NBA action has Sask. Rattlers star Justin Wright-Foreman hungry for more

Saskatoon Star Phoenix Logo, Submitted.

Darren Zary

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Make no mistake, Justin Wright-Foreman still has his eyes on the prize.

After the former NBA Utah Jazz prospect took a finger in his eye that resulted in an early exit from the Saskatchewan Rattlers’ season-opener on home court against the Vancouver Bandits, there was some precautionary concern.

Yet, a few nights later, Wright-Foreman was as focused as ever, scoring a franchise-setting 36 points in a 96-84 Canadian Elite Basketball League victory over the Scarborough Shooting Stars.

Saskatchewan (2-1) will play host to the Winnipeg Sea Bears (3-1) in CEBL action Friday night (7:30 p.m.) at SaskTel Centre.

Already setting a franchise record three games deep into the season, Wright-Foreman is making an immediate impact on the Rattlers.

“I didn’t even know that it was a thing — a franchise record — until after the game, but I wasn’t too concerned about that,” said Wright-Foreman, who saw action for the Jazz during the 2019-20 NBA Summer League, 2019-20 pre-season and NBA Bubble Season.

“I was more concerned about winning because that’s the main part. My teammates are a big part of what goes on here. They have the utmost trust in everybody in the organization, so I’m just happy to be here and be able to showcase my abilities and, also, still be happy for my teammates as well. “

The 25-year-old native from Queens, N.Y. has four years of NBA G League under his belt with the Salt Lake City Stars, Erie Bayhawks, Birmingham Squadron and, this past season, the Westchester Knicks. He has also played professionally in Europe and Asia, as well as Team USA internationally.

So how does this former NBA player, who was taken in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft, end up in Saskatoon?

Well, the assist goes to his friend and current Rattlers teammate Malik Benlevi, now in his second year with the Rattlers. While Benlevi had 44 assists on the Rattlers last season, his biggest assist to date, together with coach Dean Demopoulos, was helping to land Wright-Foreman.

Benlevi and Wright-Foreman played together on the NBA G League’s Salt Lake City Stars.

“He called me and coach Dean called me as well and told me about this opportunity,” explained Wright-Foreman, who starred for Hofstra University in NCAA Division One basketball. “I just wanted to come up here and see what it’s all about. I kind of need this opportunity as well, in my opinion. I came to a place where I feel welcome and I feel like the relationship and the understanding of what I’m also trying to accomplish — what we want to accomplish here is a championship — so I feel our interests mesh well.”

Wright-Foreman, a former two-time All-American honourable mention, currently ranks No. 1 in the CEBL by averaging 26.67 points per game through three games.

“He brings a great approach, a great demeanour, a great skill-set and a great competitive nature,” Demopoulos said of Wright-Foreman, who is shooting 54 percent from the floor, including 51 percent of his three-point attempts.

“The league is tough, and it definitely looks like it’s only upwards from here,” said Wright-Foreman. “The team is perfect. I feel like we have a lot of personality that meshes well. Our chemistry is, like, out of this world. I feel like you can see how close we are on defence and that really tells you how connected we are.”

Subhead: ‘Dream Come True’ to be drafted in NBA

Wright-Foreman feels forever connected to the NBA ever since he was drafted.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” he said. “To this day, when I think about it, it was a very speechless moment because I was there with my friends and family. I also didn’t know (for sure) if I was going to be drafted and then, also, I heard my name and it was just like I had an out-of-body experience. I didn’t feel like it was me. I feel like that moment was just like a great credit to all the work I put in, in college, staying up from 11 p.m. to 3 in the morning, going to class and getting practices in, just my work ethic in the gym all the time and just listening to all my coaches who had my back, my mom and my family. That whole moment was just special.”

He admits he has no idea what’s next in his pro basketball career.

“Right now, I’m just taking it day by day,” offered Wright-Foreman. “Obviously, it would be a great thing to get back into the NBA but, right now, I learned from that, being too ahead of myself on that, so I learned to take everything day by day as everything goes as planned and I keep playing the way I am, and my teammates keep having trust in me, then anything can happen for me.

“My time in the NBA, I enjoyed it because it was something that, obviously, any kid could wish for at that moment. And to be actually on the floor with those guys, that’s what you only dream of.”