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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wright back home

Rookie's confidence grows after first season

Julian wright, Former KU basketball player and current forward for the New Orleans Hornets, is introduced at the Bill Self Basketball Camp. Wright made an appearance at the camp in this 2008 file photo.

Julian wright, Former KU basketball player and current forward for the New Orleans Hornets, is introduced at the Bill Self Basketball Camp. Wright made an appearance at the camp in this 2008 file photo.

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Julian Wright guest speaker at basketball camp

Julian Wright is back in town and served as guest speaker on day 2 of Bill Self's Basketball Camp.

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Former KU basketball player and current member of the New Orleans Hornets, Julian Wright, right, greets KU freshman Travis Releford, left, before Wright was introduced at the Bill Self Kansas Basketball Camp Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

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Julian wright, Former KU basketball player and current forward for the New Orleans Hornets, is introduced at the Bill Self Basketball Camp. Wright made an appearance at the camp in this 2008 file photo.

Julian Wright walked into Kansas University's Horejsi Center on Tuesday afternoon wearing a black Ed Hardy T-shirt and matching bookbag draped over his back.

"A nice black bookbag, not pink," the 21-year-old former Kansas University basketball forward said with a smile.

Pink is the color of the backpack Wright was forced to wear on all road trips as an initiation ritual during the 2007-08 season - his rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA.

"Bobby Jackson, who was traded to Houston, thought of it. He didn't play around with anybody," Wright said. "It was definitely an experience."

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Wright - he left KU after two seasons to enter the 2007 NBA Draft - said wearing pink as a gag actually helped his self esteem.

"I learned how to have some confidence, not care what people think," said Wright, who was used sparingly until March when he entered the Hornets' regular rotation. He finished with a 3.9 scoring, 2.1 rebound average while logging 11.2 minutes a game in 57 games.

"You walk into an arena and you know you've got a pink Disney bookbag on your back, you stick your chest out to people who come up to you and say, 'Hi, how are you doing?'

"If you look like this," Wright added, hanging his head, "people will attack you. Your teammates as well. They want to see how you respond.

"It's all laughs now because I'm not a rookie anymore. At the time it was, 'Come on, hurry up and be the playoffs.'''

It was the start of the playoffs when Wright was informed the pink backpack/bookbag had to go.

"(Point guard) Chris Paul said, 'No more bookbag. You are no longer a rookie. Come playoffs you've got to grow up.' That's the attitude I want to take into the summer and next year," Wright said.

He believes he grew up halfway through the season when former Iowa guard Adam Haluska was released.

Like Wright, Haluska was a rookie.

"Here I am after the all-star break the only rookie on the team. That's when I finally started to understand everything - back against the wall, me against the world in terms of my development. Nobody else could to it but me," said Wright.

He began asking the right questions of coach Byron Scott at practice and finally started doing the things Scott wanted.

"All along I wanted to be out there, but I didn't understand what it took from a maturity standpoint. I had to figure out what was necessary in taking care of your body and asking the right things of coaches, looking for extra help," Wright said.

"What happened is David West was hurt and I was having a good stretch of practices. I got confidence from playing in practice. I finally started to understand defensive schemes which is what he (Scott) was looking for. That's what keeps you on the floor."

Wright averaged 4.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in 11 playoff games. The Hornets ultimately were eliminated by San Antonio in a seven-game Western Conference semifinal series.

"Our coach got a two-year (contract) extension. I know he'll be able to help me build on what I did this year and vice versa. I'll be able to bring a lot to the team next year," said Wright, who will play for the Hornets' summer league team in July in Las Vegas.

"There's a lot of turnover in coaches in the league. The fact he'll be there ... I can get established in the Hornets' system and thrive in it."

Wright, who was born and raised in Chicago, has purchased a house in New Orleans, a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

"I want to help others, maybe start a foundation in the future," said Wright, who as a rookie made $1,449,300 last season, to be followed by $1,558,000 next year, $1,666,700 his third year and $2,381,714 his fourth campaign.

"I've always been the type to not be selfish. People have helped me along the way. I want to give back and eventually do some things in Chicago, too. Right now I want to help New Orleans more than anything. It's come a long way but will take more than three years to be on its feet."

Wright is in town until Thursday playing in pick-up games with the national champion Jayhawks.

He was thrilled to be in San Antonio for KU's national title victory over Memphis.

