Justise Winslow was only four when his parents divorced. Enter an unlikely father figure in Justise's life, Steve Trauber, who is mostly known as a vice chairman and global head of energy for Citibank's investment banking division in Houston.
Trauber's interests did not stop there as he took a keen interest in helping disadvantaged youngsters blossom into mature adults.
"It was about so much more than basketball," Trauber said. "We wanted to make sure they grew up to be mature young men with a degree of character and integrity."
"Trauber paid for his players to attend etiquette classes, where they learned about place settings at fancy restaurants, the proper form for cutting a steak and to 'never order spaghetti when you're on a date,' Winslow chuckled."
Trauber's influence can be seen in the Robins House Family Foundation Winslow established with his mother Robin. The mission statement has a striking similarity to what Trauber tried to accomplish.
The mission of Robin’s House Family Foundation, founded by Robin Davis & her son, Justise Winslow, is to encourage and guide children and young adults to discover their highest potential through education, recreation, and community outreach.
Winslow's growth in character and achieving a maturity beyond his years came at a steep price. Trauber demanded excellence and was unwavering in seeing that his students were also committed to his high standards.
"Trauber, who played one college season at Rice, didn't hesitate to use tough love to get his point across.
Winslow had just returned from an overseas trip with USA Basketball when he showed up for a summer league game at the Peach Jam Tournament—one of the most high-profile recruiting events of the summer—in street clothes, saying he was too tired to play.
Trauber ripped into him and reminded him that his absence on the court was hurting his team.
Another time, in Hawaii, Trauber benched Winslow for an entire game because of a poor attitude.
"Even his mom was like, 'How could you do that to my son?' " Trauber said.
"But I'm glad I did it. The star of the team has to be a leader, and he wasn't acting like that. So many told him 'yes' all the time that he needed someone to be tough on him."
After high school Winslow encountered another legendary motivator in Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was not afraid of disciplining his team, if they did not perform up to his standards. During one particular game, a 74-64 loss to Notre Dame in which Winslow went scoreless on 0 for 2 shooting during the first half, Coach K took extreme measures by not starting him in the second half.
"Right before the game began, Krzyzewski had given his group a few directives—Matt Jones summed it up as play angry and execute the game plan—but Krzyzewski saw none of keys he was looking for right after the opening tip.
"That is so uncharacteristic," he said. "Obviously, it’s not because they have a bad attitude or anything, but whatever, they weren’t there mentally."
"That funk lasted throughout the first 20 minutes, and Duke went into back into the locker room down 15 points, 41-26. That deficit was larger than all of their other halftime deficits combined.
"Krzyzewski attempted to shake Duke out of its funk by changing the starting lineup for the second half—in were Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson, and out were Matt Jones and Justise Winslow."
Winslow said the departure of Dwyane Wade shook him. Searching for a father figure ever since his parents separated has always been a part of his persona, from Trauber to Krzyzewski to Wade. Now it's up to teammate Chris Bosh turn to give Winslow the tough love he needs to succeed.
Coach Erik Spoelstra visualizes a world of possibilities for Justise, because of the elite physical tools he possesses.
In an interview in the New York Post Winslow openly acknowledges what winning doesn't motivate him, but preventing others from winning does.
"I hate losing more than I like winning."
From that angle Winslow thrives on being cast as an underdog who overcomes overwhelming odds in a hostile setting. On other hand Wade thoroughly enjoyed home cooking, to the point that he would go around the arena pleading for the fans to get louder. That's part of the job as the face of the franchise.
"I’ve always kind of enjoyed the road games more than the home games.
Just going to hostile environments, back against the wall, everyone wants to see you lose, and so, for you to quiet the crowd with a play, or win in a tough environment, there’s nothing better than walking out of a gym and it being silent when everyone wanted to see you lose and was kinda hating on you."
He grew as the youngest of five children, who were physically bigger. He's comfortable taking on bigger and stronger opponents, and coming out ahead by stopping them.
"Probably ’cause at a young age that’s all I could do. Being the youngest in my family … when you’re 6, 7 years old, and playing against your 12-year-old brother, you’re most likely not gonna be able to score on him.
But you can do everything in your power really to try to defend him whether it’s fouling or just figuring a way to prevent him from scoring, and so that’s something that I had to learn from a young age is I may not be able to score on my siblings but I can definitely do my best to play defense, and try to stop him from scoring, so that’s probably where that comes from."
Justise Winslow has all the tools to become a defensive nightmare in the NBA, and perhaps earn a spot on the NBA All-Defensive team. Leaving the scoring load of the Heat to Hassan Whiteside and Bosh, he can focus all his energy on doing what he loves to do: stop the other team from scoring.
The return of Bosh won't just benefit Winslow's development, but other youngsters, such as Josh Richardson (22), Briante Weber (23), Dion Waiters (24) and Derrick Williams (25), who will be expected to reach championship performance levels they have not achieved yet. Between Bosh and Udonis Haslem, the five rings they won serve as constant reminders to the team that they will not be on the floor as cheerleaders, but taskmasters.
Winning won't be easy, but Justise Winslow never backed down in the face of overwhelming odds. As Bill Russell said about easy-going Wilt Chamberlain, don't get him angry.