Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Baylor wasn’t looking for Robert Wright III. In a sense, they didn’t even see the real Robert Wright. That version of the talented 6-foot-1, Neumann-Goretti junior point guard was nursing a high right ankle sprain when his Team Final AAU squad faced the PSA Cardinals and their imposing 6-11 big man, Yves Missi, the real apple that Baylor’s coaching staff wanted to pluck at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in mid-July, in North Augusta, South Carolina.
Wright was playing at about 50-percent of what he is usually capable of, yet Baylor head coach Scott Drew and assistant coach Jared Nuness saw enough of the gifted Wright to go heavy after him. Their pursuit was rewarded on Monday, when Wright gave an oral commitment to attend Baylor, which he announced on social media on Friday.
But none of this would have happened without a little push from a former Baylor star, Davion Mitchell, of the Sacramento Kings, whose keen eye spotted Wright at Peach Jam and convinced Nuness and Drew to get Wright.
Neumann-Goretti 2024 guard Robert Wright announced his commitment to Baylor on Friday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“It was crazy,” said Wright, who averaged 19 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game last season in leading the Saints to the Catholic League and PIAA Class 4A championships. “They didn’t see me at my best. I was icing my ankle after every game. I couldn’t jump off or anything I like doing. I know Baylor wasn’t even looking at me. They were looking at Missi. But when Mitchell saw me, he went right to the Baylor coaches and told them about me.
“Davion Mitchell watched the game and was watching with the (Baylor) coaches. He’s the one who told them they have to get me. He told them, ‘He’s one of our guys.’ I owe Davion Mitchell a big thank you. Davion didn’t say anything to me, but Baylor happened to be recruiting Missi and that’s when they saw me. The next game, Davion came, coach Drew and coach Nuness all came and watched me.”
Only headed into his junior season, there was plenty of time for Wright to ponder his college destination. Instead, he took an official visit to Baylor at the beginning of this month and less than a week later made his commitment to the Bears on Monday before officially announcing on Friday.
“Baylor felt like the right place,” Wright said. “They really recruited me hard. I really wanted to get it out of the way, and I did fit there. If I knew Baylor is where I wanted to go, why waste other coaches’ time or everyone else’s time who were recruiting me? I like the way they play, and they want me to play point guard, which is what I wanted to play in college.
“It was a big relief for me. Why sit around and wait? Baylor uses pick-and-rolls a lot, they work off isos and transition. They dribble-drive, a lot of stuff like that, stuff that I like to do. I committed Monday, but I had to make a video that took some time. It’s why it took me until Friday to make it public.”
Wright chose Baylor over Syracuse, Louisville, Kansas State and Maryland. He said there was not even a close second to Baylor, which went 27-7 overall last year and 14-4 in the Big 12, and lost 93-86 to North Carolina, the eventual NCAA runner-up, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after winning the a national championship in 2021.
“There were two key points that I liked about Baylor,” Wright said. “Ever since they saw me at Peach Jam, they were constantly calling me. They normally don’t take East Coast guards and they made me a priority. They’re a relevant school. They’re a top 5, top-10 school every year. I’m healed now. The ankle is good. I’m really happy. I found the right school for me. I can focus on getting better and playing my best basketball.”
Having his star player relaxed and pleased makes Saints’ legendary head coach Carl Arrigale happy and pleased.
“Robert is a great, humble kid and if he’s happy, I’m happy, this is a great choice,” Arrigale said. “Robert can concentrate and have fun playing basketball the next couple of years. For him, this is a culmination of all his hard work. Programs like Baylor don’t look at guards from the Northeast. Robert is a quiet, hard-working kid. Baylor really came out of nowhere for Robert. He wasn’t even 100-percent for Peach Jam.
“But Baylor liked Robert’s toughness and they went after him a lot. They’re going to come in this week to one of our open gyms. The bottom line is I’m happy for the kid, and if Robert is happy, I’m happy.
“This was going to get crazy with Rob. This was a great move. He was going to get bombarded. Wait until everyone sees Robert’s younger brother, Stephon “Munchie” Ashley-Wright.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here .