NBA Draft

From unknown prospect to Warriors NBA draft workout: The Langston Terry story

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Sacrifice means everything to Langston Terry. It means going all in when the odds are against you. It means moving across the country from all your friends and family. It means being a dreamer, believing in yourself above all.

Chasing a game is for dreamers, and the NBA draft is designed to make wishes come true for a few, but crush hundreds of wide-eyed souls every year.

The Warriors, for more than a month, have worked out groups of prospects ahead of this week’s NBA draft, taking them through measurements, individual combine drills, shooting, 3-on-3 and 5-on-5. Players from blue-blood college basketball programs such as Duke and Kentucky have come through Chase Center. Big-time schools like Arizona, Oregon, Florida State and Clemson have been represented too, as well as smaller ones in Santa Clara, McNeese State, Weber State and Grand Canyon University.

Golden State even brought in a 19-year-old guard from the G League and two teammates from France’s Vichy-Clermont.

On May 30, Terry, a prospect with a blank space next to his name was part of a six-player Warriors pre-draft workout. He has no college stats. No G League, Overtime Elite or international experience. No game action in well over a year. No high school recruiting profile on ESPN, Rivals or any of the other major outlets, and barely any high school stats are publicly available.

Terry's a 2022 Georgia high school graduate who has taken one of the more unique and mysterious paths to the draft in modern recollection. The 20-year-old is an example of someone who’s relentlessly pursuing a dream while simultaneously being a byproduct of all the twists and turns down complicated roads a young athlete can take in today’s day and age.

“The hard times, they eventually end,” Langston tells NBC Sports Bay Area. “I just think about the end goal and changing my family’s life, the dynamic of my family and everything. I don’t want to see anybody around me struggle.

“I want a certain lifestyle I want to live. I know I can obtain it and work for it.”

Photo courtesy of Golden State Warriors

Langston’s mother, Jessica, is a self-published author who lost her 14-year day-to-day job in 2022 after her department was terminated. She was unemployed for a year and a half before landing a new job three months ago.

Jessica admittedly remembers not having a good day at work when her phone rang, with Langston on the other end. Everything happened so fast. It was the day before his Warriors workout -- Langston found out about the opportunity that same day -- and he had to let his mom know: Everything has been worth it. The first door had opened.

“I was kind of geeked. That made my day,” Jessica said. “That just made my day. I was like, ‘Oh, shut up! Are you serious?’ "

A unique path

While growing up, Langston’s best sport was football, where he thrived on both sides of the ball as a wide receiver, running back and safety. He initially expected to ultimately pursue that sport, but he decided in middle school to solely focus on basketball as his love for the game grew, as did his understanding of what might make more long-term sense after he sustained a concussion during his last year playing football.

Though Langston’s father, Warren, was first to put a basketball in Langston’s hands, he credits his mother landing a night job when he was 8 or 9 years old at a local recreation center for his work ethic and drive to improve.

Jessica remembers Langston participating in open gym against much older competition at the rec center, and not being wanted or accepted early on for games. He kept putting his name on the list as the years went by, finding more ways to prove himself on the court.

Time alone at the rec center was equally as valuable.

When open gym was over and after-hours kicked in, Langston practiced his ball handling and shooting by himself. He never consistently worked with a trainer until his senior year of high school. YouTube was Langston’s first trainer, as he watched videos at the rec center and immediately tried to emulate them on the serenity of an empty court.

“I think that really transformed my game, and it really helped with my development,” Langston said.

“He loved to go with me, to have that time. I didn’t even realize it at that time, but I think it was pretty big,” Jessica now recalls.

The lessons Langston learned, the traits he built and the moves he tirelessly attempted extended past the rec center.

Aldarius McKinley, Alpharetta High School’s assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach, first noticed Langston while coaching a showcase camp during his sophomore year. There he convinced Langston to join his AAU team, the H.Y.P.E. Hawks -- with H.Y.P.E. standing for Helping You Pursue Excellence, for his junior season.

McKinley -- or Coach AD, as he’s known -- thinks of Terry as a sponge always willing to be coached. Terry excelled as a slasher who played team basketball and perfected being a glue guy for the H.Y.P.E. Hawks.

