University of Kansas

Former KU fan favorite Julian Wright returns to Sprint Center on Saturday

Think BIG3 is a gimmick? Players say it’s true effort, the way basketball ‘used to be played’

After extending their undefeated run, Trilogy coach Rick Mahorn and players Kenyon Martin, Rashad McCants spoke about the unique style of BIG3 basketball.
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After extending their undefeated run, Trilogy coach Rick Mahorn and players Kenyon Martin, Rashad McCants spoke about the unique style of BIG3 basketball.

Julian Wright, an ultra-athletic, high-flying 6-foot-8 fan favorite who turned pro after his sophomore season at the University of Kansas, has not been back to campus in quite some time.

“I want to say 2012 when the (NBA player) lockout was finishing. I was trying to get back in top shape at the time. Time flies,” exclaimed Wright in a Tuesday phone interview with The Star.

He played at KU for two seasons, 2006-07, followed by four seasons in the NBA and parts of eight overseas. The lockout the 32-year-old Wright was referring to was one that ran from July 1, 2011 to Dec. 8, 2011.

He says he’s looking forward to returning to the Lawrence/Kansas City area this weekend. On Saturday, he’ll be playing for “Power,” a team off to a 3-1 start in Ice Cube’s summertime BIG3 3-on-3 halfcourt basketball league.

Power will take on undefeated Triplets (4-0) in one of three games to be contested at 2 p.m Saturday at the Sprint Center. Former KU forward Drew Gooden’s 3’s Company (1-3) will meet Bivouac (2-2), while former KU guard Mario Chalmers’ 3 Headed Monsters (2-2) will oppose Tri State (1-3) in the tripleheader.

Ticket information is available at the Big3 Website.

“I miss KU a lot,” Wright said. “When things slow down, I’d like to come back to Lawrence to show my face more.”

Wright is happy to report he, his wife, Tiffany, daughter Taylor and sons Josiah and Jeremiah are planning on spending some quality time in Lawrence at the end of the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

“I am just now finishing my degree online. I’m due to walk down that hill (into Memorial Stadium), to graduate in the spring of 2020,” Wright said.

Wright, a the Chicago native who made a vow to family members he’d some day graduate college upon leaving KU after two seasons, is majoring in communication studies with a minor in psychology.

“It’s been busy, hectic. I started in the fall of 2018 to finish my degree online. I’ve been on it. I was in France last season. It kept me busy and made me sure I hit deadlines while I was making a living playing,” Wright said.

Coincidentally, the 37-year old Gooden of the BIG3 League returned to walk down Campanile Hill in the spring of 2017 after finishing his degree work online.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes,” Wright said, noting, “my mind is different than when I was a younger adult. I have experienced real life situations. Time flies.”

Wright, selected by New Orleans with the No. 13 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, played in 231 NBA games — with New Orleans (three years) and Toronto (one season). He’s also competed overseas in Italy, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Russia and France.

“Honestly I hope from the BIG3 I can show people, the NBA execs I’m a capable player. I’ve never lost sight of that goal,” Wright said of returning to the NBA. “I have made the decision … I don’t plan on playing overseas any more. I might take a couple gigs like Puerto Rico or some other places. I’m not willing to go overseas for a 10-month season any more.”

Wright has flushed some highlight reel dunks for Power in BIG3 games televised by CBS.

“I love it because it suits my skill set,” he said of halfcourt 3-on-3 basketball. “I’m able to spread the floor, pass, create. There’s a lot more space to get to the basket. It’s a little more difficult on defense. With my length it makes it a little tougher for people to score. I like the league and structure of it.”

Wright is not planning on retiring from basketball anytime soon. He has, however, looked to the future by starting a business as a basketball trainer/coach based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Information is available at adaptbasketball.com.

“Adapt stands for ‘athlete development and all purpose training,’” Wright said. “If you follow my career and the way I played … as a kid I was point guard in high school and power forward and center in my (college and pro) career. it’s my business model, to train players to be multi-purpose, all-purpose. It always was a challenge for coaches how to use me. I look at it if I was 10 years younger my career might be different,” he added of being the kind of versatile big man that NBA teams seek nowadays.

“I will take what I’ve experienced and bring my coaching and training to youngsters as young as 3 and as old as they want to be. We’ll have a facility built in November for our new venture,” he explained.

Wright said he also will host “webinars all over the country and overseas. I want to touch as many as I can in terms of basketball skills, life skills.”

Wright also remains involved in the music business.

He performs gospel and Christian hip hop under the name “Jay Midi.”

“I will eventually start a production company writing songs and producing music,” Wright said. “It’s more than a hobby but nothing that I’ll use as the main moneymaker — it’s a supplementary income.”

No update on Wright would be complete without a comment on his progress in his second-favorite sport — bowling. During his KU days he could be spotted at the Jay Bowl on campus at least one night a week.

“I was telling my wife I haven’t been bowling in so long,” he said. “I have my own ball. I have my own shoes that are blue and crimson (KU colors). I’ve got to dust off the ball. It’s been four or five years honestly, but I am going to get back out there. I’ve been busy. Time flies.”

Here are rosters of the teams playing a tripleheader starting at 2 p.m., Saturday at the Sprint Center

3’s Company: Dermarr Johnson (captain), Baron Davis (co-captain), Drew Gooden (co-captain), Dijon Thompson, Andre Emmett, Jasono Maxiell, Dahntay Jones, Michael Cooper (coach).

Power: Corey Maggette (captain), Cuttino Mobley (co-captain), Glen Davis (co-captain), Mychel Thompson, Julian Wright, Ryan Gomes, Quentin Richardson, Chris Andersen, Nancy Lieberman (coach)

Bivouac: Josh Smith (captain), Will Bynum (co-captain), Anthony Morrow (co-captain), Shawne Williams, C.J. Leslie, Dion Glover and Reggie Theus (coach)

Triplets: Joe Johnson (captain), Al Jefferson (co-captain), Jannero Pargo, Chris Johnson, Sergerio Gipson, Alan Anderson and Lisa Leslie (coach)

3 Headed Monsters: Rashard Lewis (coach), Reggie Evans (co-captain), Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (co-captain), Larry Sanders, Tre Simmons, Mario Chalmers and Gary Payton (coach)

Tri State: Jermaine O’Neal (captain), Amar’e Stoudemire (co-captain), Nate Robinson (co-captain), Yakhouba Diawara, Jason Richardson, Bonzi Wells, Corsley Edwards and Julius “Dr. J” Erving (coach)

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