‘A true leader’

Published 8:26 pm Saturday, February 2, 2013

NSA’s Wentz plays beyond his age

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy freshman point guard Morgan Wentz has been a consistent reminder this season for NSA basketball fans that though the current one-win season seems gloomy, the future will likely be bright. Wentz continued providing leadership last week to earn the nomination for Player of the Week.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy freshman point guard Morgan Wentz has shown maturity beyond his years this season, serving as a leader on the court and a team captain, as voted upon by his teammates, most of whom are older than him. He received 278 votes to become the Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week.

In one of the tightest races the Suffolk News-Herald poll has ever had, Wentz edged out First Baptist Christian junior center Caitlin Hankins by 10 votes, 278-268.

Wentz led his team with 12 points last Thursday in another tight race, this one with conference foe Peninsula Catholic. It was not unusual for him.

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“He’s kind of the guy that everybody looks to to be the team leader,” NSA head coach Randolph Davis said. “As a freshman, he’s even one of the captains, voted on by the players.”

“I’ve got to act older, even though I’m a freshman, because I’m a captain,” Wentz said. “I can’t show I’m a freshman on the floor. I’ve got to play like a senior.”

“He’s leading the team in scoring, he’s like the fourth-best rebounder as a point guard, he leads in steals, he leads in assists,” Davis said. “He’s doing everything for us.”

Wentz was also a starter and captain for the varsity team in eighth grade. To be a leader on the court while so young, he needed to get a comprehensive early education on the game.

He comes from good stock as his father, Robert Wentz III, was also a basketball player at Nansemond-Suffolk in 1976 and was the first student in school history to score more than 1,000 points.

The elder Wentz recalled that Morgan got his start with the game when his older brother received a Little Tykes basketball hoop for Christmas. The two brothers would play against each other year-around in the house, and eventually Morgan inherited it as his brother out-grew it.

“Morgan has watched Duke basketball forever, and at one point, he had (the hoop) set up so that he could watch the Duke game and then he would mimic a lot of the plays and a lot of the shots that some of the players took,” Robert Wentz said.

Around that same time when he was 11, Morgan Wentz went outside the home to learn more about the game at the encouragement of his father.

“I played at the Y, at (the) Portsmouth YMCA,” Morgan Wentz said. “I played street ball. I’ve been playing street ball since I was in fifth grade with guys that go to Norcom and Churchland. So I’ve been playing bigger and better competition.”

Some of the competition includes former Virginia Tech and current University of Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith, Hampton University point guard Travis McClenny and recent Old Dominion University standout Ben Finney.

“They took him under their wing, and they worked with him and helped him,” Robert Wentz said. “It was just a great learning experience.”

Morgan Wentz also plays lacrosse at Nansemond-Suffolk, but his goal is to play basketball in college. In addition to an improving ability to shoot and handle the ball, and he has already exhibited a special quality that could help ensure him a spot on a college roster.

“I want the ball in my hands when we’re up by one, down by a hundred, I want that ball,” he said.

Davis has recognized this characteristic in Wentz.

“To me, that’s a true player, that’s a true leader, the guy that wants the ball, that doesn’t want to back away from the big moment or the tough situation, and Morgan is that guy,” Davis said. “He wants to be in that situation.”

In identifying what drives him, Wentz goes in his mind back to Portsmouth.

“Basically, all those guys that I play with at the Y,” he said. “They always come up and watch me, and I just try to play like I’m playing at the Y.”