Boise, Idaho isn’t a traditional hot bed recruiting spot for Division 1 basketball coaches. Generally — when people think of Idaho, they think potatoes, outdoor activities and with the explosion of Boise State football in the last decade, the Blue Turf.
This fall, die-hard fans and college basketball junkies alike will be introduced to Isaiah “Freaky Zeeky” Wright from Borah High School in Boise, Idaho, when he heads to the University of Utah.
Idaho? C’mon, for real, a kid that can ball from Idaho?
“It’s not where you’re from, it’s how you play,” says Wright.
“Social media is crazy, and I’ve heard some talk that I can’t play at this level. That doesn’t faze me at all. It just gives me more fuel to prove people wrong.”
The myth of Freaky Zeeky began as a fifth grader who was destroying kids and dominating local youth leagues. Word of the 10-year old kid who couldn’t be stopped spread like a California forest fire.
Borah’s head coach, Cary Cada, who’s been at the school for 20 years and won four 5A State championships, heard the chatter and first saw Wright play as a sixth grader. All he could do was watch in disbelief.
The legend continued to grow as Wright was the first freshmen to start on varsity at the tender age of 14 for Borah, a basketball power in Idaho. At a lot of high schools across the country, when a student begins his freshmen year they attend school with the rest of the upperclassmen. However, in the Boise Public School District, students don’t officially set foot on campus for classes until their sophomore year of high school. This meant Wright had to travel from West Jr. High for practice. The travel may have been a pain, but the transition on the hardwood was smooth.
“There was never a question or a decision with Isaiah, he was ready to start from the get go,” says Cada.
The buzz of Wright’s talent turned into a swarm from his freshmen to junior year, and the 6-2 point guard didn’t disappoint, leading the Lions to back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013.
Many believed the Lions didn’t have a chance to defend their crown this season, as Wright was sidelined with what was initially declared a season-ending wrist injury. After following the doctor’s orders and being medically cleared, he was able to return to action and led the Lions to their third straight title game appearance, where they came up just short of a three-peat, finishing the game with 18 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds.
“I wasn’t about to miss my senior year,” Wright explained.
The championship loss and injury didn’t stop Wright from claiming his second consecutive Gatorade Idaho Boys Basketball Player of the Year with averages of 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.7 steals.
“Isaiah Wright is the most complete player I’ve seen in this state in my 23 years as a coach,” said Meridian High coach Mike Graefe in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.
“He is a true leader and a terrific player. There is nobody else who is even close.”
Booker Nabors is a prep legend from Borah, and played at Boise State University back in the day. He’s still a strong influence in the Boise-area basketball community and knows Wright. When asked if Wright has what it takes to play at a high level, he doesn’t hesitate to share his opinions.
“He’s the real deal,” Nabors says. “He’s a great kid with his head on straight. He’s only going to get better, a lot better. You know you’re nice when you’re nickname from hoopin’ is Freaky Zeeky.”
Wright keeps his circle small, and turns to his dad, Archie, and his Hoop Dreams AAU basketball coach Roberto Bergersen for basketball advice. The older Wright and Bergersen also played at Boise State, and Bergersen considers the Wrights family.
“We’ve known Isaiah since kindergarten or first grade,” Bergersen says. “He comes from a great family, and our families have always been close, even outside of basketball.”
Bergersen has seen a lot of basketball as an athlete, collegiately and professionally, and now as a coach. The fact that Wright is from Idaho shouldn’t matter once he steps on the court, but he realizes to some it will, until they see him play.
“What gets Isaiah over the hump is he’s the ultimate competitor and worker,” Bergersen adds. “His work ethic is second to none.”
Cada, too, has witnessed the work Wright has put in over time.
“Some players around here think working hard is playing pickup ball at Phillippi Park,” Cada explains. “If Isaiah has a weakness that he realizes, he’ll go to the gym either by himself or with his dad, and Archie will feed him the ball hundreds of times to correct that weakness.”
Recruiting experts could argue that Wright is the product of being a big fish in a small pond. Yet, the landscape of college basketball recruiting is continuously evolving, and if you can play, they will find you. Even in Idaho.
Boise State was his first offer as a sophomore, and the chance to play in front of the hometown crowd was tempting. However, he felt he needed to get out on his own and experience college out of state. With a majority of the West Coast Conference courting his services, schools like Creighton and Kansas State began showing interest and offered scholarships too.
In the end, the University of Utah provided what he was looking for in a college, a high level of competition, where he could contribute and be close to home. Utah’s campus in Salt Lake City is only five hours from Boise, so his family and friends will have the opportunity to see him play.
“They’d been recruiting me since my sophomore year, and I built a really good relationship with Coach Tommy Connor,” Wright says of going to Utah. “They kept telling me to believe in what they’re doing, and I do.”
The Utes return Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor, and Wright will use them as a natural resource to help him through the ups and downs that freshmen go through.
“They said they don’t want me to redshirt, and told me to expect to see a lot of playing time with Delon and Brandon,” says Wright. “They’ll be two good guys to learn from.”
Next year when you’re watching Pac-12 hoops, and you hear the name Isaiah ‘Freaky Zeeky’ Wright, the kid from Idaho, and it rings a bell, remember: it’s not where you’re from, its how you play.
Photo Credit: Jaynee Nielsen