The Wright stuffPublished 10:44pm Friday, December 14, 2012
Nick Wright has come a long way from when Coach Calvin Mason first got him into basketball at age 12.
Wright, a redshirt senior power forward for the Old Dominion Monarchs, has been a starter for the basketball team since last season and has hopes for even playing professionally overseas after graduation.
For Wright, all the success started right here in Suffolk.
Nansemond River varsity girls’ basketball coach Calvin Mason was the catalyst.
“Coming out of middle school when I was in seventh grade, he saw me and got me hooked up with an (Amateur Athletic Union) team,” Wright recalled recently. “And then after that, I started playing with his (junior varsity) team, and that’s how it all began in Suffolk.”
Wright’s first year of high school began a four-year partnership with NR varsity boys’ basketball coach Ed Young that had a huge influence.
“Nick’s a great kid, I should say, young man, he’s heading that way,” Young said. “He was a joy to coach. He was a freshman my first year, and I’d heard a little bit about him — tall, lanky drink of water.”
Young said physical conditioning, whether it was running or weightlifting, always proved hard for the 6-foot-7 Wright, who has a naturally thin build.
“One of the major things Coach Young tried to get me ready for, but it was kind of hard being so young (was) the physical aspect of the game,” Wright said. “When I came in, I was about 180, 189, but I was 6-foot-7 at the time, so you can only imagine how that balanced out. Now, I’m sitting at about 6-foot-8, 215 (pounds).”
Wright has put on 25-30 pounds of muscle to be more of a force against the bigger, more physical college-level athletes, who are just as tall if not taller.
Wright credits Young with helping take his game to the next level.
“Coach Young taught me a whole lot of leadership qualities,” Wright said. “He taught me the whole mental aspect of the game,” he said.
The coach also helped turn Wright’s thoughts to college ball.
“Starting off, a young guy like that age, and just starting basketball really, college was something I didn’t even think about,” Wright said.
“I’ll never forget my first letter was from (North Carolina) State at the end of my sophomore year and I went to go tell him like, ‘Coach, y’all, look at what I got!’”
Wright redshirted his first year at ODU, learning a lot by getting to watch the team. Then, in the proceeding years, he worked his way up from about six minutes a game as a freshman to now being a starter and someone the other players look to for leadership.
ODU head coach Blaine Taylor expressed respect for Wright’s growth.
“One of the neat things about Nick is his growth academically, his growth socially, his growth as a basketball player,” he said. “He’s had a real solid career.”
“Nick’s been chosen the captain, so he has more leadership capacity,” Taylor said. “If you had looked at Nick five years ago and said that he’s sitting here in position for his degree and a captain and playing significant minutes, you’d say, ‘Hey, this guy’s done a good job of pursuing his career in college.’”
Coach Young affirms Taylor’s comments.
“I’m not surprised by it and it’s so nice to see because that kid’s earned it,” Young said. “He’s worked for everything he’s got, he’s good in the classroom, he knew what school was all about, he didn’t look to cut corners.”
Wright explained what he has enjoyed most about playing college basketball.
“Just being here, playing around your family,” he said. “It’s basically still home to me. Not only that, but it’s still a good team. I won two championship rings here, played all across the world, played in the NCAA (tournament), three different games.”
And while he has hopes for professional basketball, he has hedged his bets.
“My major is here is industrial technology with a minor in management, so hopefully I can do something that I love to do either on the court or off it,” he said.