By Zack Tobita and Ivan Huang
In today’s game of college basketball, where high school YouTube sensations become “one-and-done” pro-draft prospects, junior college transfers typically never get the attention that they deserve.
Former City College basketball player Delon Wright is currently undecided on joining the pros in the National Basketball Association, despite many reports saying that he was going to stay in college for his senior season.
“I’m undecided right now, I’ll know in a week,” Wright said in an interview with The Guardsman on April 18.
Although the 2012 and 2013 North Coast Conference Most Valuable Player has not made his decision, draftexpress.com has projected Wright to be taken as the 29th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Whether his decision is to join the pros with his brother Dorell, who plays for the Portland Trailblazers, or to return for another season with the University of Utah Utes, a former coach believes that he has the talent to play in the NBA.
“I think he can make it,” Rams assistant coach Adam D’Acquisto said. “I think he can play with anybody.”
In 2013, Wright was the 17th-ranked junior college transfer in the country, according to jucorecruiting.com.
As a junior in his first season of Division I basketball, Wright wasted no time becoming the Utes leader on the court.
Wright stuffed stat sheets this season with averages of 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.3 blocks and a conference-leading 36.4 minutes per game.
“He has unbelievable court awareness and he just makes the easy play,” D’Acquisto said.
Wright’s strong season would culminate with All-Pac-12 First Team and Pac-12-All-Defensive team honors.
His impact on both ends of the floor is defined not just by his numbers but by the amount of plays he affects.
As a 6’5 combo guard, Wright’s long arms, quick hands and anticipation in passing lanes are a big reason his 2.5 steals per game was second in the conference.
Despite the outstanding production, Wright continued to be overlooked.
On March 1, NBA.com basketball insider Adam Zagoria tweeted, “Only 3 players in major conferences are averaging 15 ppg, 5 rpg and 5 apg: Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Kane & Juwan Staten, per ESPN.”
Wright retweeted the tweet followed by a tweet of his own.
“Still leaving me out,” Wright tweeted.
Individual accolades aside, the Utes struggled on the road and finished the year 9-9 in conference play and 21-12 overall, which was not enough to earn a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament bid.
The Utes’ only hope of making the NCAA tournament came down to winning the PAC-12 tournament that was held in Las Vegas.
In their first game of the tournament against the University of Washington, Wright led the Utes to a 67-61 win. His team moved on to a matchup against the top-seeded University of Arizona Wildcats.
Although Utah gave Arizona everything they could handle in a 67-63 overtime loss for the Utes three weeks prior, on this day Arizona would prove to be too much as the Wildcats cruised to a dominating 71-39 win.
“(The) players are more physical and quicker (than junior college competition) and the talent (in Division I basketball) is much better,” Wright said
Utah’s season ended on March 18, after a 70-58 loss to St.Mary’s in their first game of the National Invitational Tournament.
“I feel we had a good season,” Wright said. “We were unknown coming into this year and we made some good strides to be a better team.”
Although Wright is recognized as by far the most dominating basketball player to ever come out of City College, Wright still has some room to grow.
“It takes him a while to get his shot off. Other than that, add a little muscle and he’ll be fine,” D’Acquisto said.
Wright says he has improved those weaknesses, since transitioning to Division I.
“(I’m) handling the ball much better, and I’ve been working on my jump shot,” he said.
Many experts consider this year’s NBA draft to be the most talented in years, featuring players like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, to name a few.
The deadline to enter the NBA Draft is April 27, but Wright will think long and hard before he enters his name onto the ballot. It may not be a bad decision for him to stay another year to attempt to be drafted higher, thus earning more money on his NBA rookie contract.