The gym is nearly empty at Providence Day School, 30 minutes after a boys’ basketball game.
Chargers guards Devon Dotson and Trey Wertz are being interviewed when Dotson breaks into a smile and suddenly hides his 6-foot-1 frame behind his 6-5 teammate.
“Pretend I’m not here, just keep the interview going without me,” says a voice from behind Wertz. Dotson is trying to hide from a fellow student across the gym. Wertz rolls his eyes, sighs and continues the interview.
Such is life with a pair of 11th-grade best friends who hang out together, watching basketball on TV and playing video games – and who also happen to be among the best high school basketball players in the region on a strong Chargers team.
Together, they have more than 30 college scholarship offers. The Division II and lower-level Division I schools have quit trying. But if you talk to anyone on campus, they’ll tell you Dotson and Wertz are ordinary guys who also happen to excel in the classroom.
“They are unbelievably humble,” says Neely Gutierrez, a Providence Day teacher who also is academic advisor to both players. “They are not arrogant nor narcissistic, even though, with their talent, they easily could be.”
In regional basketball circles, Dotson and Wertz became almost-mythic figures last week when Providence Day (13-5) knocked off, on back-to-back nights, nationally ranked Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha 77-72 and Sunrise (Kan.) Christian 39-37. Dotson (23 points) and Wertz (16) accounted for all the scoring against Sunrise Christian. Against DeMatha, Wertz had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while Dotson hit 16 of 19 free throws.
They can play effectively anywhere on the floor. That has been especially important this season, as Providence Day lost three Division I recruits (all frontcourt players) to graduation off last season’s state championship team. Coach Brian Field is playing several freshmen as starters this year, and one of them, 6-5 center Jacolbe Cowan, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last month.
“We do what we have to,” says Wertz, who averages 18.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 61 percent on field goals. “If we need to go inside for rebounds, we do that. If we need to play as guards, we do that.”
Adds Dotson, a point guard who averages 23.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and six assists: “We have a competitive nature. I guess that shows.”
“And they are real leaders for our younger players,” Field says.
“We have some really good young players, and Devon and I do what we can to help them,” Wertz says.
Dotson’s family moved to Charlotte from Chicago about 10 years ago. He and Wertz played against each other on AAU teams for a few years, then were teammates in eighth grade on the United Faith Christian Academy junior varsity. There, they came under the tutelage of then-coach Muggsy Bogues, the former Wake Forest and Charlotte Hornets point guard.
Dotson attended Providence High in ninth grade, then joined Wertz last season at Providence Day.
“Both of their games have really developed,” says Field, whose Chargers are scheduled to play host to York Prep Friday night. “Trey has become a very good ball-handler, in addition to his shooting. Devon didn’t have to be a leader last year, but he has taken on that role with Trey this season.”
Ask people in the Providence Day community about the two, and they’ll praise their basketball abilities – but quickly start talking about Dotson and Wertz as quality young men.
Gutierrez says Wertz is “one of the hardest-working students I’ve ever met. He takes a full, strenuous course load and finds success in the classroom because of his consistent effort.”
Of Dotson, she says, “I have never taught a student quite like Devon.” She says the two might be discussing a topic, and Dotson will raise the issue again minutes later. “I know he’s been really thinking about the material and processing it at a deeper level,” she says.
And about those personalities.
“Off the court, they are a hoot,” says Providence Day math teacher Lee Taylor. “Trey is the quiet one. Devon is the outgoing, smooth talker.”
Taylor tells the story of how Dotson once told Taylor’s fourth-grade daughter, Clancy, that his name really was Billy. Another day, he told Clancy that he’d changed his name to Samurai Jackson.
“Yeah, he’s the funny guy,” Wertz says. “But I can give it back to him.”
They talk to one another about college plans and about the recruiting process. “But we haven’t had a serious talk,” Dotson says. “There’s plenty of time for that.”
They say it’s fun to be friends, students and basketball players.
“We love this,” Dotson says.