"I got a little choked up knowing they wanted me to come on stage with them," said Wright, waved onto the court by his former teammates for the postgame awards ceremony at Alamodome. "They told me I was definitely a part of the team. They wanted me to go back into the locker room and celebrate with them. It was really touching."

Wright said he realized when he turned pro that he might be missing out on a special KU season.

"No I wouldn't change anything. I felt it was time for me to move on, go to the next level," Wright said. "I knew I was leaving a great situation, that we had the potential to win it and we did. It was tough. I had to make a decision and I was confident in the decision. Keeping in touch with the guys all season made it easier for me. It's great what they accomplished. I was happy I could be there to see it."

¢ Rookie initiation: Wright, who tends to speak in rapid fire sentences, explained a second, somewhat confusing initiation he took part in during his rookie season.

Wright had to bring a pink baby stroller to all home practices starting the day after Christmas.

"It was my Christmas gift (from the Hornets' teammates)," said Wright, still a 'baby' in the eyes of NBA veterans. "I gave it to an assistant coach. I won't be needing it anytime soon," added Wright, who is single.

¢ Chalmers in Washington: KU guard Mario Chalmers, who has said he plans on remaining in the NBA Draft, was asked by Washington reporters Tuesday if this was a good time to leave college for the pros.

"Definitely," he said after a workout with the Wizards. "It's looking good for me now. The workouts have given me a chance to show what I can do. I feel good about where I am right now."

A reporter speculated Chalmers might be tapped by Washington at No. 18 in Round One.

"They've got some good players. I think it's a good place for me to come in and learn," Chalmers said.

He spoke with Wizards' GM/KU grad Milt Newton at length on Tuesday.

"It was real good," he said of the meeting. "Both of us are Kansas alumni. We talked about how we both have championship rings."

Comments

75JHawk 13 years, 4 months ago

As anyone who is among KU's alumni should know, the singular of "alumni" is "alumnus" (for men) or "alumna" (for women).Although most institutions of higher learning do not regard people as alumni until after they graduate, the Latin origins of the word indicate it should be applied to anyone who studied at (or, more specifically, was intellectually nourished by) the institution.

kataboom 13 years, 4 months ago

hey as long as anyone went to kansas - i feel a camaraderie with them. ku is a state school - not a private snob school so those snobby ideas should be left at the wayside. wave the wheat baby!

kansasnation 13 years, 4 months ago

Alumnus does not mean graduate. Taking a single class at Harvard would make you an alum of Harvad but it obviously would not make you a Harvard grad. If you're too stupid to understand the distinction then no one can help you.

KUGreenMachine 13 years, 4 months ago

Well, awesome, I guess with my 3 semesters at KU, I'm officially alumni! I'm going to call my mom right now and tell her the good news.

Chris Weaver 13 years, 4 months ago

how many KU alumni are GM's in the association? newton - wizards - pritchard - trailblazers - buford - spurs - any others?

KUbsee69 13 years, 4 months ago

Oh, come on.Perhaps, in the purest sense, the dictionary definition of an alumnus says "a graduate or former student ...".However, I've polled several other university graduates here at work today to see what their non-preconditioned definition of the word "alumni" is and each and every one said "a graduate of a school". So, the colloquial interpretation of the word, in most people's minds, is GRADUATE.So feel free, if you want, to use the dictionary definition. But, then be willing to call anyone that even enrolled but did not pass a single course an alumnus. Are you really ready to call Micah Downs, David Padgett, J R Giddens, C J Giles, et. al. all KU alumni? I'M NOT!Do you suppose that the KU Alumni Association has offered them memberships? Do you think that the State of Kansas would let them have KU Alumni license tags?So, I wish Mario all the best in his NBA career and will worship "the shot" forever. However, Mario, by most interpretations, is not an alumni at this point.

stravinsky 13 years, 4 months ago

Wow, I was sort of hoping you guys would have something, oh, article relevant to say today. No such luck...

Robin Smith 13 years, 4 months ago

that's not true rhino11, if you attend a school for any amount of time you're an alumfrom the American Heritage Dictionary: an alum is "a graduate or former student of a school, college, or university."

easyfive 13 years, 4 months ago

Milt, I remember back when there was a poster of him dunking a ball and it looked like his hips where as high as the rim! Made you rub your eyes and said am i seeing what i think i am seeing?

smitty33 13 years, 4 months ago

So you were rooting for Giddens then KUbsee? Also, if you can afford a class at Harvard, I think have the right to say you were an alumn. Who knows what would have happened if JuJu had not gone pro? Wow, maybe Dblock or Sasha wouldn't have had the chance to develop. JuJu was inconsistent, Dblock and Sasha were there every night.

