As Langston Wertz Jr. and his son Langston “Trey” Wertz III sat outside at Boardwalk Billy’s restaurant, their typical basketball-focused debate pressed on.
The present topic was the current state of the National Basketball Association.
Trey, a Golden State Warriors fan, argued that the team could make another championship run next season. His father, who favors Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, countered that the Lakers were one player away from winning their 17th title.
Despite his father’s profession and knowledge of the game, Trey doesn’t back down. So they agreed to disagree once again.
Conversations like these were typical between Langston and his eldest son.
Langston, who has been a sports reporter at the Charlotte Observer for nearly 40 years, has mainly covered high school sports — and witnessed the likes of Steph Curry from prep to pro — never forced the game on his son; their shared interest in basketball became a natural way for them to bond.
Now, with the NBA draft less than a week away, Trey, a 6-foot-5 combo guard from Notre Dame, could become the next local hoop star to make it to the NBA.
A love for the game
Basketball was always a sport Trey and his father could bond over.
The two traveled to local high school games that Langston had to cover.
“Trey was spoiled,” Langston said. “He’s seen the best players in the country sitting there beside me, watching every week. D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons, Derrick Favors, Dwight Howard.”
“Everybody knew him,” Trey said of his father, “and that was fun.”
Langston also coached his two sons, Trey and Khamani, in Amateur Athletic Union basketball, a traveling youth league. He recognized early on that Trey had talent.
“He would get like 25 points a day, and he wasn’t even trying to,” Langston recalled. “It was kind of natural because he wasn’t really practicing basketball.”
Langston wanted to develop Trey’s game, so he sought the advice of NBA greats.
Former Charlotte Hornet Dell Curry, the father of NBA star Steph Curry, advised Wertz not to let Trey shoot on 10-foot hoops until he was old enough to reach them without straining. And former Hornets player Muggsy Bogues trained Trey and helped further develop his shooting ability.
“It was really cool to have someone of that magnitude taking their time out the day to work me out,” Trey said. “[Bogues] saw something in me.”
Trey was also a good shooter, but the additional training developed his stroke to a different level, Langston said.
“He was one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen,” Langston said.
As any father would, Langston cheered for his son at high school games, but things got complicated when Trey joined the basketball team at Providence Day School. Langston, who often covered the school, said he never wanted to appear biased and agreed not to cover any Providence Day basketball games while Trey played there.
He also excused himself from voting on the All-Observer team, a yearly honor given to the area’s best high school players.
“When he was playing, I was just dad in the stands,” he said. “Once he got to high school, I was just there to enjoy the game.”
Trey earned a starting role as a sophomore and played alongside future NBA players Devon Dotson and Grant Williams.
“He ended up on the best team in the history of Charlotte Mecklenburg,” Langston said. “That made it more difficult because they had to be in the paper all the time.”
Providence Day School won the state championship in 2016, defeating future NBA star Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and High Point Christian.
Trey, then a sophomore, led the team with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists, calling the title game his “coming out party.”
Trey’s game continued to develop at Providence Day, and he became a top-15 recruit in the state, earning a number of Power-5 offers going into his senior season from schools including Clemson, Boston College and Virginia Tech.
He chose Santa Clara University after the school promised him a significant role as a freshman.
“I fell in love with having an opportunity from day one to play,” Trey said.
Finding his own
At Santa Clara, Trey was a two-year starter, earning all-conference honors as a freshman, and he was a reliable threat from deep, leading the team in 3-point shooting as a sophomore.
Following his sophomore season, Trey entered the transfer portal, becoming one of the top transfer recruits in the country. He was courted by Oklahoma, Arizona, Ohio State, Butler, Notre Dame and North Carolina.
The Wertz family are lifelong Tarheel fans; Langston is a Chapel Hill graduate. And although Langston never pushed his son to choose his alma mater, Trey said his dad did drop a few hints.
“He’d wear Carolina stuff all day around the house, trying subliminal messages. When Roy [Williams] called a couple of times, he’d have a big grin on his face,” Trey said.
Trey’s decision came down to a spreadsheet he put together comparing his final 11 schools. Notre Dame ranked first or second in nearly every category.
Wertz was an instant impact player for the Fighting Irish — as a starter and as a key spark off the bench.
One of his biggest moments came when he hit the game-winning 3-point buzzer shot to a victory over Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament.
Langston told QCity Metro he wasn’t surprised, adding that Trey hitting game-winning shots since he played in youth league tournaments.
“He’s always one to come up with big shots in the big moment,” he said.
He finished his three-year tenure at Notre Dame with 579 points on 38.2 percent shooting, 104 made three-pointers on 36.9 percent shooting from deep and a total of 210 assists.
He was an honor roll student in the 2022 and 2023 All-ACC academic honoree.
Preparing for the future
These days, Trey said he works out and often has multiple sessions, from morning to night, to prepare for the draft.
The Charlotte Hornets invited him to a pre-draft workout in May. He said it was an experience he’ll always remember since Charlotte is his hometown.
“It was cool just to be in there and have the opportunity to work out with an NBA team, something not a lot of people can say they did,” Trey said.
He added that it would be a “dream come true” to make it to the NBA, and he’s confident in his ability to compete at the next level since he’s played with and against some of the league’s current players.
Trey said he stays in touch with former Santa Clara teammate Jalen Williams, who Oklahoma City chose during the first round of the 2022 NBA draft.
He said Jalen and Grant Williams have both given him tips ahead of the upcoming draft.
In his years of covering athletes, Langston has learned one common lesson that he’s passed along to his son: maintaining humility.
“All the goodwill you’ve built up can be gone in an instant,” Langston said. “I’ve seen that with so many athletes. The biggest of the big make one mistake, and it’s gone.”
The Wertz understand the odds against Trey making the NBA roster, but they aren’t too worried; Trey has options.
If the NBA doesn’t pan out, Trey plans to test his skills in an overseas league.
And he has two degrees – a bachelor’s in economics and a master’s in business analytics – to fall back on.
“I have different interests, and I don’t really know what I want to focus on. Sometimes I think it’s something around basketball,” Trey said.
“I look forward to seeing where his journey takes him,” Langston said of his son. “ I see great things ahead for him. He just has to be patient enough to reach for them all.”
No matter what happens, Trey appreciates having his father every step of the way.
“Through the ups and downs, he’s always been there. He’s been someone I can lean on, ask questions to,” he said. “Just having that father figure there is something I try not to take for granted.”