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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ex-Jayhawk Julian Wright confident NBA is in his future

Former Kansas University basketball standout Julian Wright talks at the Bill Self basketball camp Tuesday at Horejsi Center. Wright is hoping for a return to the NBA after a strong showing in the NBA Developmental League.

Former Kansas University basketball standout Julian Wright talks at the Bill Self basketball camp Tuesday at Horejsi Center. Wright is hoping for a return to the NBA after a strong showing in the NBA Developmental League.

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Julian Wright believes an ultra-successful season in the NBA Developmental League has resurrected his basketball career.

The No. 13 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft — who played sparingly for New Orleans and Toronto during his first four seasons in the NBA — averaged 15.1 points and 8.0 rebounds a game for the 2012 NBADL champion Austin (Texas) Toros.

More importantly, the 25-year-old former Kansas University forward was the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs. Wright averaged 19.8 points (off 60.5 percent shooting) and 7.8 boards while logging 31.7 minutes a game in nine playoff games.

Julian Wright talks about his first ring (an NBDL title) and also says he's confident he can play in the NBA

Former Jayhawk Julian Wright talks about his first ring (an NBDL title) and also says he's confident he can play in the NBA during an interview on Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

“For myself, it was comforting to know I have skills and have what it takes. It’s all about hopefully getting in the right situation to show it,” said the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder, who has accepted an invitation to play for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando Summer League in early July. “It was my first time in a while just being aggressive while scoring and being a guy they could count on.

“I was hoping for a call-up (to the Toros’ affiliate, the San Antonio Spurs), but in hindsight I was glad I was able to get those minutes rather than getting called up and not playing as much.”

Wright — he is in town for this week’s Bill Self basketball camp — said his confidence is at an all-time high after playing for what he called “a great organization, one affiliated with the Spurs, who are top-notch. It was great to develop, get a lot of repetitions and just play.”

Wright’s first NBA contract expired at an inopportune time — the year of the NBA lockout.

He was not invited to Toronto Raptors’ training camp, leaving him as a free agent with limited interest from other NBA teams.

“There was a risk in staying (in U.S.) because of the lockout,” said Wright, who played at KU two seasons before turning pro. “Not knowing what was going on ... I felt I had a duty to be a representative of the Toronto Raptors at the time of the lockout, going to meetings and traveling back and forth. Overseas didn’t seem like the best idea with me having to go midseason.

“I took it in stride. There were other guys with NBA talents that were not able to stick with a team or get on a team. I went to the developmental league and it was great for me.

“Me coming off my rookie contract, a lot of teams may not even know what I can do. I feel I didn’t even know what I could do at that level. Playing in the developmental league helped me a lot getting 30 minutes a game and those repetitions. I’m very confident right now.”

In his words, he’s also “stress free.”

Wright, who is originally from Chicago, now makes his home in laid-back Los Angeles.

“Being in L.A., there’s so many things to do. You’ve got the water. I learned how to do a little Salsa (dancing),” Wright said with a smile. “I’m always doing music (rapping, singing, producing). It’s something that’s been a passion of mine. I guess I kept it a secret for a long time. It’s something that helps me balance life, having creative juices flowing as opposed to everything being mandated when you are in season — having to be at this place at this time. I can let my mind go.”

Music-lover Wright has started a production company.

“I’d like to be more a producer than an artist,” he said. “I want to be a person that makes the song, make everybody jump up and have a good time.”

When asked, he’s more than willing to sing and rap in front of an audience.

“I’ve done some rapping. A lot of people haven’t heard me sing. I will get a kick out of seeing people see me sing,” he said. “I want to be a songwriter and producer first and foremost — artistry is just for fun.”

In the music world, he’s known as Jay Midi.

“It’s a stage name, something I had since I was a little kid, actually,” Wright said. “I kept it on low. It has nothing to do when I’m in my jersey playing basketball. It’s a whole different persona when I’m on the court.”

Why Jay Midi?

