Wright on Target
After three years playing big school ball, Ryan Wright has found his calling.
by Aaron Vaccariello
Let there be light for the citizens and the state. No this isn’t an excerpt from a Barack Obama speech. It’s a tale of two stories. It represents two different paths that a young basketball player from Mississauga, Ontario chose to pursue. ‘Let there be light’ is the University of California’s official motto while ‘For the citizens and the state’ represents Oklahoma U. Ryan Wright has learned from both. And Ryan Wright has given to both.
Oklahoma is where he competes. Mississauga is where he’s from. Wright went to school at Loyola Catholic Secondary belonging to the Erindale community of Mississauga. There, he thrived as a warrior just like the name that was on his jersey. As a high school senior, Wright decided to attend UCLA and sign his name as a Bruin.
“Before I committed to UCLA I’d be sitting in class and the vice principal would walk into my class and drop a stack of letters on my desk,” reminisces Wright.
This was the typical support he received. In his senior year, Wright earned first-team Toronto Sun all-star honors after averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. His high school career was on point. In grade ten he grabbed the attention of college scouts. Exclusive tournaments, Nike camps–the works. He led a Loyola squad to OFSAA with a 35-10 record but lost in the quarter finals to St. Mary’s. With the success Loyola had, they never managed to win a championship.
“I wouldn’t change anything. I just wish I won a championship. I think about that everyday, ‘what could I have done better to win a chip? It’s probably the only thing I’d want to go back on,” Wright admits.
He was put in a similar position while at UCLA when Wright and his Bruins made it to the Final Four in their ’06-07 campaign, but not any further (losing to Florida). One season after transferring to Oklahoma, his team battled to reach the Elite 8 but met their demise to a strong Tar Heels squad that went on to win their fifth NCAA Championship last season. He expects to take on a larger role offensively in the upcoming season and is determined to see it through.
“My goal is to be the leading rebounder on the team. And to help lead this team to a Big 12 Championship,” says Wright.
As of the ’08-09 NCAA season, the Sooners leading rebounders were consensus No. 1 pick Blake Griffin and his brother Taylor. Both of whom provided a strong defensive presence and acted as a foundation for the team.
“It was a great learning experience playing with them. I think with [Blake] on my team and having him challenge me everyday in practice will help me a lot this year when I step up,” says Wright. “He had to be on the floor a lot to win games, so it was what it was. My role that year was to come on and just be active at both ends of the floor. And I embraced that.”
Being active on both ends of the court is an attraction in itself. To be active and effective could be considered a treasure to the masses. If Ryan works hard enough in his final year at Oklahoma he could make it over the top.
“Ryan has been blessed with the physical gifts to make it to the next level,” says rookie Clipper Blake Griffin. “Ryan is one of the hardest working guys on the team. He was a great influence on our team while I was there.”
Blake Griffin, who is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his knee averaged a dizzying 22.7 ppg and 14.4 rpg during his final year as a Sooner. He describes Wright as a bull, “a big strong guy that goes after rebounds and dunks with authority.” According to popular demand, most NBA teams find that to be somewhat of an asset.
“As it’s always been, I want to play in the NBA. I want to do that. Do whatever it takes to get there. This year is my last year to play. I’m going to have a chance to step up and have an amazing season and that’s what I’m working for,” says Wright.
Ryan’s work ethic represents the evolution of Canadian basketball. The preparation for the next step, and the journey it takes to get there. “I think Canadian ball has a lot of potential to be big,” explains Wright. “I think what needs to happen next is a greater emphasis on coaching. More open gym time, workouts, and individual player attention instead of focusing on playing a whole bunch of games when bad habits get formed.”
Bad Habits are products of negligence. Everyone has at least one. As for Wright, the discipline he carries with himself off the court, can result in less bad habits on the court. So when Ryan’s not focusing on workout routines and conditioning drills in the offseason, he’s premeditating his future. Getting ready for the next great leap.
Sooner head coach Jeff Capel believes in Wright. He believes he’s prepared for whatever comes his way. Calls him a hustle player, a great example of a student athlete, and someone “who can handle the garbage and do all the little things. He can rebound well, defend and he’s a great screener,” says fourth-year coach Capel. “[Wright] can succeed in whatever he does. The sky’s the limit for him.”