But declaring for the NBA draft? McKinley didn’t see that coming.

The two haven’t talked much since Langston was in high school, but the coach has kept in contact with a handful of his old teammates. McKinley learned both of Langston’s NBA intentions and Warriors workout through this reporter’s post on X. He immediately put it in his group chat with former players, where one quickly confirmed Langston’s plans of being an early entry for the draft once he was eligible.

"Yeah, I was. I was very surprised,” McKinley admits. “Of course extremely proud of him. I also definitely thought it came out of nowhere."

(Video courtesy Aldarius McKinley/H.Y.P.E. Hawks)

Langston played against some top talent during his year with the H.Y.P.E. Hawks: Isaiah Collier (No. 1 prospect in the 2023 college recruiting class) and his stacked The Skill Factory Team, Bruce Thornton (who led Ohio State with 15.7 points per game last season), Kanaan Carlyle (former five-star recruit who played at Stanford last season), as well as Warriors fan favorite Marreese Speights’ team.

It also coincided with Langston’s first year at Lithia Springs High School.

His high school career began at Douglas County, fewer than 7 miles away from Lithia Springs. Langston played 19 games on the Douglas County varsity team as a 6-foot-3, 145-pound sophomore and scored 17 total points, per MaxPreps. Lithia Springs went 11-8 in his junior year, but the site has just three games worth of stats. The country’s top source for high school sports doesn’t have any of Langston’s stats from his senior season.

He isn’t even on Lithia Springs’ 2021-22 roster, which was Langston’s senior season. 

NBC Sports Bay Area confirmed through the Lithia Springs High School athletic department that Langston did play his entire junior and senior seasons for the Lions. Stats for his senior year also were obtained. Per head coach Keith Simmons, Langston grew to a 6-foot-4 wing/guard, was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year, and averaged 13.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, and put up 19 points, five rebounds and two blocks on Senior Night.

"I know in this day and age in the kind of open-up scheme – five out, read-and-react positionless basketball – he's who you want,” Simmons says. “He really played the 1 through 5 for us, on the defensive end, more or less. He was able to bring it down, could handle it, was strong enough to take advantage of a post on the block if he needed to and shot it well from the mid-range.

“Can jump out of the gym. I mean, he's a freakish athlete.” Yet college teams’ interest in Langston was bleak and bare. Nothing came from the name-brand schools, or Division I basketball at all. Local junior colleges liked him. So did a lot of D-III schools. He remembers hearing from some D-II schools, too.

Simmons also says a few factors help tell the bigger story. Langston dealt with a sprained knee early in the season, and his coach estimates he played at 80 to 90 percent health. While Simmons loved Langston’s team-first mentality, he felt at times Langston could have taken over more games on offense. Langston’s steal numbers also would have been even higher had teams not steered clear of him, Simmons says.

But Simmons’ main theory is Langston was on the wrong end of COVID’s impact on recruiting in two ways: Extra eligibility for college players, and less exposure for prospects. 

“I think you have a crop of kids who maybe didn’t get where in the past they would have got,” Simmons believes. “With COVID, a lot of those camps that he would have went to were shut down, and who knows where he would have garnered a lot of attention if he would have been out there? It was hard just getting through a season.

“I think that’s what led most to his unique path. The recruiting trail wasn’t as hot as it usually is. But with social media and being able to find different routes, I think the good thing about that is there are so many different routes, there are so many different options to where you only have to be seen once.”

The postgraduate plan

Langston’s route certainly is different in many ways, a roll of the dice that brings us to The Acker Academy.

“I could have committed to college, I could have gone to college, but I just didn’t feel like it was the best situation that I would have been comfortable in,” Langston explains. “Me choosing Acker was basically me betting on myself, just in my ability and the right people seeing me.”

Acker Academy is a postgraduate school that markets itself as a “virtual school for all.” Its website lists housing, weight training and a nutrition plan as part of the perks while students take only online classes.

Players were housed at an apartment complex in Spartanburg, S.C., and had access to a half-court gym, weight room, pool and a sauna within walking distance. The community also had trainers at the weight room and spin classes.

