View Full Version : KU recruit living up to the hype

12-27-2004, 04:33 PM
KU recruit living up to the hype

Good enough to be NBA material, Julian Wright sticks with the Jayhawks


The Kansas City Star

“Julian has multiple skills — he's a great passer, and he handles it well. If he had Brandon Rush's offensive skills, he'd be the best player in the country.”

National recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons on Julian Wright

ST. LOUIS — The NBA scouts are filling the courtside seats, and the few thousand fans are buzzing as Julian Wright takes the floor in the KMOX Shootout. This is the third state that his Homewood-Flossmoor High basketball team has played in the last week — the ambitious schedule put together to showcase Wright, who signed with Kansas in the fall period.

In an event headlined by two preps-to-pro hopefuls, Wright's color picture is on the program cover. KU coach Bill Self has compared the 6-foot-8 Wright's versatility to Danny Manning; others have mentioned Magic Johnson.

And here's the best part for Kansas fans: Despite at least one NBA scout saying Wright would be a first-round selection, Wright isn't even considering skipping college.

“I can't say that I am,” he said. “I'm looking forward to going to Kansas next year. I have a lot to work on.”

Wright's apparent commitment to Kansas is in contrast to Micah Downs, another Jayhawk signee. Downs, a 6-8 forward, said last week that he intends to apply for the 2005 NBA draft and forgo a basketball scholarship to Kansas.

“This is the chance of a lifetime,” Downs told the Seattle Times. “How can I turn this down?”

But Downs' father, Steven, told The Star that a definite decision had not been made.

Downs and Wright are part of one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

National recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons ranks Wright as the No. 9 player in the country, the top future Jayhawk in a class that includes Downs (from Kirkland, Wash., ranked No. 14 by Gibbons) and Mario Chalmers (6-2 point guard from Anchorage, Alaska, No. 16).

Wright scored 19 points and hit the game-winning free throws as Flossmoor erased an 11-point deficit and beat perennial national power Oak Hill Academy earlier this month. He struggled a bit in St. Louis, finishing with eight turnovers, but he still managed 16 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and several “wow” no-look passes.

He averages about 15 points per game, and scouts rave about his all-around talent. His biggest — only? — weakness is outside shooting, but he is a superb ball handler who plays sort of a “point forward” in high school.

After Flossmoor lost to Peoria Central in the Illinois Class AA championship game last year, newspaper stories said Wright more than held his own against Shaun Livingston, who was the No. 4 selection in the NBA draft.

That aside, Wright's exposure has come mostly with his summer team, the Illinois Warriors, allowing him to compete against some of the top players in the country.

“Julian has multiple skills — he's a great passer, and he handles it well,” Gibbons said. “If he had Brandon Rush's offensive skills, he'd be the best player in the country.”

Wright sometimes has difficulty talking to reporters but is so friendly and popular with his classmates that Flossmoor coach Roy Candotti calls him “the mayor.” He was the hit of a school dance last week, showing up dressed as a 1970s basketball player, complete with short shorts and afro wig.

Gina Wright, Julian's mother, said she's most proud of the way Julian has stayed humble while strangers ask for autographs and analysts rank him among the county's best.

Gina talks about a time Julian was at a basketball game and some of his friends were making fun of a boy who “had some problems.” Julian was the only one not laughing.

“Stop it,” Julian said. “Don't tease him. You don't know what he's going through.”

Wright is still adjusting to his budding fame, Gina said. He's uncomfortable in the spotlight, but this has been somewhat inevitable the last four or five years, when Julian kept growing and his skills kept improving.

Much has been made of how Wright turned down Arizona and Illinois to commit to Kansas before he ever visited campus. But when he was a freshman, Wright attended Self's basketball camp at Illinois and has liked the coach since.

Wright watches every Jayhawk game and can't help but think where he'll fit in as a freshman. He knows much will be asked of him, especially with the departures of Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford, plus the possible early exit of J.R. Giddens.

Wright expects to play all over the floor, from the perimeter to the post, and use his versatility to create matchup problems for the other team.

“It might be a situation where I have more minutes than most freshmen do,” Wright said. “I'm not trying to do too much and be a freshman All-American and all that. I'm just trying to go out there and play hard, and hopefully that will make up for my inexperience.”

Back in St. Louis, those NBA scouts have their eyes set on Wright. They're watching everything — how he moves without the ball, interacts with teammates and handles his emotions after a turnover or foul.

It's certainly not his best game, but his team wins, and Wright is the leading scorer. An NBA scout is asked whether Wright might be a first-round pick should he elect to enter this summer. He nods.

“But I hope he goes to college and works on a few things,” the scout said. “Kansas is lucky to have him.”

To reach Sam Mellinger,

sports reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4389 or send e-mail

to smellinger@kcstar.com

Skip Towne
12-27-2004, 05:55 PM
I'll be really glad to have him. I'll bet we can beat Mizzou now.

12-27-2004, 06:17 PM
The guy is a team player and not a thug and thats the type of players you need on teams.

12-27-2004, 06:32 PM
every year, the rich get richer... damn its good to be a KU fan.

12-27-2004, 07:32 PM
Its damn good to be a KU fan and F*ck you KY !!!