(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
The fifth year forward out of UNC is beginning to put it all together…
Imagine being a high school player coming off 3 Mr. Basketball titles in the state of Tennessee (never been done before and since) and participating in the Jordan Classic after winning 4 straight high school championships at Brentwood Academy. Everything is in front of you…
On October 16, 2005, you sign to play for the University of North Carolina…one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the nation. In your lone year at UNC, the team goes 31-7 and you set a freshman record field goal percentage (.646), are named ACC Rookie of the Year, win an ACC Tournament title and earn MVP honors before losing in the Elite 8 to the Georgetown Hoyas. Then comes the hard part. Picked 8th in the draft by the Charlotte Bobcats, you’re traded to the Golden State Warriors, suffer a hip flexor injury that sets you back in summer league and play just 10 minutes a game in your rookie season. OK, 2nd year up. You want to stamp your name on the game. Minutes are up. Scoring average is up. Opportunity! In January of ’09 a freak injury vs. the Lakers dislocates your shoulder. On the shelf. Rehab. Can’t wait to get on the floor but you have to do this right. Rehab is your life. Finally back. In October of ’09, the same shoulder is injured in practice and you miss the entire next season. Man! Rehab. Rehab. Rehab. It’s tough. Can’t get down. Learn everything of yourself. Finally get back and play 21 games. Traded during the deadline in ’11 to New Jersey. Man! You can’t catch a break. Just 16 games for the Nets. Out of there. Signed a deal with the champs in Dallas as soon as you can after the lockout. Fresh start. On the floor. Impact. Yesssssss…Let’s do this…
Brandan is back. He’s playing well for the defending champs. Passing great out of double teams. Finally getting his NBA legs. I caught up to him for the first time in 6 years and had to get him on the TSF mic…
Michael Tillery: The last time I spoke with you was at the Jordan Classic before your freshman year at University of North Carolina. How has the ride been so far?
Brandan Wright: It’s been up and down. Some good moments and bad moments. Dealt with some injuries. I’m here in Dallas with an outstanding team and an outstanding organization. This is a good place for me.
MT: You’re playing well. At this point in your career is it just about getting the opportunity?
BW: Definitely. You definitely want to get on the court to show what you can do. Thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given this year and I think I’ve played pretty well. That’s what it’s all about man. Getting on the court, proving yourself and continuing to play well.
MT: The talent and drive has been there. What was the frustration level of not being able to show and prove your talent?
BW: It’s not a huge frustration. You just have to wait for your opportunity and be patient. That’s what I’ve been. I’ve been given a great opportunity here. I’ve been striving for the most part. You can’t get frustrated. You can’t get down on yourself.
MT:This team is coming off a championship. What’s the vibe around here that’s different when you were on Golden State?
BW: Winning atmosphere. Guys are used to winning. Used to doing things the right way. No shortcuts. Veteran group. Veteran coaches. They’ve all done it. The goal here is to do it again. It’s great to be in an atmosphere like that…to be a part of that.
MT: Not cutting anything short. Do you get a sense this team is hungrier than it was last year?
BW: For the most part we have all the core guys back. We got a lot of new pieces that integrated really well. We’ve meshed pretty well. Nice little flow right now. Nice rhythm. We’ll definitely be a dangerous team at just the right time.
MT: Playing with Vince Carter and Brendan Haywood. Tar Heels.
BW: It’s great to have him…along with Brendan. It’s good to have those guys. We’re a family anyway just because we’re Carolina. As soon as I got here, they took me under their wings.
MT: Any type of comedic hazing from the older guys?
BW: (laughs) Nah. This is my fifth year. I’m still young but it is my fifth year so no hazing.
MT: Talk about Carolina. You have guys like Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller…players that will be in the league soon.
BW: The program is in great position…led by Coach Williams. The tradition speaks to it all. He does a great job. It’s not easy coaching very talented players. Definitely not as easy as it looks. Every coach wants all the best guys but they don’t know how it is. There is great opportunity in going to North Carolina.
MT: UNC played Michigan State on an air craft carrier (USS Carl Vinson). I know you all were in the league. Was there any jealousy at all?
BW: Nah nah. That’s just part of the process. In 50 years they might be playing in space (imagine that). I was just happy those guys had the opportunity to do that. The cause was great too. Those guys were blessed to have the opportunity to do that.
MT: What was different…if anything…for you this year because of the lockout? You signed the first day you were able. Did your preparation change?
BW: The preparation didn’t change. It actually helped me because I was able to get a lot more work in because of the extended time.
MT: Man it’s been so long ago…the last time I talked to you you were coming of four straight high school state championships. Can you articulate heading to UNC and subsequently the league and not having that same success?
BW: Everything is a process. We were close at Carolina. We had an opportunity. We had a good enough team but didn’t win it all. Getting into the league you have to understand what’s going on. Sometime you go into a situation…especially being a high draft pick…and the team hasn’t been winning. I was fortunate to play for a Golden State team coming off a nice playoff run. That year we won 48 games and still didn’t make the playoffs. It went downhill from there. You pay your dues and go through the ups and downs. I was lucky to fall into a situation like this.
MT: Let’s talk about the injury and the process of physically healing and ultimately returning to the floor.
BW: It can be tough man. You have to keep your head in it. That’s just part of being mature. You cannot get down on yourself. The most important thing is you cannot shortcut the rehab.
Do the rehab as if you were out there on the court.
I think that’s where a lot of guys get in trouble is they don’t do the rehab correctly. They want to jump back on the court way too early. That’s not the process. If you approach rehab with 110% effort you’ll be alright. It’s an uphill battle but you have to stick with it and continue to work hard at it again as if you were trying to play the game.
MT: The importance of strengthening the area around what was injured…
BW: Oh it’s very important. Especially for the high school athletes. These smaller muscles are crucial for your joints. Everybody wants to do the power stuff, but you’re knees, ankles, shoulders…those muscles involved are crucial to have solid foundation. It begins at the core. You have to have a strong core for everything else to function well.