Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wellsville transfer makes Wright choice

Baldwin High School junior Zach Wright (No. 40) attempts a layup during the Bulldogs' scrimmage in December. Wright transferred from Wellsville and he will be playing his first game for BHS Friday at Paola.

Baldwin High School junior Zach Wright (No. 40) attempts a layup during the Bulldogs' scrimmage in December. Wright transferred from Wellsville and he will be playing his first game for BHS Friday at Paola.

January 15, 2009

There he sat on the bench beside his current teammates. On the court his former team played his new team.

If he had stayed home, he’d be leading his squad at home against a rival school. Instead he was forced to ride the pine — ineligible to play by state regulations.

After 32 minutes of action, his new team left his former gymnasium with a victory. It was a win full of mixed emotions for one Baldwin High School junior.

There he sat on the bench beside his current teammates. On the court his former team played his new team.

If he had stayed home, he’d be leading his squad at home against a rival school. Instead he was forced to ride the pine — ineligible to play by state regulations.

After 32 minutes of action, his new team left his former gymnasium with a victory. It was a win full of mixed emotions for one Baldwin High School junior.

“It was very bittersweet seeing my old teammates,” Wright said. “I still care about a lot of people there and I still have a lot of love for that community, as well with me still living there. It was nice to get the win there, but it was bittersweet.”

Come Friday, Wright will make his debut as a Bulldog. It’s a game he has been eyeing for several months, because it’s been nearly a year since he last wore a high school uniform.

“Oh my goodness, I can’t wait,” Wright said. “It’s been about 11 months since I’ve played school ball and Aug. 2 was my last summer game. So it’s been five months too long since I’ve been out there. I’m ready to go.”

After playing for Wellsville High School for two years, Wright left his hometown — sort of. He still lives in Wellsville, but he officially became a BHS student in August.

A year ago, he played along side his older brother, Colin Wright, as an Eagle. On Friday evening, he will be a Bulldog and his teammates couldn't be happier.

“I was really excited when he transferred,” senior Clad Kueffer said. “I’ve been waiting to see him play. It will be nice to be on the court with him Friday.”

Wright’s new coach will be happy to have him on the floor, as he will complete the team.

“I get excited about every game, but this one will be nice because we’ll have everybody there,” BHS coach Eric Toot said. “We haven’t had our full team yet. We just got Justin (Vander Tuig) back last week. There are no guarantees that just because we have Zach that we’ll blow teams out. We still have to come out and play well and tough.”

Making the move

Changing schools is always difficult, but sometimes making that choice can be even harder. How does one leave the school and town he’s known as home for a neighboring town that might provide him with better opportunities in the world of athletics?

For Wright, it wasn’t an easy decision. His family is well known in Wellsville. He was a popular student and one of the best athletes at Wellsville. In August, his choice became official — he was going to drive to Baldwin five days a week.

“The biggest reason I came here was the guys on the team that I’ve played ball with,” Kueffer said. “They’re all really good guys and good athletes. They’re all basketball players and not three-sport guys. That’s a big thing for me. I also wanted to get to a bigger school and get more publicity from the college scouts. Those were my main reasons for coming here.”

Wright’s new coach picked up word of the possible transfer during the summer by BHS players. However, he didn’t know anything was official until shortly before the school year began.

“It was my players that talked to me about it first,” Toot said. “They said he was interested in coming to Baldwin for various reasons. I didn’t really have a role in it. I didn’t know he was coming for sure until a day or two before school started.”

After the transfer became official, Wright figured he better meet his soon-to-be-coach.

“I talked to coach Toot right before I came in to school,” Wright said. “I got that taken care of early, so I knew his philosophy and he knew mine. I think he’s a great coach. He works us hard, but it’s been a good experience.”

Becoming a Bulldog

Despite coming to Baldwin in August, Wright had to wait three months before he could officially join his teammates on the court. In mid-November, winter sports’ practices began and he was out there practicing two hours a day for weeks.

In fact, he’s still been out there practicing every day while his teammates have played six games. For seven weeks, he’s been fighting injuries while learning new schemes, but unable to play in games.

“Practice has been really good,” Wright said. “I’ve been struggling with some injuries and it’s been pretty frustrating having to sit out of games. Once I get past that, it will be nice to play. I’m feeling pretty good about Friday.”

While nagging injuries may have slowed his progress, adjusting to his new teammates has been easy.

“It’s been really easy and fun,” he said. “The camaraderie has been really good coming in here, because I already played summer ball with the varsity players. So it’s been easy to get to know them at school and on the court. It’s been really good.”

Wright’s muscular 6-foot-4 frame will be beneficial for the Bulldogs. His coach and teammate both see him helping immediately.

“He’s great rebounder,” Kueffer said. “He’s a great passer and he’s really strong, especially down low. He can shoot well, too. He’s just another great player to our team. He’ll also make us bigger, too.”

That size and physical nature is exactly what Toot hopes he brings to the court to help 6-8 sophomore Justin Vander Tuig.

“He brings a different type of player than what we are used to,” Toot said. “He’s very strong, naturally. He’s an inside-outside player that can do a lot of things. I think where he’ll have the most impact for us is rebounding and being physical. He will take some pressure off of our other posts and keep teams from double teaming Justin.”

Like most of the Bulldogs, Wright also has high expectations for a BHS squad that sits at 4-2. He will be one of four starters for BHS that stands 6-4 or taller. That size is one advantage the Bulldogs hope to use as they march toward Salina.

“Obviously state is the goal and that’s what we’ve been looking at all season,” he said. “We’ll have to see how things go Friday, because that will be the first time we have everybody together. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and see where it gets us.”

It all starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Paola.

“Hopefully, it won’t take but a couple of minutes to get the rustiness out,” Wright said. “Hopefully we play well, because we need a win after Friday.”

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