SALT LAKE CITY — A few days before Utah’s home opener last week, Delon Wright confessed one of his goals this year was to get a triple-double, something that has only been accomplished twice in the 105-year history of Utah basketball.
To remind you, Andre Miller and Alex Jensen are the only two players who have produced double figures in three categories. Miller did it against Arizona in 1998 and Jensen against Fresno State in 1999.
Yet in his first game as a Ute, Wright very nearly accomplished the rare feat, getting 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. For that matter, he wasn’t that far off an unheard-of quadruple-double as he also finished with seven steals.
Of course the competition wasn’t great as the Utes rolled to a 128-44 victory over Evergreen State. But also consider this — Wright accomplished all that in just 25 of the 40 minutes. With another five or 10 minutes, he might have accomplished his goal. Oh, and did we mention that he had three blocked shots and shot 87.5 percent from the field on 7-of-8 shooting?
“I like getting triple doubles, that’s really exciting,’’ said Wright, who had four in high school and junior college. “Now that I’m getting closer, it’s actually a goal of mine to get a few.’’
It helps that Wright is an unselfish player, who, unlike your average basketball player, hardly thinks about scoring, A self-described “late bloomer,’’ Wright said his high school coach told him he had to “do everything” if he wanted to play.
“I wasn’t a scorer, it just wasn’t my game, I guess,’’ he said. “I’m more of a passer. I’m not worried about scoring, so I try to get assists and rebounds. I try to be a little different. I’d rather win and have no points than have 50 points and lose.’’
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak calls Wright a “stat sheet stuffer” because of the many things he can do on the court.
“He can score it, but he’s one of those guys who makes really good decisions and is a good playmaker with the ball in his hands,’’ said Krystkowiak. “He’s one of those guys who doesn’t do anything great maybe, but is kind of a stat sheet stuffer who by the time the game’s over, he might have 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and some deflections and steals.’’
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The first thing you may notice about Wright on the court is the jersey number — 55.
Fifty-five? Isn’t that a number usually worn by a 6-foot-10, 260-pound bulky center who parks in the paint most of the game? It certainly isn’t a number of a skinny guard, who slithers around the court, making steals and firing nifty passes to teammates.
Wright explains the odd number by saying he always wore the number 1 until be got to junior college where the number was already taken. So since he couldn’t have the lowest number, he went with the highest possible number a college player can wear. When he came to Utah, he decided to stick with it.
“Nobody else wanted it,’’ he said. “I said I’m going to keep 55 because I’ve had good luck with it.’’
If you see Wright up close, he looks more like a college freshman than a 21-year-old junior college transfer. In fact you might think he looks more like a 16-year-old, especially with his braces, which he’s had for four years (he says he should have gotten them off a couple of years ago but hasn’t been back to Los Angeles to see his orthodontist).
Wright stands 6-foot-5 and weighs just 180 pounds. He’s grown a couple of inches since high school and says he would like to eventually put on another 20 pounds or so.
He grew up in southern California, playing at Leuzinger High in Lawndale. He wasn’t anything special in high school, averaging just 9.3 points and wasn’t recruited by major colleges. He went to a year of prep school and then landed at City College of San Francisco, where he kept improving.
At CCSF, Wright helped lead his team to a 27-3 record and of course led his team in nearly every category, including assists, steals and blocks.
He was recruited by the likes of Washington, Washington State, Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, but chose Utah in large part because of former Ute player Jarred DuBois, who he knew well.
Adam D’Acquisto, an assistant coach told the school newspaper, The Guardsman, of Wright, saying “He’s a pro. He has a better feel for the game than anyone we’ve ever had.’’
Wright’s older brother actually is a pro — Dorrell Wright, who is in his ninth year in the NBA and currently plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Delon (prounced De-LAWN) says he talks to his brother a couple of times a week and always on game days, but that he doesn’t give him specific tips.
“He tells me to work hard every day and try my best,'' he says. "He tells me to always stay aggressive.’’
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For Wright, it’s a matter of continuing to get better every day. He has shown the talent to be a very good basketball player and combined with his unselfish attitude, he has a chance to make a big impact in his two years at Utah.
As the competition gets more dificult, Wright isn’t likely to match the numbers he did last Friday and he’ll certainly return to earth with more normal numbers on the stat sheet.
Whatever he does on the court — and he does nearly everything — Wright will likely be a big asset to Utah’s basketball fortunes this year, whether he leads the team in any particular category or not.
“He’s just a real solid basketball player,’’ says Krystkowiak. “We’re happy to have him.’’
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company