“I like Jay-Z (rap legend) a lot. The Midi? I have to get my nerd face on (to explain it). It means ‘Musical Instrumental Digital Interface.’ It had a ring to it. I like it,” Wright said.

He also likes being back at KU.

“I’m going back to school,” he said. “I need about 50 hours to graduate. I’ll take online courses, correspondence to earn my degree in the summer of 2013 probably. I’ve taken a few small classes at UCLA, but I said to myself, ‘I can’t get a degree from UCLA,” he exclaimed, noting he’s a Jayhawk forever.

Comments

ukanjhox 2 years, 1 month ago

If we hadn't won the NC in 2008, I'd be forever bitter than JuJu left the year before. But, as it is, we couldn't have done any better in '08 even if he'd stayed. So, I'm OK with it. It's crazy to think the 13th pick in the draft just 5 years ago isn't in the league anymore. Hopefully he'll get picked up.

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Troll_or_AntiTroll 2 years, 1 month ago

Hopefully, one year from today, Gary will be able to write a similar story about Xavier Henry. Hey X, good luck with the Iowa Energy next year!

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rob4lb 2 years, 1 month ago

While I will never blame anyone for leaving early and taking the money that a first draft pick gets, both Julian Wright and Cole Aldridge were two players who could have used another year to hone their offensive skills. From a purely business standpoint, they both made the right decision in taking the money instead of riskng and injury by playing another year.

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Millsey20 2 years, 1 month ago

No joke. Did he even watch a game? Don't even comment... because no KU fan wants to hear what you have to say about him if you can't get his name right.

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Joel Hood 2 years, 1 month ago

I'll respectfully disagree. Cole left at the perfect time. If he had stayed another year at KU, he would have fell in the draft. He was drafted highly because of potential in the league - a fourth year would have exposed his up side.

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Eliott Reeder 2 years, 1 month ago

Not only do you spell his name incorrectly, you are simply dead wrong about Cole Aldrich. If he were stuck in the D-League right now, that would be one thing, but he is sitting at the end of the bench about to win an NBA championship... I think he made the right decision.

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Vince Brown 2 years, 1 month ago

"....noting he's a Jayhawk forever." You got that, GB? Wright and others are former Jayhawk basketball players, but not former Jayhawks!

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 1 month ago

Why can't they use the term "Jayhawk Alum"..that's what we all are??!!

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kupride4u 2 years, 1 month ago

I don't think he graduated, so he isn't an alum by definition.

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lv_jhwk 2 years, 1 month ago

He isn't? From Merriam-Webster: "alumnus: a person who has attended or has graduated from a particular school, college, or university"

Don't know why this keeps getting debated.

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doolindalton 2 years, 1 month ago

Wright is a prime example of a player who left school too early to grab the money. He didn't have an NBA game nor a position when left, and it has wound up costing him.

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Robert Brock 2 years, 1 month ago

I stopped complaining about Wright's early departure - the next year - when we won the National Championship.

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april28 2 years, 1 month ago

It all sounds good for Julian right now - sorry for the pun. Love the attitude. I hope he catches on with the Spurs.

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Joe Joseph 2 years, 1 month ago

Here comes the Julian-should-have-stayed crowd...

Julian made the right decision when he left, but not due to the potential for injury or to improve as a player had he returned. Julian made the right decision because he would have been risking his perceived potential had he returned to KU and NOT improved. If that's the case, he goes from a guy who has a very high ceiling to a guy who perhaps has already reached it, or is at least very close.

I think Xavier Henry was in a very similar situation. A lot of hype coming out of high school who - due to a lackluster freshmen season - cost himself "potential" and fell lower in the draft then what he probably would have been drafted had he been allowed to enter out of high school.

Ultimately, Julian got paid. A lot. There's a good chance he would not have been drafted any higher in 2008 unless he had a remarkable junior year, which was unlikely due to his surrounding cast. It is possible to improve while playing in the NBA, even while riding the pine.. For some reason people don't think that is possible.