Lin Rahardja 13 years, 4 months ago

Looks like Chalmer will be missed. Good for him, it's time for him to move on, he will be successful in the next level. In regards to Milt Newton, I believe he had 100% field goal (6 of 6) in that 1988 championship game. What a game it was for him.

KUbsee69 13 years, 4 months ago

Wow!Now that I've been re-educated with an "official" definition, I think I'll take one graduate course from Harvard, Cal-Tech and/or MIT. Being an alumnus of one of those institutions would look great on any resume. Based on the ridiculous "official" definition, I'm already an alumnus of not only KU, but also the University of New Mexico and Carnegie-Mellon.How much more fulfilling can it get?LOL

rgale29 13 years, 4 months ago

A person is an alumnus if they matriculated through the school. This is our universities definition and it is also the generally accepted meaning of the word as found in the dictionary.The KU Alumni assoc. does consider this to be the definition. When I get my list each you from the alumni assoc. for the Ks. Honors program it lists all who ever took a KU class, including outreach classes. As with most things KU we strive to be inclusive not exclusive. You polling your co-workers to determine what a definition of a word is for this purpose of establishing a "colloquial" interpretation is like David Letterman going to the street to find out who is the Secretary of State, Defense etc. You'll get an answer but it won't make it so.Ks. will sell you a KU alumni license tag whether you passed a class or not. It is most unfortunate that some of my fellow alumni are ill informed. The Jayhawk Nation is not made up of graduates only. You will often find the most ardent fans are not alumni but simply those who love the University.

Chris Weaver 13 years, 4 months ago

that was a good read jayceph -we have to remember that B-rush did the right thing last year when he was testing the draft. he didn't run out and hire an agent, allowing him to come back. then, after the accident, he didn't wallow in self pity or get down on himself and the hand that he was dealt. instead, he rehabbed like a champion, he put his head down and earned his reputation, and he took head coach bill self's coaching to heart.it makes me glad to see him doing well and i can't wait to be a fan of the team that drafts him - unless he goes to the lakers.

Gary Bedore 13 years, 4 months ago

Anybody notice how clear Mike Yoder's photos are?It almost looks like Ju Ju's head and Releford's are in 3D.Did you notice? Clear stuff by Yoder.

Langford5 13 years, 4 months ago

KUbsee69 - No, I wouldn't consider Micah Downs, David Padget, CJ Giles or JR Giddens KU Alumni because they went on to play/attend other schools. I would however consider Mario Chalmers an Alumni since he gave us 3 great years and didn't play at any other college. Just like I consider Paul Pierce a KU alumni.

jaybate 13 years, 4 months ago

This is starting to look more like it: Rush, Chalmers, Arthur. I'm still looking for Rush to go in the top ten. Chalmers at 18 makes sense. Arthur sometime after makes even more sense. Arthur is not ready to play every night for an NBA team. And even when he is ready, he will not create a matchup problem for anyone in the NBA. Rush creates matchup problems.Chalmers can fill and do it all at one or two, so he's a ready backup guard.Shady will have to learn to play the way Julian is learning. Like Julian, he is three seasons from being a regular and even then he is a role player.

Lance Hobson 13 years, 4 months ago

Folks, quit lowering your standards. You must graduate to be part of the alumni.

Langford5 13 years, 4 months ago

The passive aggressive comment by Strikewso! Basically saying he's above everyone else. Can we talk about basketball or KU? JayCeph - thanks for the article link, it was a good one!

gcjhawk 13 years, 4 months ago

I think its funny how a national championship changes everyones attitude. Last year Julian was getting hammered for going pro, with even some people calling him a liar since he said he was going to return. Everything is all good now and we are telling Mario he should go, just find it a little funny and winning cures everything. Get paid young man and you are an alum.

Gary Bedore 13 years, 4 months ago

Yup, winning does cure everything.Bill Self now is a member of the "coaches who have won a national title club."Not too long ago he was in the "best coach not to reach a Final Four club."Nice progression.

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