CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Madeline Coleman//The Charlotte Observer) - Trey Phills looked like a natural on the court, keeping his breathing level with his eyes focused on the basket.
Phills, a guard from Yale, caught the pass and sank the midrange jump shot on the Charlotte Hornets’ practice court at Spectrum Center.
“It’s my first time back out here since the season ... I just thought I felt real composed towards the end and knocking down some shots,” said Phills, whose father, Bobby, played for the Hornets. “I was really happy with how I finished strong.”
The Charlotte native attended the Hornets’ predraft workout Friday morning — his first with an NBA team. While the practice was an opportunity to showcase his skills, the morning was more of a sentimental moment for Trey.
Bobby Phills died in a car crash after leaving a Hornets practice in January 2000 when Trey was 3 years old. Phills’ No. 13 remains the only number to be retired by the team.
Friday, Trey Phills, now 22, walked through the arena and saw pictures of his dad. The moment was surreal for him.
“I got goosebumps right now,” said Phills, who played at Charlotte Christian. “Me and my uncle, we used to workout here since I was like 12 or 13 years old... Just to be back in here after I graduated from Yale was just really special.”
Phills mirrors his father on and off the court.
Bobby Phills played nine seasons in the NBA, including three for the Hornets. He averaged 11 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists, and known for his defense — Hornets owner Michael Jordan once called Phills the toughest defender he ever faced. Phills also was known for his community service efforts.
At Yale, Trey Phills averaged seven points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists during his collegiate career. He played on the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament teams in 2016 and 2019.
“It’s crazy when you think about it,” Phills said. “Our class of 2019 was the first one I think in history to go to two NCAA Tournaments. ... It was real fun getting back to the tournament, beating Harvard in the (Ivy League) championship game, just the storybook.”
Phills started all 29 games last season for the Bulldogs and was fourth on the team in steals and blocks. He was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ 2019 Give Back Team, which recognizes male student-athletes for their community service.
After the season, Phills continued practicing, trying to stay ready in case he got a workout invite. The extra hours paid off.
“I was working out with my coaches back at Yale and got a text that was just like, ‘Hey, it’s (Hornets player personnel director) Larry Jordan. We want to get you back out at Charlotte,’” Phills said. “So I was like, ‘I will drive 12 hours tonight to get back down there.’”
Friday’s workout was special for Phills, but he understands the reality of his pro future.