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Millsey20 2 years, 1 month ago

Stupid is pretty smart.

There's no telling if Julian would ever be a good pro in ANY circumstance. He went out when his value was highest... not really finding a way to argue that one.

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Jeff Kilgore 2 years, 1 month ago

It's so easy to second guess these kids. Who in the $$$$ can say what you'd do if you were offered millions and were barely older than a teenager? I've worked some sort of job for 35+ years, and he made more on that day of signing than I will over my career, and that's not sour grapes, just fact.

He did what he needed to do. I'll always remember him for the LV tourney against the Gators, and the butt-kicking he was largely responsible for in Texas against the Horns.

Julian Wright is another KU success story. To look at it any other way is strange and involves over-analysis. I consider him a Jayhawk through and through. A rich Jayhawk.

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hawksince51 2 years, 1 month ago

I do blame someone for players leaving too soon, but not the players. The NBA is doing these young men a disservice and the OAD system is messing up college basketball. And they make some very stupid decisions about player potential. So, no, I did not blame Julian but it did not surprise me at all that he has struggled in the NBA. It was pretty obvious to me that he did not have the body for the 4 or the shot for the 3 in the NBA. I do not know if another year at KU would have made any difference. I do feel it worked out best for KU that he left so that DJ got his minutes and we won the NC.

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RJ King 2 years, 1 month ago

agree completely. Dynamics are frequently underestimated. The stars were certainly aligned in 2008. Who knows what last's years team would've achieved had the Morri stayed. Might we have won it all? Or would we have self-destructed? One thing for sure - the chemistry would've been COMPLETELY different, but I suspect - win or lose - perhaps more odorous.

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 1 month ago

Ju Ju was so fun to watch..he could be spectacular then turn around and become a spectacle!!

He was not a OAD. He made his team mates better in practices. He loves KU He is a good guy. He made more money than any of us will ever see.

It's all good...root for the guy!!

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Gary Bedore 2 years, 1 month ago

Well said. It's just my opinion, but Julian Wright is one of the nicest guys I've ever come across in covering KU. Just seeing him and visiting with him for a few minutes brings a smile to your face. He does brighten up a room. Julian is wealthy financially. He is set for life at 25 years old. He does love KU as you said. He was here two years and does not regret his decision to leave. He gave his all while here. He is trying to get his degree even though frankly, he doesn't need it for monetary reasons.

Like you said, it's all good. And he's only 25 and hopefully he'll make a lot more money for his family and himself whether in the NBA or Europe. One of the nicest guys ever, Julian Wright.

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FLJHK 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the additional insight Mr. Bedore. Much appreciated. You get to know these guys in a wholly different context than most of us.

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RJ King 2 years, 1 month ago

Agree. I was visiting Kansas in the summer with my children (daughter ended up choosing KU). We were at the FH and JuJu came out of practice. He stopped and (completely unsolicited) said hello / how are you, etc. My son and I recognized him, and we all were quite impressed. He did not have to be that friendly and go out of his way.

Love the musical side of him. Balance. Mistake to leave or not - that was years ago. The point is to see the road he is on now, and he appears headed in the right direction.

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theend 2 years, 1 month ago

I was sad to see him leave early....it was a mistake. But what I was most sad about is that he missed out on the national championship that all his teamates accomplished. I'm sure he thinks about 2008 with a mixture of happiness for KU.....but also regret that he was not on that team.

Julian is a very nice young man......never a hint of misbehavior. I wish him luck. He seems to really have a fondness for KU which is great to see.

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dhinkansas 2 years, 1 month ago

I will never forget his dunk against Texas in the Post Season finale where his feet left the ground beyond the free throw line.

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brooksmd 2 years, 1 month ago

Best part of your link was after the vid was over the panel that displayed other vids included "The Pass" against TCU by Moody to Giddens. My all-time favorite play.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 1 month ago

As the saying goes...it's not making it to the NBA, it's staying in the NBA.

