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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Antoine has Aggies on the Wright track

He’s only a freshman, but forward Antoine Wright has already made an impact on this year’s Aggie basketball squad, which will finish with a .500 record or better for the first time since 1994.
Wright has been one of the biggest factors in revitalizing the pulse of basketball at Texas A&M this year and leads the Aggies (14-12, 6-9 Big 12) with 6.6 rebounds per game and is second in scoring with 15 points per game behind senior guard Bernard King.
The 6-foot-7 forward from San Bernardino, Calif., was ranked the No. 1 prep shooting guard in the nation and the No. 4 overall prospect in the country out of high school last year by ESPN.com after leading Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass. to the state championship.
Wright was also a member of the gold medal-winning 2002 USA Basketball Junior World Team, which he said is his most memorable experience as an athlete.
“It’s always an honor for anyone to represent their country,” Wright said. “Just to be asked to try out was something special.”
Athlon rated Wright among the top 10 freshmen in the country and ESPN long-time college basketball analyst Dick Vitale named him a “Diaper-Dandy.” As one of the top recruits in the nation, Wright was courted by some of the top basketball programs in the country, including No. 1 Arizona, No. 4 Texas and No. 12 Maryland. So, why did he choose A&M?
Wright’s Amateur Athletic Union basketball coach from California, Elvert Perry, said that he contacted A&M Assistant Coach Lew Hill, who he grew up with in New York, to tell him about Wright.
“I told him I had a kid that’s gonna be a great one and they needed to get on him early, which they did,”Perry said. “(A&M) recruited him the longest, they were on him as early as his sophomore year and it was an ideal situation. (A&M) had good players, they just needed a great player and he fits right in.”
Perry said that he told Wright that anyone could go to a school like Arizona or Texas and play with five or six McDonalds’ All-Americans, but it took someone special who could go anywhere and make a difference.
“I told him A&M will not stop him from going to the (NBA), if anything it will help you get into the (NBA),”Perry said. “(A&M) was 12th last year and now they are sixth or seventh, great players can go anywhere and get it done.”
Wright said that the coaching staff at A&M was the main reason he chose to play for the Aggies, along with the fact that he would get to start as a freshman.
“At a lot of other schools I would have had to come off the bench,” Wright said. “(At A&M) I had the chance to start right away.”
With that chance to play early came high expectations, especially in a league like the Big 12. But Wright said he never worried about the expectations.
“I just want to be the best player I can be,” Wright said. “I talked to Bernard about (the expectations) but I haven’t really struggled with them.”
A&M Head Coach Melvin Watkins said he recruited the high school All-American because he knew Wright would make an immediate impact on the A&M squad.
“The first time I saw him play I saw a lot of potential and knew he was a very talented basketball player,” Watkins said.
Wright’s teammates have welcomed his talent to the team, including King, the career Big 12 scoring leader. Some of King’s critics wondered how he would react to sharing the spotlight with someone like Wright, but King said he never worried about it and wanted to play with Wright.
“I told him (before he committed to A&M) that we would be one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation,”King said.
They have become one of the top duos in the Big 12, accounting for 44 percent of the Aggie offense.
“He is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” King said. “He’s been special to me and this team.”
Wright said he hopes to help A&M become even better while he is here.
“All of my goals are team oriented,” he said. “I want to be in the postseason every year.”
Wright and company should get their first chance at the postseason in nine years this season. With one more win this year the Aggies should get a bid for the National Invitation Tournament.
Wright and the Aggies will face off against Oklahoma State University at 12:45 p.m. Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., before playing in the Big 12 Tournament, which begins next Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena inDallas.

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