While in high school, future Hofstra basketball standout Justin Wright-Foreman penned a note in the attic of his Queens home with the words “future NBA star.”
The 6-2 guard will now get a chance to turn that prediction into reality after the Utah Jazz selected him with the 53rd pick in the second round of the National Basketball Association draft held at the Barclays Center in nearby Brooklyn on June 20. NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum made the announcement just after midnight last Friday as Wright-Foreman waited anxiously for his name to be called about 20 miles away while watching the draft with family and friends at a private party in Roosevelt.
“I have dreamed of being an NBA player since I was five,” said Wright-Foreman, who was the nation’s second leading scorer in Division I college basketball with 27.1 points per game during a memorable senior season at Hofstra. “For it to come true is just unreal.”
Wright-Foreman is the 12th Hofstra player to be taken in the NBA draft and first since Charles Jenkins was a second-round pick of the Golden State Warriors in 2011. An NBA opportunity is the next step on a dramatic four-year journey for Wright-Foreman, who went from only netting 44 points in just 110 minutes of playing time his entire freshman season to finishing as Hofstra’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,327 points.
The dramatic turnaround to Wright-Foreman’s college career began to take flight 11 games into his sophomore season when he scored 14 points off the bench in the final six minutes of a 96-73 loss to then sixth-ranked Kentucky at Barclays Center. Wright-Foreman began to spend late hours in Hofstra’s practice facility perfecting his shooting and the extra work paid off in a big way with the lefty guard finishing his sophomore season averaging 18.1 points a game. He credits much of his rise to the tutelage of Hofstra assistant coach Craig “Speedy” Claxton, who spent 10 years in the NBA.
“Speedy has been my mentor and a big brother figure I could turn to,” said Wright-Foreman of Claxton, who as a player led Hofstra to the NCAA Tournament during his senior season before getting selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 20th pick in 2000. “He has been a major help in telling me throughout to trust the process.”
Claxton, who first spotted Wright-Foreman while coaching in a basketball camp at Christ to King High School, said the little playing time he received as a freshman fueled him to become a “gym rat” and raise his game. The Hofstra legend was also impressed that through all the accolades that came Wright-Foreman’s way he remained humble and never grew complacent.
“I told him that if he worked hard it would pay off and I’m so glad it did,” Claxton said. “He now knows that despite getting drafted that it doesn’t guarantee him anything and he is going to have to continue working hard.”
The first step of Wright-Foreman’s path toward fulfilling his NBA dreams came last Sunday when he flew to Utah to get introduced by his new team along with the other Jazz draft picks. Wright-Foreman is slated to take the floor for the first time in a Jazz uniform during the first of three games in the Salt Lake City Summer League game against the Memphis Grizzlies on July 1. He will then get a chance to suit up for four scheduled Las Vegas summer league games before a national television audience.
“It still feels surreal,” said Wright-Foreman as he was preparing to head west for his chance to compete on basketball’s biggest stage. “I’m ready to work hard and do whatever the coaches need me to do.”