Trey Mourning had just completed his first pre-NBA draft workout Monday morning, but he looked at ease inside the Washington Wizards’ practice facility in Congress Heights. He was mindful to request a towel to wipe down his sweaty face before meeting a miniature throng of reporters. Later, as a learning linguist, the 22-year-old made plans to schmooze with the boss.
“I speak a bit of Greek, too. I want to make my way over to Mr. Leonsis, if I can catch him and talk to him in Greek a little bit,” Mourning said, smiling at the thought of conversing with the team’s majority owner, Ted Leonsis, the grandson of Greek immigrants.
Mourning, who recently completed his five-year college career at Georgetown, has the confidence of someone who has been in these professional settings. Being the son of Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning plays no small role.
As a teenager, Alonzo Mourning III (he has gone by Trey throughout his life) got perturbed when people would identify him merely as his father’s son. Shizz Alston Jr., a four-year player from Temple, can understand the feeling. He grew up in the Philadelphia basketball bubble, where his father, Levan, was well known as a baller.
“Everywhere you go people know him, and he’s a real recognizable face in Philly,” Alston said of his father. “He’s a big guy. Big name.”
On one hand, Mourning and Alston are proud of the burdens they bear. Both sons have their father’s name, chose to play college basketball at their father’s alma mater and wore their father’s jersey number — No. 33 for Mourning, No. 10 for Alston. As a pair of draft hopefuls, however, the men now feel comfortable in their own identities.
“I did go through that phase a little bit, kind of an angry phase,” Mourning said about being better known for what his father had accomplished. “But at the same time, as long as you set goals that are bigger than anything your parents have done . . . and you’re doing what you do for the right reasons, I think everything else will take care of itself.”
Mourning started a career-high 11 games during the 2018-19 season as a graduate student; he had missed all of 2017-18 after hip surgery. Although he averaged just 6.3 points in his final year, Mourning has billed himself as a defender and rebounder to NBA decision-makers. If that sounds familiar, the elder Mourning was known as one of the best defensive centers of his era and won NBA defensive player of the year honors in 1999 and 2000.
Although Trey looks and sounds like his father, outside of basketball, he has found his own lane through music and language. For his 16th birthday, he asked for Rosetta Stone software to learn Portuguese. He said he is conversational in at least four languages.
“I’m not in anyone’s shadow,” he said. “I realize now it’s all about how you see yourself. I see myself as Trey Mourning, as a great person he is.”
Alston enjoyed being compared to his father on the court, but after a childhood full of benefits from being Levan’s kid, he decided to change his name to Shizz when he got to Temple.
Levan Alston Sr. won a pair of conference championships and played in the NCAA tournament during his two years at Temple. In his senior season in 1995-96, he ranked third in the Atlantic 10 in steals and seventh in assists. He went on to play professionally overseas, but as a North Philadelphia native his name loomed large in the city’s basketball circles.
Family and friends had known Alston Jr. by his nickname, which his father had shortened from his middle name, Shawn. But the son wanted the rest of greater Philadelphia to know about Shizz, too. The small act of changing his name served as a momentous shift in Alston’s development.
“I got afforded a lot of opportunities because of that, similar to Trey,” he said. “I was put in different places because my dad was who he was, but then when I got to college I kind of wanted to make a name for myself."
As a senior, the 6-foot-4 Alston led the American Athletic Conference in scoring at 19.7 points per game as the Owls advanced to the NCAA tournament. This spring, he earned a bid to play in the Portsmouth Invitational, the top tournament for college seniors. There, he teamed with Mourning, and their squad advanced to the semifinals.
After their Monday reunion with the Wizards, both men headed their separate ways and were, in a sense, returning home. Mourning, who grew up in Miami, had a visit scheduled with the Heat — the team with which his father won a championship and continues to work in an executive role. Alston has three more workouts this week, including one with Philadelphia. Even with his hometown’s professional team, it’s hard for Alston to escape playing under someone’s shadow — his godfather, Aaron McKie, once played for the 76ers.
Still, the player who goes by Shizz wants to let people know he’s more than just his father’s son.
“Set my own destiny, my own milestones,” Alston said. “It was fun for a while, but I wanted to be my own person.”