Wright Embraces Opportunity with Bucks

by Truman Reed
Bucks.com Writer

Given the popularity of "American Idol," maybe Hollywood ought to devise a basketball version of the program, giving aspiring prospects the chance to earn a National Basketball Association contract and perform alongside the best players in the world.

The concept, without worldwide television exposure and the accompanying fascination, has actually been implemented throughout the NBA’s 67-year history. The Eastern League, the Continental Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League have taken turns launching little-known players into the big time and creating dozens of rags-to-riches success stories.

Maybe Chris Wright's chapter is about to unfold.

The 25-year-old Wright averaged 6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 15.7 minutes over eight games with the Milwaukee Bucks spanning the last 17 outings of their 2013-14 NBA season, highlighted by a 14-point, four-rebound performance in 17 minutes during an April 11 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Wright made his impression amid little fanfare, largely because the Bucks were bound for the worst season in their franchise's history.

Wright, though, didn't allow his team's dubious course diminish the heart and thanksgiving with which he embraced his opportunities and did his job on a daily basis.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 225-pound forward, undrafted out of the University of Dayton in 2011, played in 24 games with the Golden State Warriors in 2011-12. He spent parts of three seasons with the Maine Red Claws and Dakota Wizards of the NBADL before signing the first of two 10-day contracts with the Bucks on March 14, 2004.

On April 15, the day before the Bucks' 2013-14 season finale, Wright signed a multi-year deal with Milwaukee.

The contract was an answer to his prayers, a reward for his hard work and a membership earned by paying years of dues.

“This year has worked out for me,” Wright said the day after signing his first multiyear contract. “It’s been a blessing. I thank God for allowing me to be able to have this moment.

“To have some security here, and know that I’ll be working out here during the summer to get ready for next season, it’s really a blessing.”

Wright, a native of Trotwood, Ohio, starred at Trotwood-Madison High School and went on to play for four seasons at the nearby University of Dayton. During that time, he became one of the most prolific above-the-rim players in the Atlantic 10 Conference, making the All-Freshman Team in 2008 and earning all-conference recognition in each of the ensuing three seasons.

He left the program as the Flyers’ all-time leader in dunks and blocked shots.

Wright was not selected in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he was chosen with the third overall pick by the Maine Red Claws in the 2011 NBADL Draft.He was quick make his mark in four games with the Red Claws, averaging 17 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 31.3 minutes.

Wright signed with the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 10, 2011. During the course of his first professional season, he was assigned to the NBADL’s Dakota Wizards three times. He made his first and only NBA start of the season in the Warriors’ last game, collecting 25 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 46 minutes during a 107-101 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

In July of 2012, Wright joined the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors for the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League. On September 21, 2012, he signed with the Raptors, but the team waived him on October 22, 2012.

On November 1, 2012, Wright was re-acquired by the Maine Red Claws on Nov. 2, 2012, and he was named to the Futures All-Star roster for the 2013 NBA D-League All-Star Game.

“Once I got out of college and wasn’t drafted, making the team at Golden State in my first year out of school made me think, ‘All right, I can do this,’” Wright said. “Once you’re released twice, even when you feel like you gave it your all and did everything you could do, you realize things aren’t in your control. You just have to stay on that path.”

Wright considers himself blessed that the NBADL provided that path for him.

“Going to the D League made me realize that I’ve got to be humble,” Wright said. “I’ve had a goal since my rookie year to play in the NBA. I was released from Toronto twice and went back into the D League, with the possibility of getting called up by Indiana last year. But I had a concussion.”

Wright’s D League experience taught him a lesson in perseverance, and he stands by his decision to play there rather than seeking more money with a team overseas.

“It’s been so important for me to stay the course,” Wright said. “Sometimes people feel like because it’s not happening for them right now. They quit or they go where they feel like it’s easy money. In some places, you feel like you’re right on the cusp of being in the NBA.

“To go overseas, you have to change your whole life and learn a new culture when there’s still basketball here. I love the game of basketball, so for me, it wasn’t about needing this amount of money or that amount of money. I just wanted to be on a team and play basketball at the highest level possible.”

Wright discovered that life in the NBA D-League is dramatically different from life in the NBA.

“Last year when I had a concussion and couldn’t play, we traveled to Idaho on Christmas Day because we had to play on the 26th,” he said. “People don’t really understand the struggles of someone who has go to through things like that. You get used to the travel, but you really
have to experience it first.

“Playing in the D League really teaches you to be humble, because you’re not taking
first-class flights. You’re not staying at The Ritz or the Four Seasons. But you still have to thank God for everything. You learn to appreciate the things you go through and realize you’re blessed to
be able to play a game you love. You just have to realize that slow progress is still progress. I do that and try to keep faith in what I’m doing.”

Wright is grateful for those who have encouraged him to stay the course.

“My mother (Ernestine Grigsby) has been there for me always,” Wright said. “I know I’ always have the support of Keira, my best friend; my brothers, my cousins and my uncles. They’ve all helped me get through this. You’ve got to have that support system. Going through the things we do can be
emotionally draining, but your support system keeps you strong.”

Wright has gained an appreciation for others who have traveled the D League route to the NBA for for those who are still trying.

“Jeff Adrien was telling me when I was here on my first 10-day contract that he had to go through the D League,” Wright said. “He told me to keep pushing and everything would work out. It did for him.

“Ramon Sessions had some D League experience. I played against Khris Middleton in the D League when he was with Fort Wayne. It’s something you have to experience. If you can make it here without having to do that, I commend you. But if you don’t, it teaches you the things you need to learn to stick around in the NBA.”

Wright wants to make the most of the NBA opportunity the Bucks have extended him.

“Just to have the security, it’s hard work paying off,” he said. “I’m not the only person who had to work hard to get where I am, but when you consider the road I had to take to get here, it’s a true example of having a dream and always leaning on your folks and what God’s plan is for you.”

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