Team basketball activities and practices were held “off campus” at a local gym. Early in the season, Acker Academy played home games at a gym in Greenville, about 20 or so minutes away from Spartanburg. Most games were on the road, and later in the season, home practices and games were held at a different undisclosed location outside of Greenville.

Jessica is happy with most of her son’s experience with school founder Rodd Acker, head coach Ernest Sinkfield and the school.

"He liked it,” Jessica says. “There was nothing to do but play ball, so he could just do that. It was mostly just focused on the training, and it was very regimented. I'd say it was a good experience.”

But every promise might not have been kept.

“It didn't really turn out like he wanted it to, because unfortunately we were misled about some things about the program,” Jessica reveals. “But it was still overall a positive experience, and I think Langston took a lot away from it at the end of the day, and he did get some more eyes on him.

"I choose to look at it as a positive experience, even though it wasn't everything that we were told it was going to be."

During the Terrys’ visit to the facilities, an Acker Academy representative showed them around and made his pitch. A dedicated team nutritionist was advertised. That never happened. The benefits of the online classes were emphasized as well. Langston’s mother isn’t sure if her son even took any online classes because of a technical issue.

While nearly two years later Jessica couldn’t remember the name of who showed them around and made these promises, NBC Sports Bay Area learned from Rodd Acker that a man named Mason Padgett is responsible for doing so. Padgett has since been terminated and has no affiliation with Acker Academy.

Rodd Acker told NBC Sports Bay Area in a phone conversation that Padgett was let go because of “doing unethical things that we don’t align ourselves with.”

Langston tagged Padgett in his commitment tweet to Acker, to which Padgett quoted the post writing, “Let’s work!!!!” They never did, at least not together.

"A lot of the things that Mason may have portrayed to the parents or even portrayed to me -- a lot of the things that he put in our ears to get us in place, I can say was somewhat misleading,” Sinkfield says.

Padgett also recruited Sinkfield to be Acker’s head coach for the 2022-23 season. On move-in day, there were 17 kids, several from out of state. That’s when Sinkfield says he learned he’d be tasked with handling all of them, straying away from what Padgett presented to him.

The original plan, per Sinkfield, was for him to coach the postgraduate team and for Padgett to coach a high-school-level team. Acker also presents itself as providing virtual schooling for eighth grade through 12th grade. These kids now had to combine with the postgraduate-age players, making one team at the last minute

“He tells me, 'You're just going to have one team and coach these kids. I'm not going to coach this year.’ These kids are coming in with expectations they're going to play so they can be seen by the right college,” Sinkfield says. “It's hard enough to play 10 kids. Now you want me to juggle 17? Impossible."

NBC Sports Bay Area reached out to Padgett for comment, and through a text message, he responded to Acker and Sinkfield’s claims.

“Thank you for reaching out” Padgett wrote. “A few years ago, I partnered with the Acker family to create The Acker Academy. I was told that I would oversee all basketball decisions, including recruiting. After successfully recruiting 17 players due to my relationships with them, the Ackers began wanting a say in basketball decisions. At that point, I felt it was time to part ways. Since then, I have coached at several schools and currently run my own post-graduate program with 11 committed young men.

“Regarding Langston Terry, he is a wonderful young man with exceptional basketball talent. He will be a great addition to any team he plays for. Thank you again for reaching out.”

Padgett now is the owner and recruiting coordinator of Thomas Ridge Athletics postgraduate prep school and AAU program out of South Carolina. He also is entering his first season as a special assistant to the head coach at Calhoun Academy.

Acker Academy did not exist this past school year. It’s currently moving to Concord, N.C., and aims to exist as a school and postgraduate team for the 2024-25 season. Sinkfield hopes to continue being the Red Wolves’ head coach.

No schedule or stats from Langston’s 2022-23 season at Acker are publicly available. The program’s new X account was created June 6 after the previous account was hacked, its Instagram account has been deleted and its YouTube account has five videos, beginning with Acker’s opening game against D-II Erskine College’s JV team.