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Gregor Southard 2 years, 1 month ago

While I don't blame him for leaving early, it should be a cautionary tale for current KU players. You can add Arthur, Cole, Marcus twins, Rush, etc to the list of players who left early and done little to nohing in the NBA

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Joe Joseph 2 years, 1 month ago

Apparently you have to be an all-star to have accomplished something in the NBA??

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lv_jhwk 2 years, 1 month ago

Of the players you list, I would say that only Cole and Marcus MORRIS have yet to distinguish themselves. The others already have solid roles on their respective teams.

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chicagojayhawk87 2 years, 1 month ago

Do you watch NBA, seriously??? Arthur plays, Rush plays significant minutes, Mk. Morris went to the NBA all star weekend for the rookies, Cole is playing for the soon to be NBA champs. don't comment if you have no idea of what you're talking about.

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kugrad93 2 years, 1 month ago

A cautionary tale about a guy who, according to posters, made $8.4 million in four years. Yeah, horrible mistake. Assuming he saved some of the money, he made the right decision.

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lv_jhwk 2 years, 1 month ago

I just don't get the butt-hurt of so many here. Julian and others who left early owe us fans nothing. They simply need to make the choices that seem right for them at the time, and most of our early entrants have.

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Millsey20 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm glad you said "most"... because I don't see how anyone could say Selby left at the right time. He left when his stock was LOWEST... and it didn't work out in the draft.

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orbiter 2 years, 1 month ago

Hope I never make a mistake that gives me $8million and sets up my family for life, gets my mom out of a crime infested living situation. What would be next? Go to Europe and pay for my idiocy by making a 6-7 figures per year? Man, what a nightmare. I can't even stand the thought.

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Steve Gantz 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure if you're somehow conjecturing that all African Americans come from crime infested living situations, but Wright attended HS in the Chicago suburbs, Homewood Flossmoor HS, a solid middle class suburb to my memory. I'm not sure where you got the moving mom out comment from. The rest I agree though.

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 1 month ago

Of all the Jayhawks who have gone to the NBA, Greg Ostertag will be the remembered as getting the most for the least. Greg played 11 seasons in the NBA and pocketed well over 50 million dollars for basically clogging up the lane and blocking shots.

Nice work if you can get it!!!!

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theend 2 years, 1 month ago

Didn't he try a comeback recently? Think it was this year.

Oakville.....can you believe it? About 4 more months and we will be about ready to kick off another season!! Should be another great year!!

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 1 month ago

Don't forget about football....it may become relevant again!!

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RJ King 2 years, 1 month ago

I still have a visual of the waterslide that claimed his tooth/teeth. Someone had some extra welding to do after that ride.

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davhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

I saw Julian play for the Toros during their playoff run. He still needs a lot of work, but I like his aggressiveness. He seemed willing to take the ball to the hoop, and not settle for jumpers. But that maybe due to the lack of height/shot blockers in the D-league. He attempted several lay-ups where he seemed out of control and used his left hand a lot. Missed a majority of those left hand attempts. If he can play with controlled aggression he should have a spot in the league. Probably will never start, but can be a solid 7th or 8th man. If he wants to start and be a star he should follow Langford.

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bennybob 2 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps if he spent more time in the gym and less time launching a production company and aspiring to be a rapper he wouldn't be in the D-League?

Just a thought.

still love julian though. will never forget this dunk:

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REHawk 2 years, 1 month ago

When I think about Julian, I am always reminded of that surly little popular phrase, "Get a life!". Julian always seemed to have a life, somewhat removed from the sport of hoops, but probably in his best interest, mental healthwise. Thanks, Gary Bedore for sharing this Julian Wright update with your reading public. As for Julian, I wish him the best of luck in all pursuits. He certainly brings a ready smile to my face when I reflect on his passes, dunks, bowling endeavors back in "06-'07. Even his KU recruitment and signing were somewhat extraordinary. A Jayhawk forever!

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