The Wright stuff

By signing with an agent this week, Brentwood native Brandan Wright ended his college basketball career after just one season. It was quite a season, though. The super-smooth 6-foot-10, 210-pounder averaged 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for North Carolina last winter.

He led the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 64.6 shooting percentage, was tabbed the league's Freshman of the Year and was tabbed Most Valuable Player of the conference tournament.

Now he's ready to cash in. Brandan Wright is projected as a top-five pick in the June 28 National Basketball Association Draft. If that projection proves accurate, he will be guaranteed a three-year contract worth at least $7.9 million.

Supposedly, Bruce Pearl's first telephone call upon getting settled in as Tennessee's head coach two years ago was to Wright, who was a senior at Brentwood Academy and rated one of America's top five college prospects at the time. Unfortunately for Pearl, Wright had zero interest in Tennessee, which was coming off a 14-17 season under deposed head coach Buzz Peterson.

That leads to this question: What if Wright hadn't signed with the Tar Heels in November of 2005? What if he had waited until the spring signing period of 2006 instead? By then Pearl had Tennessee basketball back on the map. The '05-06 Vols went 22-8, won the SEC East, beat national champ Florida twice and earned a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Who knows? That might've been enough to convince Brandan Wright to stay in-state and play his one year of college hoops in Big Orange Country.

How much difference would Brandan Wright have made for the 2006-07 Vols? There's no telling, of course. Still, Tennessee was two points shy of advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament without Wright. With a little more inside scoring punch to complement wings Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, the Vols might have made the Final Four.

We'll never know, of course, but it's an interesting point to ponder as the Brentwood superstar prepares to launch his pro career.


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