receives star treatment that, in decades past, has been reserved for players safely out of adolescence. Now, as high-level recruiters believe they can identify prodigies in increasingly younger kids, "the Allonzo Trier phenomenon" is something everyone wants a piece of: he receives promotional gear courtesy of N.B.A superstars, has a private benefactor who arranged funds for tuition and private tutoring, and is rumored to be sought after by a team that travels by private jet. Trier's personal motto is "When the lights come on, it's time to perform."

While no one can guarantee Trier's future, the signs are auspicious. Most of the N.B.A's current younger tier were trained and targeted at the all-star camps and A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union) circuits in which Trier travels. He's the only child of a single mother living in federally subsidized housing (which also augurs a professional career: historically, many of the best basketball players come from poor neighborhoods and single-parent homes). Marcie, his mother, devotes herself to her son's career. She trains with him every day (witnessing an average of 3 000 shots per week), immerses herself in basketball culture, maneuvers adeptly in a male-dominated arena, and hopes he'll grow taller. They both do. Right now, Trier is 5-foot-5: statistically short for a star at his age. It's a variable they can't control, but they're both working tirelessly on those they can.

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