Sinkfield initially saw Langston as his shooting guard. Langston wanted to work on his skills as a point guard, but a player from Texas at the same position was ahead of him. With his size, Langston primarily played small forward, and per Sinkfield, “became a great playmaker” as the season progressed.

“He definitely has a versatile game. The kid has a lot of game,” Sinkfield emphasized. “He just needs to hone it, but he has a lot of game.”

An official Acker Academy schedule for the 2022-23 season, without dates or scores, was secured by NBC Sports Bay Area. So were Langston’s stats.

Acker Academy played a 23-game schedule against a mixture of postgraduate, junior college, AAU, D-II JV and D-III competition, and Langston averaged 6.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He had more turnovers (29) than assists (28), made 44.9 percent (31 of 69) of his 2-point shots but shot just 27.3 percent (21 of 77) on 3-pointers and 63.9 percent (23 of 36) at the free-throw line.

(Video courtesy of the Acker Academy)

Stealthy cross-country gamble

The alumni page on Acker’s website shows six players from its 17-player team. The first five shown all moved on to junior colleges. The sixth is Langston.

A few colleges reached out to Langston after his one season at Acker. And as Sinkfield worked on getting his player’s name out to schools, he received a call from Langston, who told his coach his plans -- a reminder that he’s always thinking bigger than what might be expected.

So, what was Langston’s next move after just six months in Spartanburg? Not one state over this time but a flight across the country, to Marin, to work with “Hell’s Trainer” Frank Matrisciano and his Stealth X Athletics staff and prepare for the NBA draft.

Dreamers never settle.

“I felt like it was going to be, which it is, the best decision for me in retaining my lifelong dream of becoming a professional basketball player,” Langston says. “And I felt like this was the place to get me better and get me prepared for it.”

Matrisciano has been written up by ESPN, the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Denver Post, Men’s Health and other major news outlets. He also rarely, if ever, has shown his face in a public interview. He’s known for his “stealth” all-black attire, covering his face aside from his eyes and usually wearing long black sleeves, a vest (probably weighted), basketball shorts and hiking boots. His “chameleon” training is all based outdoors, taking Langston to run sand dunes at Baker Beach and bracing the elements of the Marin Headlands.

Photo courtesy Frank Matrisciano/Stealth X

The New Jersey native also has pushed top-tier athletes to their limits for more than three decades. NBA stars Blake Griffin, Gilbert Arenas, Zach Randolph, Wendell Carter Jr., and countless others have trained with Matrisciano. So has three-time All-Pro edge rusher Von Miller since 2017.

Though he prefers “life-changer,” as opposed to strength and conditioning coach, Matrisciano worked with the Memphis basketball team from May 2011 until January 2014 when he was “relieved of his duties” by his brother-in-law, then-Tigers head coach Josh Pastner, over a disagreement.

The one video Matrisciano posted of his work on Stealth X’s website involves former 49ers edge rushers Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, among others, doing squats in the sand and running hills while wearing shoulder pads.

“His workouts, they’re not for everybody,” Langston says. “They’re real tough, but after a while, you get the hang of it if you stick to it and you’re committed.”

Langston packed his bags for Marin and became Matrisciano's newest client in September. He went home for the holidays in November and December, as Matrisciano trained him virtually, outlined meal preps and made basketball workouts through his staff. They work out five days per week, beginning with strength and conditioning in the morning going to the court. All basketball training and activity takes place in the Freitas Memorial Gymnasium at Marin Catholic High School.

Long before the G League Ignite, Overtime Elite or other substitutes to college became options for young athletes, Matrisciano envisioned a world specifically built to make one ready for the pros, not to help win college games that will get a coach paid while not properly developing players for the next level. Jessica didn't have prior knowledge of Matrisciano or Stealth X before she and Langston’s father had multiple conversations with the man they’ve entrusted to do right by their son.

Their first question was obvious: What’s the catch? Langston will not owe Matrisciano a specific amount of money if he’s signed by an NBA team or anybody else. What Matrisciano did receive in writing is that Langston will train under Stealth X in the offseason if he’s not under the supervision of a pro team or has other NBA obligations.

Frank had one question that Langston had to answer before he even entertained the possibility of training him: Do you believe you can play in the NBA? A yes” immediately followed, signaling to him there was no looking back for Langston.

