It didn’t take long for former University of Utah star Delon Wright to take off for the Great White North. Hours after being selected 20th overall in the NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors, Wright made the journey from his hometown of Los Angeles to his future place of employment.
“It’s been crazy,” Wright said a press conference at the Air Canada Centre Friday afternoon. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet that I’ll be playing for the Raptors.”
After attending a draft party with more than 200 well-wishers, Wright stopped home to pick up his suit and headed for the airport. He caught a little bit of sleep on the flight en route to joining the NBA franchise.
“It’s really satisfying just to make it. It’s crazy, honestly,” Wright said. “I just dreamed of this, but I didn’t know how it would happen. It’s like it's here now and I’m ready to get started.”
Utah’s first NBA draft pick since Andrew Bogut went No. 1 overall to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005 acknowledged he has a few things to work on before the season begins. Namely, getting a lot stronger and improving his shooting — noting the latter is one of his weaknesses right now.
“Defense is going to get me minutes,” Wright said. “I have to play defense and that’s what I like to do.”
The Bob Cousy Award winner and Sporting News All-American expressed confidence he’ll get stops, steals and blocks for Toronto.
“I know it’s going to be tough to get acclimated to the new lifestyle, to a new style of play,” Wright said. “So I’m just ready for that, ready to learn and get going.”
Wright, who had gotten word that he would likely be taken somewhere in the range of picks 18-22, asked his agent Greg Lawrence not to tell him beforehand.
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” said Wright, whose reaction can be seen on the TMZ Sports Web site. He described himself as anxious but not really nervous about hearing the news.
Wright was one of four Pac-12 players taken in the first round. Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of Arizona went No. 8 and No. 23, respectively, to Detroit and Portland. UCLA’s Kevon Looney was selected 30th overall by NBA champion Golden State.
Three other players from the conference — Stanford’s Anthony Brown (No. 34, Los Angeles Lakers), Oregon’s Joseph Young (No. 43, Indiana) and UCLA’s Norman Powell (No. 46, Milwaukee) — were second-round draftees.
Hollis-Jefferson and Powell were later traded. Hollis-Jefferson went to Brooklyn while Powell was dealt to Toronto and becomes a teammate with Wright.
The latter almost didn’t materialize. Wright explained that he almost opted to turn pro a year ago. However, after a two-hour meeting with Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and advice from his family (including older brother Dorell of the Trail Blazers), Wright decided to return for his senior year and helped the Utes reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
“I didn’t want to go against all those decisions,” said Wright, who added that he also wanted to come back and get his degree.
It’s a decision the 6-foot-5 guard doesn’t regret.
“I wasn’t ready, to be honest, to go to the NBA last year. This year I’m more prepared,” Wright said. “I know what I have to do to get better.”
Wright noted that his senior year really helped him for the journey ahead.
“Definitely. As a rookie you have to start over again, back at the bottom,” he said. “You have to prove that you belong in the NBA.”
Wright will continue to wear jersey No. 55 and plans to play for Toronto’s summer league entry in Las Vegas next month.
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri told reporters, “We’re really excited about Delon.”