December 19, 2008
By David Driver
Used with permission
Chris Wright, as a top high school prospect, heard a lot of people throw around those three letters: N-B-A. He heard fans tell him he should attend a big-time program such as North Carolina or Kentucky and he heard recruiters tell him how their school could help him get to the NBA. He heard references to the green room, where potential lottery picks hang out before the NBA draft in New York.
“They don’t understand the process,” Wright said of well-meaning fans. But what Wright wanted to hear was more about GPA – as in grade-point average – or at least more substance to what would be expected of him when it came to getting a college education.
“Education is important. I realize I am not going to be bouncing a basketball forever,” said Wright, taking a break from studying for exams in late December. “The ball is going to stop bouncing one day.” While at one point he never considered staying in-state to play at Dayton, that is what happened.
He played in 15 games as a freshman last season and broke his ankle in the first conference game. He still led the Flyers in rebounding (5.7 per game) and field goal percentage (.602) and was second in scoring at 10.4 points per game.
Wright recovered from his injury and returned for the second round of the NIT, where he had nine points in 10 minutes against Illinois State and then 12 points against Ohio State. The 6-foot-8 forward was named to the Atlantic 10 all-rookie team even though he played just eight minutes in league play. Wright won the conference rookie of the week honor four times as a freshman.
What did he learn from being off the court? “You see stuff. I was hurt for almost three months. It was motivation,” said Wright, who is studying communications and electronic media. “It takes a lot out of you to be on the sidelines. I kept my faith in God. I probably wouldn’t have worked as hard as I did” if he had been healthy.
Wright, with a vertical leap near 40 inches, started the first 10 games for Dayton this season and averaged 26.9 minutes, 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The Flyers are 9-1 and set to host UNC Greensboro on Dec. 20. “We are happy where we are right now,” Wright said. “The game changes every day. We have to continue to get better. A lot of teams wish they only had one loss.”
The fast start is even more impressive since the Flyers are adjusting to the loss of guard Brian Roberts, a senior last season who averaged 18.4 points and 3.4 assists for a team that was ranked in the top 20 in the nation before falling off midway through the campaign. Roberts averaged 17.3 points and 2.6 assists in his first eight games for a pro team in Israel this fall.
“Brian was a great player. He worked hard. This year it is a different team. I think we are better this year than last year,” said Wright, who noted the small Roberts was not likely to post up opposing guards. “I like our chances. We are versatile. We can get out and run and we can play the halfcourt game and pound it inside. I think we are a more confident team.”
Dayton allowed an average of 56.9 points per game in the first 10 contests, while scoring 68.5 per outing. “We take pride in our defense,” Wright said. “We can score points. If you don’t20commit on defense it is a good chance you are going to lose that game.”
Even though some online fans write that Wright needs better competition than the Atlantic 10, one pre-season publication said Wright may be the best NBA prospect in the conference. And despite the hype coming out of high school, Wright feels The League can wait. “As soon as you say NBA … you are going to be hyped about it. That is a different type of level. They go to work every day. It is a goal of mine but I am not worrying about it now,” he said. “I don’t want to let any of that go to my head and be complacent. I am focused.”