To those who know Dayshawn Wright well, he is witty, affable and funny. To those who have just met Dayshawn Wright, he is quiet, timid and shy.
“He keeps to himself a lot,” says Dayshawn Wright’s high school coach, Steve Smith. “Once he warms up to you he’s a lot more outgoing. He jokes a lot but he’s got to warm up to you first.”
When Dayshawn Wright first arrived at Oak Hill Academy, an 11-hour car ride separated him from his hometown in Syracuse and he immediately became homesick.
“He missed my cooking,” Dayshawn Wright’s mother, Patricia says. “He doesn’t like other food because it doesn’t have the seasoning to it.”
To pass the time between coming home, Dayshawn Wright received care packages from mom and focused on basketball. The end result: Dayshawn Wright was one of the top recruits out of high school, helping Oak Hill Academy (Va.) to a perfect 38-0 season and a high school national championship.
By the end of his prep career, the quiet Dayshawn Wright had opened up to teammates and coaches.
“He’s got a lot of good one-liners,” Smith says. “The whole team would be laughing because of something Dayshawn would say.”
As a freshman at Syracuse, Dayshawn Wright again finds himself in the position of having to warm up to teammates. Self-admittedly, Dayshawn Wright walks around campus as inconspicuously as his 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame will allow.
“I’m laid back,” Dayshawn Wright says. “Just really melo with it.”
In contrast, fellow freshman Josh Wright (no relation) thrives on attention and isn’t afraid to tell you what he’s thinking.
“It’s part of me being a point guard,” Josh Wright says. “I’ve always been vocal, nothing’s changed.”
“He’s like Terrance Roberts. It’s like mini-me,” Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins says. “They both speak their mind, they have a lot of confidence in themselves, and they’ll back it up.”
In part, Josh Wright owes his success to his first basketball coach ever – his father, Mike Wright. When Josh Wright was about 4-years old, Mike Wright handed Josh Wright a basketball and told him to take the basketball wherever he went.
“He would dribble one way to the store,” Mike Wright says, “and coming back he would dribble with the other hand.”
Josh Wright is also driven by the memory of a lost friend.
He had grown up with Mychal (pronounced Michael) Harris because Harris’ father and Mike Wright were childhood friends. The two, along with Josh Wright’s older brother, Michael, became best of friends.
But on Oct. 27, 2002, Harris was shot and killed at his girlfriend’s apartment complex after an argument with a neighbor, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch. Josh Wright was just 16 at the time. Harris was 20.
“Just a few days before, I was looking at some pictures they had taken on the computer,” Mike Wright says. “They were flexing their muscles. And I said, ‘Look at you clowns.’ And the next day he passed away.”
“It was a very traumatic experience he was going through at such a young age in life. I told him, ‘Remember that life still goes on.’ As sad as it was, he really feels now that he can continue to make people know Mychal Harris through him.”
Josh Wright switched to No. 30 – Harris’ number – for the remainder of high school and will continue to wear it at Syracuse.
Playing for the memory of his friend, Josh Wright had incredible senior year of basketball. There was a 43-point, nine-assist outburst in an 87-81 win against Guilderland, and, against Berkshire, the guard exploded for 53 points.
Natural quickness and second-nature ball handling turned the heads of many college coaches, including Hopkins, who immediately told Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim about Josh Wright.
“I told coach he’s a freak,” Hopkins says. “He jumps 42 inches, he’s probably as fast as TJ Ford with the ball and he can shoot it.”
The comparison is on target because of Josh Wright’s legendary quickness. While some coaches beg their players to push the pace at times, Syracuse coaches and teammates have worked with Josh Wright to slow the game down.
“Being in this league, you can’t rush it,” junior guard Gerry McNamara says. “He’s fast, but be fast without rushing it. That’s going to be the key to his success.”
And Josh Wright has done his best to listen.
“I have a tendency to get excited just like any other player,” he says. “Slowing my game down is the best thing I can do right now. Right now on a scale of 1-to-10, I’m about a seven – still a work in progress.”
Hopkins gets excited just thinking about what Josh Wright will be when he refines his game.
“He’s just a ‘matter of time’ kind of guy,” Hopkins says, “who will just all the sudden click and explode because he has that ability.”
“You know the thing about him that makes him great – you have guys that are great players and have a lot of talent. Or you have guys that don’t have a lot talent but work hard. You always have one of the two. He’s very, very talented, and he works extremely hard.”
While Josh Wright produces with his speed, Dayshawn Wright produces with his strength and determination. Although passive off the court, Dayshawn Wright left Oak Hill with the reputation of being an aggressive bruiser on it.
“He’s a bull in a china shop inside,” Smith says. “He’ll bang. He’ll take charges. He’ll rebound. He’ll do the dirty work.”
On some nights, Dayshawn Wright would outrebound Brian Johnson (6’10”) and Josh Smith (6’8”) despite being shorter than both. Johnson will suit up for Louisville this year while Smith jumped straight to the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
“There weren’t many rebounds to go around, but (Dayshawn) would get them,” Smith says. “A lot of rebounding is just effort … Guys want to stand there and watch but Dayshawn is one of those guys that makes the extra effort.”
Dayshawn Wright will also pass well and keep the turnovers to a minimum – but like many big men, Dayshawn Wright’s weakness lies in his shooting game.
“That’s something he’s definitely got to work on,” Smith says. “He’s got to development a consistent outside shot.”
Dayshawn Wright and Josh Wright figure to play a role on a Syracuse team, which is an early favorite to head to the final four.
“Those sophomores and how much they improved and how much the two freshmen can help us will determine just how good we’ll be,” Boeheim says.
Last year’s crop of highly-talented freshmen made some contributions, but for the most part, they struggled and underachieved throughout the year. This year’s freshmen class brings both speed and strength, power and quickness. If both Wrights can perform to their abilities, than the Orange have the opportunity to be special.
“Put it this way,” Hopkins says, “we’re as good as anybody. If every guy steps up like we think they will; this is going to be a great year.”
The article originally ran in The Juice in December 2004.