Saturday at Iona will be a homecoming of sorts as Mount Vernon’s Sherrod Wright and George Mason take on the Gaels. It will be the closest game Wright has played to his hometown in his five seasons with the Patriots. Below is my story on Wright’s growth as a player. Iona vs. George Mason will tip off at 2 p.m. Follow me @Lohud_DeFran for updates on the game.
Sherrod Wright’s first day of tryouts as a freshman at Mount Vernon didn’t feature a thunderous dunk or 50 points in a scrimmage as an introduction of his arrival. The rookie didn’t catch the attention of Knights coach Bob Cimmino by hitting a string of 3s or playing lock-down defense on a much older teammate in the fall of 2005.
Wright drew the eye of the longtime Mount Vernon coach in a very different way.
The youngster was running sprints at the end of practice when the fresh coat of polyurethane on the court caused him to pass out.
“The fumes just really hit me,” said Wright, who finds the experience hilarious now. “I ended up in the hospital talking about how I don’t want to play basketball anymore.”
Fortunately for Mount Vernon fans, Wright decided to stick with the sport. By the end of his senior year in 2009, he had been named Section 1’s “Mr. Basketball” and became the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 points.
Four years later Wright is wrapping up his time at another program. The 6-foot-4 swingman is a redshirt senior at George Mason. Wright enters his final season with the Patriots as their star after leading the team in scoring last season (16.6 points per game) and setting a school record for games started (38) en route to earning All-CAA second-team honors. He began the season with 1,110 career points, ranking 24th all-time at George Mason.
Wright will essentially play in his back yard on Saturday as Iona (1-2) hosts George Mason (4-0) at 2 p.m.
“I know a lot of people who are going to be there,” Wright said. “It’s going to be a good environment and a good challenge for us overall.”
Wright’s journeys as a player at George Mason and Mount Vernon have been eerily similar. With the Knights, Wright had a steady increase in production, averaging five points per game as a freshman, 10 as a sophomore, 17 as a junior and 23 as a senior. Wright is on an almost identical trajectory with the Patriots, averaging 5.5 points per game as a freshman, 9.6 as a redshirt sophomore and 16.6 as a redshirt junior.
Cimmino and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt credit Wright’s growth to his willingness to work hard.
“The thing I love about working with him is he’s very coachable,” Hewitt said. “He’s improved tremendously because he’s coachable.”
“He’s a student of the game,” Cimmino said. “He enjoys every minute in the gym possible. A real gym rat who excelled at a young age, and he just kept getting better and better.”
Even now, as a fifth-year senior, Wright still talks about improvements he needs to make to his game. This season, Wright has picked up on how to communicate and lead his teammates more efficiently, a discovery about which he seemed almost excited.
“Overall, it’s been a great learning experience for me,” Wright said. “There is always a chance to learn more about the game of basketball.”
One of the best lessons Wright learned came when he missed his entire sophomore season at George Mason due to a shoulder injury.
“I think that was really a blessing in disguise to really be able to dissect my game,” Wright said. “I was able to get in better shape and learn more about the game, see the game from different perspectives. I think that helped me become the player that I am now.”
That player is one with whom Hewitt is extremely happy.
“I love having him,” Hewitt said. “Any time Mount Vernon wants to send another guy like that my way, trust me, I’m waiting with open arms.”