Tray Alexander of Pace drives to the hoop during a...

Tray Alexander of Pace drives to the hoop during a game against Adelphi on Jan. 30, 2024. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

PLEASANTVILLE — The good point guards drop dimes. Tray Alexander stacks ’em, rolls ’em and hands them out.

Alexander is a Freeport product and one-time star at Friends Academy in Locust Valley who now runs the men’s basketball show at Pace University. His life and basketball journey have had a little bit of everything — success, failure, adversity and tragedy.

The 5-10 junior went into Saturday’s 70-68 victory over Southern New Hampshire leading all of Division II in assists per game (7.2). He had four assists, with 12 points and five rebounds as Pace got to 15-10.

St. John’s fans might remember him — or choose not to — as the guy who had six points and four assists and helped limit Daniss Jenkins to two points in Pace’s upset of the Red Storm in an exhibition game in November.

“He’s exceptional. He has all the skills, the passing ability, the speed, the vision, the leadership and the intangibles,” Setters coach Matt Healing said. “He’d transferred in, but he became our leader in the days before we played St. John’s. His determination and belief we could win took everyone to a higher level. When we beat a Big East team, it was clear he was legit.”

“With the way he passes and the way he makes quick decisions, he makes everyone on the floor better,” said sophomore forward Jaden Kealey, a Center Moriches product.

Alexander attacks the game with enough passion for two, and there is a good reason. One thing that keeps his fire burning hot is the memory of Ka’Juan Polley, his closest friend and high school teammate, who was killed while cycling home from a basketball event when an unlicensed motorist struck him in July 2015. Polley was a rising sophomore and Alexander a rising freshman after helping the Quakers go 13-7 in Alexander’s first high school season.

“We were best friends. We decided together to go to Friends Academy and we wanted to play together,” Alexander said. “I’d never showed my feelings, even to my family. But they saw me break down . . . I was really shaken.

“The next [school] year, I was in a bad spot [having] lost him. Friends Academy isn’t exactly diverse, but we were comfortable sticking together and we’d made the decision [on that school] together. I was like ‘I don’t even want to go here anymore.’ ”

But Alexander did stay for two more seasons and became a 1,000-point scorer before transferring to spend his final two high school years at Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut.

Alexander was raised by his mother, Tyeisha Kisswani, and his paternal grandparents, retired police officers Adrinna and Larry Buffaloe, and he said, “They helped me learn to overcome adversity.”

“He didn’t share his feelings much, but [Polley’s death] really affected him emotionally,” Adrinna Buffaloe said in a phone interview from Hope Mills, North Carolina. “It’s why he goes so hard on the court. Right now he’s playing for both of them.”

He honors Polley’s memory with a tattoo on his left calf.

It’s said the third time’s the charm, and so it was with Alexander and Healing. Pace recruited Alexander three times before landing him. The array of talents he showcased on the AAU circuit intrigued Healing, but Brandon Jacobs, the 2017 Newsday all-Long Island selection from Long Island Lutheran, was the starter in his way. Alexander opted for Division II St. Rose, where he was named captain as a freshman and started for two seasons.

He put his name in the NCAA transfer portal after the 2021-22 season and again was sought by Healing. Instead, he chose to go to Division II Florida Southern, where things didn’t go exactly as planned. There was a midseason lineup change that produced better results, and he was on the wrong end of it.

“I hope to be a coach one day, so I understood it,” Alexander said. “When a team is winning, you roll with what’s working.”

It took maturity, but as Buffaloe explained, “Trayvon was so mature, we always used to joke about anything that came up, ‘he’s been here before.’ ”

Alexander put his name in the transfer portal again. He explained: “Every move since high school was about finding the right fit. I was never ‘Division I or bust,’ though if I could have, so be it.”

And there was Healing again, still intrigued and in need of a point guard. He said: “We thought he could come in and just take the reins. He’s an alpha personality.

“He may not remember and I may not have the exact words, but when I was recruiting him, I talked about how we’d had some success at Pace and [built] a culture and about how he’d fit in and he says, ‘I am a culture all to myself. Bring it and people follow.’ It’s been just as he said.”

Alexander clarified: “It’s not necessarily ‘I am the culture,’ but I feel like I do have this — let’s say gravity — around me where I can really get guys to give us what we need and do it without being hard on them . . . It’s that I want them to be as good as they can be so the team can be as good as it can be.”

For Kisswani, who still lives in Freeport, the move to Pace has given her a chance to watch her favorite player again.

“Everywhere he goes, he becomes the center of everything,” she said. “It was like that when he was little. It’s like that today.”

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