"College does not translate to the pros. It just doesn't,” Matrisciano says. “What they teach you in college doesn't translate, I don't care who you are. So, development has always been the key to what I've done. Nobody does what I do – period.

“I got haters and imitators. But I have NBA coaches teaching you the NBA game for 10 or 12 months, so that's the foundation of it.”

Matrisciano first found out about Langston through people who know the two in Atlanta, and sent him AAU film and other highlights. Without wanting to make a direct comparison, Langston on film reminded him of a rawer, unfinished version of Portland Trail Blazers 2023 No. 2 overall draft pick Scoot Henderson. One of Matrisciano’s pro evaluators was intrigued by Langston’s size as a 6-5 point guard who is fresh clay waiting to be molded into a masterpiece.

"He's done everything I've asked him to do,” Matrisciano says. “He's a great kid. I think he has a nice future ahead of him, and we're going to stick with him through everything, like I said. He's 20. I'm telling people, let's see him when he's 23."

Stealth X's staff includes an assortment of people with NBA ties through coaching, front office and playing experience. Matrisciano trusts his staff will prepare his clients for what translates to the pros, though they don't play 5-on-5, instead prioritizing individual development and training athletes to perform when tired and late in games. The two who have worked closest with Langston's basketball development are Kim Hughes and Jeff Harris.

Hughes played in the NBA and ABA, spent 33 games as the Clippers’ interim head coach in 2010, and also was a Blazers assistant coach. Harris specializes in ball skills – shooting and ball handling. He also owns the Guinness World Record for free throws made alternating hands in two minutes.

Shooting, Matrisciano says, is where Langston’s game needed to most improve.

Through a longtime Warriors connection, Matrisciano was able to deliver when Golden State needed a local talent for a pre-draft workout. In came Langston. Nerves followed him to Chase Center’s practice court, too.

The Warriors put Langston through combine-style drills and athletic tests. Shooting started slow and picked up as the day progressed. Langston is listed as 6-6 on his X account and Acker Academy highlight tape, but he and Matrisciano both call him 6-5. Langston also weighed a solid 203 pounds after coming to California a little more than 180 nine months ago.

The hopeful unknown did not go through 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 sessions, having rolled his ankle earlier in the workout, per Langston and Matrisciano.

Stealth X is sending nine videos to NBA teams to spotlight Langston’s current progression in shooting drills on the run, defensive drills, athletic drills and dunking with ease. NBC Sports Bay Area viewed these videos, and Langston, between three separate shooting videos, shot 31 of 40 overall – 9 of 10 on mid-range shots and 22 of 30 on threes.

Video courtesy of Frank Matrisciano/Stealth X

Developing and dreaming

The Warriors only have one pick -- at No. 52 overall – in this year’s draft, and Langston isn’t in consideration, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area. Langston recognizes that’s the likely outcome with all teams in the draft, but that’s far from the point of it all.

“Yes, I would love to get drafted,” Langston says. “But at the same time I will understand if a team doesn’t draft me because there’s not much known about me – no college experience. It’s easier to go with the ‘safer’ pick. I want to go into these workouts and leave having them make some tough decisions.”

“This is not about the NBA draft,” Matrisciano stresses. “It's about development through the NBA draft, then your first contract to your second and your third. See me Year 3, whether they get drafted or not. The whole platform is designed on development.

“It's not that we're going to get you through the NBA draft, and now we wash our hands of you and you're done.”

Photo courtesy of Golden State Warriors

At the time of our conversation in the first week of June, Langston had workouts set up with the Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic, per Matrisciano, who’s also targeting several other teams through personal and professional connections. He says his clients typically work out for around 10 teams in the draft process.

The hard times, as Langston says, eventually will end. Life is a love story. Obstacles are required.

“Go get it,” his mother, Jessica, sums up. “That’s what I tell him before anything he’s about to do. Before the workout with the Warriors, before anything. I tell him, ‘Believe in yourself. You know what to do, go get it. Go kill it, go do it.’

“Nobody’s going to make it happen but you. It’ll work out like it’s supposed to. I believe that.”

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