The recruitment that ended with Moses Wright giving his commitment on Saturday to Georgia Tech coaches began with a phone call from Wright’s AAU coach this past high-school season to Tech assistant Darryl LaBarrie.
“I just told him that I thought that Moses could play at that level,” said Dwayne West, director of the Garner Road AAU team in Raleigh, N.C.
West said he was not trying to oversell Wright, though skepticism might have been understood. Wright, from Enloe High in Raleigh, was not ranked by recruiting services such as 247 Sports, Scout or Rivals, nor ESPN. But, West said, he deals in truth, because he has little to gain by trying to hoodwink college coaches.
“Believe what I say: I never overhype kids,” West said.
LaBarrie came to watch Wright play in person, West said, and became convinced that Tech needed to recruit him.
“He figured it out on his own,” West said. “So did (Tech coach Josh) Pastner. They studied tapes on him and everything. They just saw the things he does are undeniable.”
It may be two or three years until a final verdict can be given on Wright. But if he proves to be an ACC-caliber player, it will be a most unlikely path that he’ll have taken. To be as anonymous as Wright and be recruited to an ACC school is, to say the least, unusual. For the sake of conext, from a recruiting rankings perspective, the most obscure player signed by former Tech coach Brian Gregory was Abdoulaye Gueye – ESPN and Scout did not rank him. However, Rivals and 247 Sports rated him a three-star prospect.
But West stands by his assessment of Wright, and he is no novice when it comes to player development or evaluation. His club has sent plenty of players to the ACC, including North Carolina forward Isaiah Hicks and former N.C. State guard T.J. Warren, the 2014 ACC player of the year. West predictably takes a dim view of recruiting rankings and notes the litany of NBA stars who were lightly recruited out of high school, a list that includes his brother David, in his 13th year in the league out of Xavier.
“I applaud (Tech) for that because there’s a lot of guys that wouldn’t sniff at Moses because he didn’t have the stars and all that stuff,” West said.
Tech wasn’t alone. As Wright’s senior season unfolded, more took notice. Kansas State had offered him, as had Charlotte. Texas was interested, as well. The Jackets will get a player who is 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds (West said he’s on his way to 6-9) with quick feet, a 7-2 wingspan, who can shoot from the elbow, can finish at the basket, can shoot accurately out to the 3-point arc, can dribble like a guard and has basketball smarts.
“He knows when he has a big (guarding him) than he’s quicker than, when he has a little guy, he knows what to do,” West said. “He’s a very smart kid.”
Part of Wright’s lack of recruiting attention has to do with his considerable growth in height and development. West said that he had not played much before high school. Wright showed up to the club as a 6-1 freshman who was a backup on the Enloe junior varsity. He was 6-3 as a sophomore, then 6-7 as a junior.
And not all recruiting services missed him. Patrick O’Brien is a writer for Phenom Hoop Report, a North Carolina-based scouting service, and shared this assessment.
“This kid is very interesting,” O’Brien wrote in an e-mail. “He stands around 6’7, 6’8, lengthy prospect that is very athletic. He continues to still build his frame, as he isn’t the biggest of guys. But he is so verstaile on the floor. He can step out and drop shots from outside, including hitting the three ball but he can attack and work down low in the paint.”
On the face of it, it would seem a gamble. But Pastner and his staff are in a position where gambles are necessary. Tech has six returning players and simply needs bodies. Having just completed their first season with an all-new staff, Tech coaches have not developed the relationships with prospects that are typically necessary to result in letters of intent. Pastner feels far better about the 2018 and 2019 classes than his situation now with the 2017 class. Particularly at this stage of the recruiting cycle, when all coaches are closing in on the few remaining prospects, the Jackets are in scramble mode.
But perhaps it’s a gamble in perception only.
Said West, “Sometimes all it takes is the belief in a kid.”